One of the big issues that constituents have consistently written to me about over the past few years has been the continually rising costs of fuels bills.
It seems that a great deal has to be done to rebuild public trust in the energy companies.
That’s why I am pleased that yesterday the Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, said that a future Labour Government would freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017 – this will save a typical household £120 a year an average business £1,800 between May 2015 and January 2017
I know that this would make a great deal of difference to many hard working families across Tameside and Stockport who find themselves in a real struggle with the current cost of living crisis.
Because it’s clear the Tory and LibDem coalition government have allowed energy prices to spiral out of control, with the average family’s energy bill rising by almost £300 since 2010. It is now the second largest cost that families face. A report by consumer group Which? Has estimated that flaws in the energy market have left consumers paying £3.9 billion a year over the odds.
So that’s why I think yesterday Ed got it right. Surely it is only right that we reset a market that has consistently failed to secure the confidence of the public or the investment Britain needs. We need a market that both delivers a fair deal for consumers and underpins the investment in future clean energy capacity that we all want to see.
It is also worth pointing out that these are the same utility companies that threatened to take thier bat and ball home with the Windfall Tax in 1997, but ultimately didn’t.
I think there are two steps that a future Labour Government would take to do this.
Firstly we would legislate to build competition and transparency into the market, with a trusted regulator standing behind the system. Second, it means ensuring that in the time it takes to put a new system in place, up to the start of 2017, we ensure the prices paid by consumers do not rise. The last thing anyone in my constituency wants to see if this continued rise in fuel bills continue to rise and rise. It’s simply not fair and certainly isn’t sustainable.
But of course a fairer market for consumers must be matched by a better deal for investors. This is why a future Labour government would set a 2030 power sector decarbonisation target; hold to the system of contract for difference in the Energy Bill; create an Energy Security Board with responsibility for identifying our energy needs and providing a clear framework to deliver this; and give the Green Investment Bank borrowing powers to support investment.
It’s clear that yesterday Ed had to take action to prevent the seemingly relentless rises in fuel bills.
I know that many of my constituents just don’t have faith in the energy companies anymore. Freezing the cost of bills is a positive step to help them and build some much needed trust with the energy companies.
Ed Miliband is willing to work closely with the energy companies on these issues and I hope they are willing to rise to the challenge. It shows that it is our party and our leader that is in touch with the people of this country, not Cameron and his cronies.