Saturday 31 May 2008

What a fuel believes

It all seems very nice on the surface, the government wanting to help people on low incomes to pay fuel bills. But I can't help feeling apprehensive about the means, namely the plans by the government to share data on benefit claimants with energy companies (BBC News: Fuel poverty action plan unveiled). Even ignoring this government's cavalier, even contemptuous, attitude towards privacy, we have seen their lack of competence at handling and transferring peoples' data with the loss of numerous data CDs (see my blog entry on this subject, from November 2007).

True, the energy companies are ripping customers off and making sky-high profits from astronomical fuel price rises. But rather than attacking the profiteering fat cats, the government is merely asking them to be a bit kinder to people on low incomes, and transfer them to a cheaper tariff if possible. Ah well, I guess it saves the government from paying decent benefits. Or making the exploitative bosses pay decent wages, so there are fewer people on low incomes. Or making those on lower incomes pay less tax, eg by properly reinstating the 10p tax rate.

So how should we deal with fuel poverty? How about renationalising the energy companies, and bringing the prices down for all of us. And then the income from energy sales, instead of going to fat cat shareholders, could all be spent dealing with fuel poverty, and on energy efficiency and home insulation which would also benefit the environment. Instead of bargaining, with the energy companies, the privacy of the poorest members of society, for a few crumbs from their fat profits!

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