Tuesday 3 December 2013

Dave and Energy Bills

They just aren't switched on. Since Ed Miliband announced Labour's plans for an 18 month energy price freeze should he be forming a government in 2015, the Tories have not been able to properly respond. Shouting "Marxism!" had zero effect, their whinging about wholesale gas prices has been unconvincing - especially when the Big Six energy companies are posting burgeoning profits, and attempt to dub the 'energy price freeze' as the 'energy price con' has gone nowhere. Even Dave's pledge to reduce bills by cutting the "green crap" requiring companies to invest in sustainable energy sources has had no discernible impact.

And in the week the government have been exposed for trying to redefine fuel poverty, the Tories have unveiled what they think is a masterful counterstroke. The average £120 increase on bills this year will be cushioned by a £50 bung from the government to the energy companies, which will be passed on to the consumer. That's right, you won't pay on the bill but you will pay for the "discount" via your taxes. They have also announced a £1,000 green grant for new home buyers to help towards insulation and other energy-saving costs. How helpful.

The problem for Dave is the Tories are still seen as the party of the rich. Most people think he and his party kowtow to big business, and his gyrations over energy prices bears this out. He appears determined to protect the Big Six from any measure that will reduce their profits, even though four of the six are foreign-owned. But as far as consumers are concerned, people who are fed up with seeing their bills go up while pensioners die from the cold; they want to see the energy companies punished.

This is why Labour energy price freeze has resonance. Because it will hurt the likes of British Gas and EDF Energy. Dave's jiggery-pokery with tax and green investment doesn't wash because it keeps the Big Six in the sphere of non-punishment.

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