TRADE UNIONS, CHARITIES AND ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANISATIONS have been commenting on the measures announced by the government to support households and businesses with energy bills.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Freezing energy bills this autumn is essential for families and to protect jobs and businesses. But the Prime Minister is making the wrong people pay. She should have imposed a much larger windfall tax on profiteering oil and gas giants. And she should have required all firms getting help with energy bills to commit to no lay-offs for the lifetime of the help, to protect livelihoods.
“And it’s not just energy bills soaring – so she needs to do more to help families get through the winter. That means a real plan to get wages rising, a big boost to universal credit, child benefit and pensions, and a massive rollout of home improvements to cut bills. And it’s time to bring energy retail into public ownership to make sure this crisis never happens again.”
The TUC says that the government should set out a programme to make UK living standards more resilient and the UK economy more resistant to a future crisis. This should include:
- Increasing the windfall tax to a fairer level relative to the excess profits oil and gas firms are making.
- Rapid rollout of home energy efficiency and taking the energy retail companies into public ownership – including a new approach to energy pricing with a free band of energy to cover basic lighting, heating, hot water and cooking.
- A plan to get pay rising for all workers – including stronger pay bargaining rights so that working people and their unions can make fair pay agreements across whole industries.
- Increasing the minimum wage to £15 an hour as soon as possible – by returning the UK to normal wage growth and having a more ambitious minimum wage target.
- Social security that prevents poverty – universal credit and benefits should be raised to 80 per cent of the national living wage, along with a significant boost to support for families with children.
Friends of the Earth said the Government’s plans will not reduce energy bills and that maintaining the UK’s dependency on gas risks locking us into volatile pricing and high bills for decades to come.
Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth said: “The government’s energy plan is farcical in its detachment from reality. It does nothing to tackle the root cause of the energy crisis – our reliance on costly, polluting fossil fuels – and only lines the pockets of the oil and gas companies driving the cost of living and climate emergencies.
“Most of us will be relieved about the cap on energy bills ahead of this winter but with energy, food and fuel costs remaining high many people will still struggle to heat their homes and put food on the table. To bring down bills for good, we need a street-by-street insulation programme targeted at the neighbourhoods where most homes are poorly insulated. There are five million homes without even basic insulation, such as loft or cavity wall insulation, and the Committee on Climate Change has said 15 million homes would benefit from other insulation measures.
“The biggest winners today are the oil and gas companies. Not only will they benefit from the green light for more fossil fuel extraction but the tens of billions of pounds of public expenditure on the energy cap will go into their pockets and further fuel their eye-watering profits.”
On fracking, Friends of the Earth campaigner Danny Gross, said: “Anyone who thinks that bringing back fracking will solve the energy crisis is living in cloud cuckoo land. Fracking is a failed industry that’s unpopular and unfeasible. In the decade before it was banned, the industry only managed to frack two sites, and both were aborted due to earthquakes.
“Fracking is a false solution to the cost-of-living crisis The most effective way to bring down our bills and boost energy security for good is to invest in cheap, clean renewables and a nationwide home insulation and energy efficiency programme. By breaking its manifesto promise on fracking, the government is showing that it’s completely out of touch with communities across the country. They have already defeated fracking once and they’re ready to do so again.”
On renewable energy, Mike Childs added: “We’re pleased to hear the Prime Minister’s support for ‘all renewables’ and look forward to seeing how the government will lift barriers to on-shore solar and wind. These are cheap, with electricity from renewable energy now nine times cheaper than from gas, quick to build and are overwhelmingly popular with the public.
“New gas and oil developments will take years to develop and will have no meaningful impact on bills. Instead, they will send more planet-heating pollution into our atmosphere.”
Mark Russell, Chief Executive at The Children’s Society, said: “This announcement falls far short of what is needed for low-income families who are in desperate need of additional targeted support. Our teams across the country see families already struggling to pay bills and feed their children. Under these plans, the typical household will still face a further £500 increase in their annual energy bill, meaning they will pay twice what they were paying around this time last year.
“We are worried sick about the devastating conditions families and children will face over the coming months if they don’t get this extra support. We passionately believe every child has a right to live in a secure, warm home with food on the table, but we fear many children will be left cold and hungry this winter as their families are plunged into debt and homelessness. We want the Government to go further and faster and offer more help to the poorest families. This should include more long-term support through the social security system – which in many cases simply does not cover basic living costs – including significant investment in Child Benefit.”