Steve McCabe MP (Birmingham, Selly Oak) has asked Theresa May directly about the failure of the Government’s flagship policy on an energy cap which Ofgem relaxed just weeks after it came into force.
The Prime Minister appears to have no answer to rising energy prices and repeated her ‘Alice in Wonderland’ view that the cap is working well. Her answer is cold comfort for the 2.5million people in England now living in fuel poverty. The Birmingham MP was questioning the Prime Minister in the Commons just days after Ofgem announced it was relaxing her energy price cap which was immediately followed by announcements from Eon and EDF that they were raising their prices by 10.3%, the maximum allowed. Inflation is currently running at 1.8%.
A shocking 17% of households in Birmingham Selly Oak constituency and 13.7% of households in the West Midlands are now officially living in fuel poverty. The recent cold spell means many are struggling to make ends meet and face huge bills in coming weeks. Fuel poverty impacts in a number of ways including heating and lighting homes, cooking meals and having access to hot water and can lead to very serious consequences e.g. over the 2017/2018 winter, there were an estimated 50,100 excess winter deaths in England and Wales, the highest in 43 years.
The Prime Minister promised that her energy cap would put an end to rip off energy companies ‘once and for all’. The cap came into force in January 2019 and was relaxed within 6 weeks of being introduced. Ofgem announced the cap would save average dual fuel customer £76 per year but the sudden relaxation of the cap is now set to add £117 to the average household duel fuel bill from April 2019.
Figures show that nearly 330,000 households across the West Midlands are living within the official definition of fuel poverty. Each household is on average £332 short of the required income to meet energy bill costs, a measure called the ‘fuel poverty gap’. A household is considered to be ‘fuel poor’ if they have fuel costs which are above the national median level and if meeting those costs would push them below the poverty line.
“The latest figures show that 17% of people in my constituency are in fuel poverty, yet just weeks after introducing the cap on energy bills, Ofgem are relaxing it which will result in another £117 being added to average household bills from April 2019. This will push people already struggling with their energy bills into even greater poverty. It is scandalous that so many people are making the awful choice between heating and eating as a result of the Prime Minister’s broken promises and her failure to get a grip on energy companies.
“We need a much stronger regulator who will stand up for consumers and we need a proper cap that does not allow the interests and profits of the energy companies to come first.”