Consumer and pensioners organisations yesterday slammed massive inflation-busting gas and electricity price rises announced by energy giant Powergen.
Watchdog Energywatch warned that consumers face £1,000 a year energy bills.
Powergen announced it is putting up its gas and electricity prices for the second time this year, with domestic gas prices going up by 18.4 per cent and its electricity prices by 9.7 per cent from 21 August.
In March, Powergen increased its gas prices by 24.4 per cent and its electricity prices by 18.4 per cent.
Mervyn Kohler, Head of Public Affairs at Help the Aged, said: ‘These latest fuel price increases are just the latest in a long line of inflation-busting rises in household bills which will hit the poorest pensioners hard.
‘Following on from spiralling Council Tax bills and water rates, many older people will struggle to afford to pay them and still have money left over to afford basics like food and clothes.’
Calling for an end to means testing, he added: ‘Meanwhile, the £4 billion of benefits left unclaimed by the poorest pensioners should be used to relieve persistent poverty among older people and not be used by Gordon Brown to fill Treasury coffers.’
Jonathan Stearn of consumer watchdog Energywatch also attacked Powergen’s decision to raise bills, saying: ‘This is the twelfth price hike we’ve had this year.
‘Every supplier has increased their prices twice since the new year.
‘Consumers are now facing £1,000 a year energy bills, and that’s a very large amount of money for many consumers to face, particularly the fuel poor.
‘Sadly, the ones who are going to lose out most are Powergen’s pre-payment meter customers, they are going to pay more for their gas than any other consumer on the Powergen tariff.’
Energywatch said the latest rise would push up an average Powergen gas bill to £644 and electricity bill to £392.35. That would mean the company’s gas prices had risen by £333 (108 per cent) since 2003 with electricity prices up by £151 (62 per cent).
Powergen blamed the rising wholesale price of gas which it said had climbed 87 per cent since the start of 2005.
Oil prices remain high with Brent Crude holding at $73.44 after falling back from Wednesday’s $75 per barrel, and Texas Light Crude slipped slightly to $72.97 per barrel.
Meanwhile, a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) report on personal debt said the number of people going bankrupt may reach 28,000 a quarter by March 2009.
A record 26,000 people in England and Wales became insolvent in the second quarter of 2006.