‘Pensioners bear brunt of high fuel bills’
ENERGY companies have been accused of leaving the region’s pensioners to “bear the brunt” of high fuel bills while making huge profits.
Pensioner groups spoke out after the announcement that British Gas profits jumped nearly 60% to �595million last year.
There are fears some vulnerable people may be cutting back on food and heating because they are struggling to meet payments.
Helen Taylor, information manager at Age Concern Suffolk, said: “The increase in energy companies’ profit margins comes at a time when many older households are worrying about how to pay costly post-freeze heating bills.”
Barbara Williamson, chairman of the Colchester Pensioners’ Action Group, added: “I would like to see prices come down by 58%. worked out that this year my bill for gas and electricity will be �1,400. The pensioner bears the brunt of it because if someone’s in work, they are out a lot of the day.”
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The complaints came after Centrica revealed its British Gas residential arm made profits of �595m last year –up 58% on 2008.
British Gas has been the only energy company to cut prices in recent months, but its average bills are still 27% higher than a year ago and nearly double its 2004 amount.
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Its standard household tariff, currently around �1,158 a year, is �80 cheaper than E.ON and �200 less than Scottish Power, according to consumer group uSwitch.com.
Campaigners have now urged the Government to intervene to help those struggling to pay.
Miss Taylor said: “With 2.7m older households living in fuel poverty, MPs and energy companies should be working at full speed to introduce a new system of mandatory social tariffs to shield lower-income households from fluctuations in their energy bills.
“Older people living in Suffolk who are cutting back on basics such as food and heating because they’re concerned about high electricity and gas bills should call our help centres [on 01473 257039 or 01284 757750] for advice.”
A spokeswoman for British Gas said the company was the cheapest supplier in the industry. She added: “Our 7% gas price cut on February 4 was our third in the past 12 months, saving dual fuel customers a total of �187.”
“British Gas’ support for vulnerable customers between 2008 and 2011 has a value of about �520m – more than any organisation in Britain, bar the Government,” she added.
For more information on getting extra help with bills, call British Gas Home Energy Care on 0800 072 8625.