“Rishi Sunak’s proposals are a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed.”Beth Winter MP
By the Labour Assembly Against Austerity Team
The cost of living crisis suddenly deepened on Thursday as the announcement of an increase in the energy price cap paves the way to a huge increase in people’s gas and electricity bills.
OFGEM announced the cap will rise by £693 to £1971 in April – a rise of 54% – on top of a £140 increase announced just six months ago.
The impact of the rise will be to push a quarter of UK households into fuel poverty – where they spend more than 10% of their income on energy – according to the End Fuel Poverty Coalition.
In response the Chancellor announced measures to mitigate the impact – but this only amounted to a £150 council tax rebate for most properties in England, and then a £200 loan which residents will have to repay.
Households will still have to find hundreds of pounds per year on top of what they currently pay.
Analysis for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found families on low incomes will spend on average 16% of their incomes after housing costs on energy bills, but other groups, such as single adult households on low incomes could spend up to 43% of income after housing costs on energy.
The energy bills news was compounded as North Sea oil giant Shell announced profits of £14.2bn over the past year, with the Chief Executive boasting that it had been ‘a momentous year’.
If things weren’t bad enough, the Governor of the Bank of England told the BBC that workers ‘shouldnt seek too high a pay rise’ as inflation outstrips incomes – thanks to amongst other things, the energy price rise.
The price cap announcement and the weak government response has outraged those on low incomes and left activists.
Richard Burgon MP, Secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs, condemned ‘huge hikes in energy bills – while fossil fuel companies brag about their profits.’
He backed calls for a windfall tax on fossil fuel extractors like Shell and BP, and to use the money to hold down bills.
Whilst Beth Winter MP said ‘Rishi Sunak’s proposals are a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed.’
Mick Whitley MP said, ‘it’s time to take the energy sector back into public hands.’
And Diane Abbott said, ‘BP was privatised under Thatcher. A terrible business deal for the public, virtually giving away a huge asset. The continued refusal to consider renationalisation is a continuation of this bone-headed, ideological approach.’
Zarah Sultana MP said, ‘Rishi Sunak’s pathetic announcement doesn’t go nearly far enough’ and backed calls for a ‘windfall tax on the profits of fossil fuel giants’ and for ‘energy suppliers brought into public ownership’
‘Let’s put our need before their greed’ she added.
In response to the Governor of the Bank of England, Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham, said, “Yet again workers are being asked to pay the price, this time for inflation and the energy crisis. Inflation has not been caused by workers. Why should they be expected to pay for the failures of the energy market and the total shambles of Government policy?
“Workers don’t need lectures from the Governor of the Bank of England on exercising pay restraint. Why is it that every time there is a crisis, rich men ask ordinary people to pay for it?
“Enough is enough, we will be demanding that employers who can pay, do pay. Let’s be clear, pay restraint is nothing more than a call for a national pay cut.”
- In response to the growing cost of living crisis, People’s Assembly Against Austerity have called nationwide protests on Saturday 12 February. Find your local event at https://thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/
- Rishi Sunak – Workers Can’t Wait. Urgent action to tackle the cost-of-living crisis now! Add your name to the petition at https://www.change.org/p/rishi-sunak-workers-can-t-wait-urgent-action-to-tackle-the-cost-of-living-crisis-now