7 Days Remaining

Tuesday 2nd
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

RECLAIM the Power has reminded Britain's big six energy companies that, just because the Tories won the general election, this does not mean that their atrocious record has been forgotten.

Big six cartel members cited Ed Miliband's pre-election price freeze pledge to explain why they couldn't slash bills following a 25 per cent drop in wholesale prices. 

But, with Labour's defeat, we can rest assured that the Tories will steer well clear of any infringement of the cartel's right to print money.

David Cameron's true allegiance is to the City of London, whatever his attempts to mask reality by passing off the Tories as the real party of working people.

Imaginative stunts that highlight Cameron's subservience to big business, energy, banks or any other sector, serve to remind people of the class nature of this Tory government.

Gas and electricity, like water and railways, are natural monopolies that are not conducive to any real measures of competition. 

Only one gas pipe or electricity cable carries a service into each home, which reduces "competition" to jiggery-pockery over pricing packages that have one constant feature - they are more expensive for the poorest households.

What other industrial sector could enjoy profitable returns that have grown tenfold from 2007 to 2013?

Only a sector based on human need that went from a state monopoly to a private monopoly overnight and which has been milked assiduously by privateers over the past three decades is the answer to that.

Part and parcel of the entire privatisation swindle was the establishment of Ofgem, the supposed energy regulator.

Ofgem is supposed to look after consumers' interests, but it has been as much use as a chocolate teapot.

One self-important jobsworth after another has taken over as regulator, but none has posed any real threat to the profit-maximisation priorities of the big six.

British Gas, for example, was hit with an £11 million fine in December for failing to deliver the efficiency measures of its Community Energy Saving Programme by its December 31 2012 deadline. 

That may sound a lot of money to most of us, but for British Gas, which gouged out profits of £571m last year, it's a proverbial drop in the ocean.

The company has gone on to overcharge 700,000 customers and to pursue legal action to allow it to gain warrants of entry so that they can install meters which charge the highest - hence, the most profitable - tariffs of all. 

Doesn't that totally encapsulate the twisted priorities of the privateers? 

No urgency about meeting their responsibilities to help the poorest consumers achieve satisfactory home insulation and reduce bills while running to the courts to forcibly install pre-payment meters so that the same people can't default on unaffordable invoices.

Ofgem fines are similar to those imposed on the banking sector.

They amount to a license fee that allows companies to operate in as cavalier manner as they want and don't threaten profits or dividends.

The Morning Star was never convinced that Miliband's price freeze would redress the balance towards consumers, but it beats the hell out of the current government's laissez-faire attitude.

The cartel has exploited domestic consumers for far too long, ripping us off to the tune of tens of billions of pounds.

The only effective curb to this record of robbery with menaces is public ownership and the labour movement should encourage consumers to raise a clamour demanding the energy industry's renationalisation.