Charity hits out at gas bill hike

A CHARITY has today described the massive price hikes by British Gas as a huge blow.

Neil Puffett

A CHARITY has today described the massive price hikes by British Gas as a huge blow.

Age Concern Suffolk said the 35 per cent increase was phenomenal and that there were already lots of older people living in fuel poverty.

The UK's biggest domestic energy supplier said that the price hikes, which include a nine pc increase in electricity bills, will take place with immediate effect for most people but will be held off until after the winter for the most vulnerable.

Age Concern Chief executive Daphne Savage said: “This will affect a lot of people in Suffolk - it is a phenomenal increase.

“We really don't want people at risk of hypothermia at winter because they are scared to use fuel.”

Most Read

Ipswich MP Chris Mole said rising costs are a global issue but pointed to the fact government is attempting to help some of the most vulnerable with increased winter fuel payments.

This year payments to over 60s will go up by 25pc from £200 to £250 with payments to over 80s increasing 33pc from £300 to £400.

Mr Mole said he will support any move to make the increases permanent and added that some 17,500 households in Ipswich are receiving extra help with fuel payments this year.

He said: “I wouldn't have said that any government can do anything to particularly change the global fuel market other than to ensure that where there may be regional problems, like the problems with the gas markets in Europe, we continue to argue the case that the supply markets there should be liberalised, in a similar way to the UK.”

Mr Mole's opponent at the next general election, Tory candidate Ben Gummer, said the government is in no position to help people and a change of direction is required.

He said: “We have been pressing the government to bring forward changes in taxation so they can provide some sort of relief for people through the tax system but the government has overspent and over-borrowed so the cupboard is bare.

“The answer is to get public finances back into shape so we can start giving relief to hard-pressed families.”

British Gas owner Centrica has blamed soaring wholesale prices for the increase, but added that standard tariff prices would not rise again in 2008.

The firm has seen half-year operating profits decline 20pc following increases in wholesale gas prices but half-year profits were still £992million.

The price hike comes just a few days after rival EDF Energy put up gas prices by 22pc and electricity prices by 17pc, with other firms expected to follow suit.

- How will the price hike affect you? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

The view from the street:-

Joy Steed, 63, from Stowmarket, said: “I will have less money to spend on other things. I didn't think it would go up that much. Thirty-five per cent is a lot.”

David Beverley, 70, of Sheldrake Drive, Ipswich, said: “I can't complain because my bills are going down. But it is unfair on families because they are going to have to pay a lot more.”

Brian Reeson, 51, of Kesgrave, said: “I have had a pay rise but it will just end up paying for my electricity bills.”

Sharon Kemp, 51, of Robeck Road, Ipswich, said: “I use a pre-pay card and my bills have gone up. They are making huge profits so I am very peeved. But it is something we can't do without.”

Beverley Gee, 41, who is manager at Thing-a-me-bobs in Ipswich and lives in Dales Road, said: “It has got ridiculous. “From a personal point of view, our wages haven't gone up to contend with all the rises. We have got two children and we have to watch everything.”

Gwen Norton, 85, of Shaftesbury Square, Ipswich, said: “There are too many people making profits today. I usually put money away to make do, but we have just got to struggle and pay it.”

Age Concern Suffolk helpline: 01473 257039

Home Heat helpline: 0800 33 66 99

Energywatch helpline: 08459 06 07 08

Who can help:-

-The British Gas Energy Trust gives grants to help individuals and families in need to meet arrears of energy charges and other household bills and costs.

You must be a domestic customer of British Gas or Scottish Gas. Phone 01733 421021.

A winter fuel rebate is also available of up to £90 to British Gas's most vulnerable customers by phoning 0845 601 2006.

- Winter fuel payment:

Government payments such as the winter fuel payment, a tax-free annual benefit usually paid from November to the over 60s can help. You can get a claim form by calling 08459 151 515.

- Warm Front England is s grant scheme in England providing heating and insulation in privately owned or rented homes. You may get a grant if you get receive certain benefits.

You will need to complete an application form before an adviser visits you to assess and recommend work for your property. Call 0800 316 2805.