There has been uproar over the last few months as the big energy companies in the UK have all increased their prices significantly. British Gas and Npower, two of the biggest in the UK, have raised their prices by 9.2 and 10.4 per cent respectively. It’s not as if these new prices have been out of the blue either; prices have been rocketing for some time. Energy prices have risen eight times more than the average increase in earnings over the last three years. This has a big impact on real incomes at a time where economic growth is stumbling. More of people’s hard-earned incomes will be spent on energy, causing cutbacks in other areas of spending. Many will forced to make the choice between heating and eating.For those who don’t have any financial breathing space, the new prices will be a step over the edge and they will have no choice other than not to heat their homes. In the next few months it is inevitable that the number living in fuel poverty will rise. This could not come at a worse time either: forecasters are predicting that the winter of 2013-14 will be the worst since 1947 and long periods of heavy snow and gale force winds are expected. Temperatures will sink even further into the sub zeros than usual and many won’t be able to keep their homes warm, increasing their risk of illness. The elderly especially will be at risk.It is criminal that at a time like this energy companies are raising their prices. A recent Ofgem survey revealed that energy costs over the last 3 years have fallen by 4%, so why have prices risen so dramatically when costs have fallen? Energy companies have been quick to blame rising network and environmental costs but there have been relatively insignificant rises in these areas. In reality, there is no genuine reason for the new prices. Well, maybe one. To feed the pockets of money grabbing chief executives.
Over the last few months, war has broken out between two central figures of opposing sides over this debate: David Cameron and ‘Red’ Ed Miliband. With the 2015 election looming, a key policy matter is the future of energy and delivering gas and electricity to millions of homes up and down the country. These two men have clearly taken different stances on what they believe is best for Britain. Keen to please voters, Miliband has announced Labour’s promise to freeze energy bills for 20 months if they win the next election. Cameron was quick to brand this policy as a “gimmick” and a “con”. The Prime Minister, who has distanced himself from this policy, claims, in the usual Conservative way, that this is not the best way forward. He doesn’t propose a freeze and not surprisingly thinks that prices should be decided by the forces of the free market. Cameron tried to weather the storm by vowing to place people on the lowest energy tariffs but this would only help 10% of the population who are on closed tariffs.
Instead of price freezes, he urged his political opponent to “put on a jumper”. This was greeted by outrage from the public who were shocked by Cameron’s deeply patronising remark. Fury broke out over Twitter and the hashtag #cameronheatingtips trended. Users tweeted a stream of sarcastic comments mocking the PM’s outrageous and out of touch advice.