With the full council business-as-usual cycle of committees, sub-committees, boards and working groups not due to fire up again for a few more days, the latest swingeing rise in the household energy cap – announced on Friday morning – has been obsessing me.
As the weather is staying mostly warm for now at least, the eye-watering amounts we’ll all be paying still feel a little theoretical somehow.
But my own denial is getting shakier as we move towards autumn and I’m increasingly scared and angry.
Scared that home energy costs, capped at an average of around £1,200 a year until as recently as March, will rise to a cap of around £3,350 at the start of October.
It then predicted to go up to £4,200 from January so will have more than tripled in the space of a year.
Also scared that even those “average” figures don’t express how bad bills could get because the “cap” is actually on each unit of energy.
So, when it is given as £3,359 from the start of October, the government regulators are just taking the per-unit cap and multiplying by average household usage to reach an annual figure.
Anyone with a draughty home – and many vulnerable housebound people – are likely to find themselves with bills much higher still than this average which they may be completely unable to pay.
And I’m angry that government regulators, with a remit to protect consumers, seem to be protecting shareholder profit margins instead.
Meanwhile, our outgoing Prime Minister seems happy to just blame Vladimir Putin, even though we all know that other European countries, who take far more of their energy through Russia than us, are taking steps to ensure household bills stay low.
And it’s not just individuals who will suffer – the knock-on effect of soaring prices will be devastating for businesses across the city, particularly small companies, with implications for employment as well.
All kinds of firms are likely to suffer, both indirectly – if a third of us are struggling to meet basic needs, we won’t have money to spend on anything non-essential, and takings will go down – and directly, in that some businesses – cafés, restaurants, hairdressers – use much more energy themselves.
Labour will of course push for as much help as the council can provide to residents who are struggling.
And, personally, I’m planning to wrap up warm and use less heating, check on poorly or elderly friends regularly and use any spare cash I do have supporting independent local businesses and boycotting profiteers and tax-avoiders as much as possible!
Councillor Amanda Evans is the deputy leader of the opposition Labour group on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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