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Swindling the very poorest

Energy rip-off

Energy companies are yelping after having been exposed by Ofgem as pushing up tariffs imposed on consumers far beyond the increases in wholesale costs.

This is not what the big six expect from Ofgem, which has traditionally acted as a fig leaf to cover their rampant profiteering.

But such is the public anger that even Ofgem feels the need to distance itself as far as practical from the thieves’ cartel milking working-class domestic consumers.

David Cameron attempts to dodge the issue by asserting that “it is for the energy companies to explain the decisions they have taken around bills to their customers.”

Of course it’s nothing to do with him. He’s only the Prime Minister. What can he do to change the situation?

The reality is that Cameron and his acolytes have no desire to effect any change. 

They see nothing wrong with an oligopoly holding working people to ransom and forcing pensioners, claimants and the low-paid to choose between heating their homes and filling their bellies.

It’s what makes Tories tick. It’s their idea of how the world goes round.

Billionaire tax exiles blackmail entire regions with factory closure and mass poverty to get their way, banks are bailed out by the public purse, workers’ pay, pensions and services are slashed, the richest 1 per cent receive tax handouts and thousands of old people face death this winter because a handful of utilities companies have the power to extort fortunes from the poorest people in society.

These policy highlights pose no problem to the coalition government, which has encouraged that process, misrepresenting a private banking catastrophe as a crisis created by excessive public expenditure.

Caroline Flint points out the dishonesty of the energy companies, lying about the effect of wholesale prices and boosting their profits by driving up domestic energy bills.

But what is the Labour shadow energy secretary’s battle cry at a time when around two-thirds of the electorate is demanding that the electricity and gas industries be returned to public ownership?

“Labour would freeze energy bills for 20 months and create a tough new watchdog with the power to force energy companies to cut their prices when the cost of energy falls,” she says.

The average combined gas and electricity bill is at present £1,267, which is available for people able to pay monthly standing order payments.

Poorer people unable to make such payments will pay higher rates.

But Labour’s 20-month freeze would bring a one-off respite of just £120 for gas and electricity company customers, for which the energy cartel members have already begun preparing by overcharging them this winter.

No-one should doubt that they will do precisely the same next year and at any other time before or after a Labour government temporary tariff freeze.

Flint’s suggestion that “a tough new watchdog” will cut energy prices when the cost of energy falls will not be taken seriously by anyone.

Regulators are an essential part of the privatisation swindle. They are symbols of government abdication of responsibility for working people’s living standards.

Labour makes much at present of its determination to place the cost of living at the centre of its general election campaign.

It will not be taken seriously — nor deserve to — unless it moves beyond a marginal one-off price freeze to tackle the privatisation scandal decisively by backing public ownership.


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