‘This greed has got to be stopped and the government should step in now and levy a windfall tax on the company,’ said UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis yesterday, after British Gas announced a 500 per cent profit hike.
Energy supplier British Gas reported annual profits of £571m at its residential arm, up from £95m in 2006.
The news came as Centrica, British Gas’s parent company, reported a 40 per cent rise in operating profits to £1.95bn.
Centrica said pre-tax profits from continuing operations were £2.1bn.
Prentis said that ‘customers will rightly be furious when they see the obscene level of profits being raked in’.
He added: ‘British Gas should hang their heads in shame knowing that many people, including families, pensioners and the disabled, are too scared to heat their homes adequately this winter, because of the huge bills that follow.’
Unite national officer, Dougie Rooney, called on the government to act, saying: ‘If the government needs any further proof of the need to levy a windfall tax on energy companies then this is it.
‘These excessive profits are absolutely disgraceful. British Gas increased their fuel bills by 15 per cent last month, hitting the poor, elderly and vulnerable the hardest.’
Gary Smith, GMB national secretary said: ‘At the same time that British Gas is fleecing its customers and making record profits it has the temerity to propose to cut the pension benefits of its staff.
‘This is greed gone mad and will be opposed by GMB.
‘It is about time that a full inquiry was conducted into the operation of the energy market.’
l The price of oil touched an all-time peak of $101.32 per barrel (pb) yesterday, lifted by fears of supply disruptions.
The surge in oil prices meanwhile helped gold to a record high of $948.59 an ounce.
The price of New York crude for delivery in March later settled back to $101pb in electronic trading while gold stood at $945.63 on the London Bullion Market.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia analyst David Moore said: ‘Oil prices are being supported by lingering worries about oil supply.’