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Scrap the poverty premium

Victoria Egerton, Unite Labour delegate, Wednesday, September 26th, 2018


As we leave Labour’s 2018 annual conference the determination to be ready for a general election whenever it comes is strong. The message is clear we need to sweep these chaotic, heartless Conservatives away and have a Labour government committed to transforming Britain.

 

John McDonnell the shadow chancellor told conference that Tory incompetence shows why Labour should renationalise rail, mail, water, and energy – because we can’t afford not to.

 

We know that we are still paying for the economic crash and it is the lowest paid that bears the biggest burden. Frankly if there is something that drives me around the bend it is that energy companies charge a poverty premium.

 

Tariffs are awarded to those customers that pay by direct debit but many energy companies don’t provide those same discounts to customers on pre-payment meters. They charge low income households more pushing the vulnerable further into fuel poverty.

 

If you don’t pass a credit check, you have to pay around £100 to have a pre-payment meter removed.

 

This is almost £27 more than a single person in receipt of welfare receives a week, and almost 17 hours work for a young person paid the shambolic minimum wage.

 

Working in a Citizens Advice Bureau I’ve seen it all. Energy companies often don’t abide by the Ofgem ability to pay regulations enforcing pre-payment meters on customers that can’t even top-up their meters.

 

Dramatic and cruel consequences

This policy has dramatic and cruel consequences. People with severe mental health problems are unable to leave their homes and victims of domestic violence who cannot access financial resources go days if not weeks without the ability to cook. Shockingly people who have to use nebulisers need electricity to breathe.

 

Research by Citizens Advice shows, around 140,000 households could not afford to top-up their meters in the last 12 months. Eighty eight of these households contained a child or someone with long term health issues.

 

We are not talking about some abstract consequence here these are real people with real concerns. People like Tony. Tony, hadn’t used his gas for three years. He came to me for help because he had frost bite. In the sixth largest economy ….frost bite.

 

He owed over £500 in standing charges, because he had not used his gas for such a long time.

 

The answer to Tony’s plight and others is simple – standing charges need to be scrapped where energy is not used. A Corbyn-led Labour government will make this happen. Until such time we need to stand in unity against energy companies that charge the poverty premium.

 

 

 

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