OVER 100,000 people in Britain could literally freeze to death over the next 25 years because they are too poor to afford to adequately heat their homes.
This shocking figure of projected deaths due to poverty was revealed yesterday by the charity National Energy Action which has calculated that in the five years of the coalition government at least 30,000 vulnerable people have died prematurely because of fuel poverty or excessive personal debt that forces them to ration heating.
In a report, published as a Manifesto for Warmth, the charity points out that, as well as causing premature deaths, the scandal of sky-high fuel costs, unaffordable by huge numbers of people, also means that the NHS is left to pick up the costs of treating cold-related illnesses – costs that run to £1.5 billion a year.
The cost to the NHS over 15 years will be £22 billion.
It is not just the private energy companies that are making money hand over fist out of energy charges; the government is getting its cut too in the form of energy taxes which means that the Treasury will pocket more than £28 billion from domestic energy users in the next ten years.
Even the official government national figures highlight the crisis that is increasingly putting lives and health at risk – these show that 4.5 million households in Britain are unable to adequately heat their homes.
While poor and debt-ridden workers are unable to heat their homes, the energy companies are raking in profits at an ever-increasing rate.
Last month, the energy regulator, Ofgem, announced that energy companies stand to make increased profits of £114 per household in the next year.
Despite the fact that wholesale energy costs have fallen over the past twelve months, due to massive falls in the cost of oil and gas, very little of this has been passed on to domestic consumers.
The ‘Big Six’ energy companies announced cuts of 3.5% to 5.1 % in gas bills even though the price of wholesale gas fell 30% last year.
The wholesale costs to the ‘Big Six’ energy companies have fallen by £62 per customer, according to Ofgem, while their profits have increased over the same period by £37 per customer.
Ofgem remarked: ‘If the market were more competitive you would expect suppliers to be competing more vigorously for market share in response to falling wholesale costs.’
The fallacy being promoted here by the government’s regulatory body is that the energy companies operate as competitors and that competition under capitalism inevitably leads to lower prices, more efficiency and all the rest of the benefits that were used to justify selling off nationalised industries by Thatcher and the Tories to the profit-hungry privateers.
The reality gives a lie to all these privatisation claims – claims that were accepted as gospel by the Labour Party leadership.
Privatisation has led to nothing other than the formation of cartels and monopolies run by private companies out to maximise their profits regardless of the suffering it causes.
As for Labour’s election pledge to ‘freeze’ energy bills until 2017, this must rank alongside the LibDems’ pledge not to increase tuition fees – a promise that will swiftly be dropped as impossible to implement.
Price freezes completely ignore the real issue of private energy companies making vast profits at a time when the working class is being hit with low pay, part-time working, zero-hours contracts and pay cuts, all of which put millions of working class families in the position where they are forced to choose between heating their homes, paying the rent or feeding their children.
There can be no resolution to this crisis under capitalism, which can no longer even provide the most basic requirements for life.
The only future for the working class lies in the overthrow of this bankrupt system and the advance to a socialist society that will provide for the needs of all not the profits of a few.