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Soaring energy bills plunge many into fuel poverty chill

Published date: 11 March 2014 |
Published by: Rhian Waller 
Read more articles by Rhian Waller  Email reporter


 

ENERGY prices have shot up by 55 per cent in 10 years.

According to the Office of National Statistics, UK households spent an average of £106 a month on electricity, gas and other household fuels in 2012.

That's more than half again on the £69 a month spent in 2002, after adjusting for inflation.

The news will come as no surprise to those in Flintshire and Wrexham who are struggling with fuel poverty.

Julie Griffiths, operations manager at Mold Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “This year, we’ve had 281 calls relating to energy and fuel costs.

“That’s a 15 per cent increase on last year.”

Sorting out fuel issues also seems to be costing Flintshire residents.

She added: “One client had a 30 minute wait on the phone from a phone box only to be told by her supplier that they can’t help her because they would need to call her back at a later date and she doesn't have a mobile phone or landline.

“Another client was in a queue for over one hour but got cut off when her £10 credit ran out."

The average cost of power is going up (though it has stabilised in recent years) even though we are using less.

The average amount of energy used per UK household was 17 per cent lower in 2012 than in 2002, due to a mixture of efficiency, insulation and people reducing use.

A number of Leader readers came forward to share their fuel woes.

Stella Morris, 33, of Brymbo, said: “It’s crippling. My house is all electric.”

Hayley Maggs, 27, of Wrexham, said: “I’m the same. It’s ridiculous, I’m still waiting for my 27-year-old boiler to be upgraded to see if that helps. I’ve been waiting three months for an answer. Cost of living goes up but wages stay the same.”

Sam Roberts, 39, of Wrexham, said: “I’m struggling as a lone working parent. It costs me the same for energy as it would for a two-income family at the end of the day. All my income goes on bills. I’d like to start living.”

Gwen Parry, 42, of Flint, said: “I moved back to the UK in 2006 and would put £10 to £15 in the electric meter (gas was included in the rent).

“That has gone up now to a minimum of £25 a week these days and since moving house I now also have a gas meter and during the colder months I have to put £15 a week into the meter.

“I barely ever run the heating. I tell the kids to wear more clothing or to go to bed early and get under the blankets because if the gas runs out for the week, that’s it.  I can’t afford to put more in.”

Natalie Cain, 27, of Deeside, said: “Yes, it’s expensive to run. I’m on meters and I spend £20 each on gas and electric each week. It’s a rip off and I hardly put the heating on.”

Neal Gelder, 46, of Holywell said  utilities should be re-nationalised, particularly in Wales, as the country is self-sufficient, and is a net exporter of energy.

He said: “£300 of heating oil lasted three months and it hasn't been a particularly cold winter. The big energy companies are robbing us. Bring back nationalisation – at least they're non-profit."

When the question of whether energy should be re-nationalised was posed to Leader readers on Facebook, 17 people immediately agreed with the measure.

Moira Owen, 56, of Mold, posted: “Too right. Look at the good deal we get from Dwr Cymru as they are non-profit making.”

While there may be some public support for the idea, re-nationalisation does not seem to be on the political table.

Energy generation is not a devolved area, so the Welsh Government has no say in the matter, and MPs in the House of Commons spent much of last year squabbling about proposals to freeze energy prices.

Mark Tami, MP for Alyn and Deeside, said: “I think many of the problems we are experiencing now are a direct consequence of the privatisation of the industry and the regulatory regime that was put in place at the time.

“The private sector thinks short term and profit above all else. In a generation, we became over-dependant on imported gas.

“Many of our major suppliers now not only are retailers but own generating assets and even the raw fuel sources themselves. It therefore becomes very difficult to get a real understanding and effective transparency of price movements.”

Mr Tami still contested that while re-nationalisation may seem appealing, the cost would be too great, and said that the most likely solution would be tighter regulation.

He added: “Energy security is something we all take for granted but the current situation in Ukraine and the threat that Russian gas supplies could be suspended has shown that reliance on imports is far from ideal.”

In a recent speech in Parliament, Susan Elan Jones, MP for Clwyd South, described the energy regulators OFGEM as “fairly weak”, and called for more consideration for those who rely on fuel grants.

Darren Millar, AM for North Wales, disagreed with the idea of re-nationalisation.

He said: “When energy generation was publicly owned it relied on huge taxpayer subsidies in order to survive and effectively cost taxpayers more than the prices of energy in their bills.

“What we really need to see is a reduction in the green taxes which are levied on our energy bills to provide subsidies for eco-friendly energy generation.

“There are other ways to incentivise green energy, but relying of subsidies which push up household bills isn’t the right way forward.”

In the interest of accuracy, it must be pointed out that many energy companies still receive state subsidies, and the so called ‘Green Tax’ amounts to about seven per cent of an overall bill – far short of the 55 per cent rise in recent years.

Flintshire and Wrexham Citizens Advice Bureaus offer good advice.

You can find out more at www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

For more news from across the region visit newsnorthwales.co.uk

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  1. Posted by: a cahill at 11:36 on 11 March 2014 Report

    We subsidise energy companies to the tune of millions per year.. .to allow for investment in infrastructure and cheaper generation costs which create huge profits for shareholders...yet the cost to us keeps rising....feeling ripped off is a very mild way of saying the consumer is being robbed blind in every way

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