ENERGY PRICE HIKE – to punish the poor

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BRITISH Gas yesterday announced six per cent increases to the gas and electricity prices it charges customers, adding £80 a year to the average dual fuel bill.

The UK’s biggest energy supplier, which reported £345m profit in the first half of the year, said the increase would come into effect on 16 November.

Condemning the increase, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘With winter approaching, low-waged people will now be terrified about how they are going to find another £80.

‘Money from the poor is going to the pockets of Centrica shareholders. This is a further shameful abuse by out-of-control, greedy fuel companies sitting on piles of profits.

‘Alongside the government’s punish-the-poor strategy, millions of households will be forced further and further down the path to poverty.

‘It is high time that the government intervened to take back from these grasping companies.

‘Why is it that when wholesale fuel prices go up, these companies take from customers, yet, when wholesale prices go down, they still take from customers?

‘They are abusing their social responsibilities, and weak regulation allows them to get away with it.

‘Cap their profits, intervene to stop this racketeering or millions will face a cold, miserable winter.’

Unison called on the government to take urgent action to tackle fuel poverty, and to introduce an emergency package of energy efficiency measures designed to cut bills, create jobs and help struggling families out of fuel poverty.

Unison Head of Business and Environment Mike Jeram said: ‘It will be a long, cold winter for many pensioners, the unemployed and for low-paid workers and their families.

‘Just days ago we learnt that the cost of fruit and vegetables has gone up by a massive 50 per cent in the last year.

‘Any increase in energy prices is likely to tip more families into debt and into the hands of unscrupulous pay-day loan companies.

‘Public service workers have seen their pay frozen for nearly three years and the rising cost of gas and electricity will bring misery to millions.

‘This is a crisis in the making and the government needs to tackle fuel poverty head-on or we will see the number of deaths from cold rising over the winter.’

British Gas claimed the cost of government policies and the national grid upgrade added £50 to the average household bill this year, and is expected to add another £60 next year.

Another of the Big Six energy companies, NPower, yesterday announced price increases of 8.8 per cent for gas and 9.1 per cent for electricity.

SSE, which trades as Scottish Hydro, Swalec and Southern Electric, has already said it will raise its prices by an average of nine per cent from Monday.