Stockton North Labour MP Alex Cunningham has challenged the Government to act now to cut energy bills – and to get help for people living in fuel poverty in some of the country’s coldest homes.
Speaking in the Energy Debate in the House of Commons, he said the 20% rise in energy prices in the last year has hit hard families in Teesside and the rest of the country, with standard tariffs having risen £175 between June and November this year.
This increase comes at a time when the Government announced that they would be reducing support for the most vulnerable in helping them pay their energy bills, cutting the Winter Fuel Payment and abolishing the Warm Front programme which installed insulation and heating improvements to make homes more energy efficient.
The rise in prices also coincides with the ‘big six’ energy companies seeing their profit margins increasing from £15 per customer per head in June to £125.
Alex told the House:
“MPs should be under no illusion: many ordinary families and pensioners in Britain are facing incredibly tough times at the moment. The toxic combination of rising unemployment, rising food and fuel prices, the increase in VAT and the freezing of wages leads to ordinary people facing a huge struggle just to make ends meet.
“The cost of a typical dual fuel bill has increased by 48% since 2007, meaning that energy bills are now one of the single biggest outlays a household faces.”
He stressed that more action was needed on fuel poverty too: “Energy companies do work hard to try to meet their obligations and some achieve the necessary credits, doing so more efficiently than others by taking advantage of their massive size and buying power. We can all understand their taking that advantage, but perhaps it is time to look at a way in which each company would be responsible for a financial commitment to energy-efficiency schemes, rather than meeting specific energy targets.
“This is perhaps a personal view, but is there not a case for companies to pay a fixed levy, based on turnover and profitability, directly into an independently managed fund, which would ensure that all that hard cash finds its way to the
households that need it most and that we get the best value for money?
“The latest fuel poverty statistics show that 5.5 million households in the UK cannot afford to heat their homes adequately. It is time to change. The bills need to be cut now and the big six need to become many more.”