GOVERNMENT NEED TO PROTECT THOSE MADE VULNERABLE BY INCREASED ENERGY COSTS12th July 2011
I believe that the decision to increase household energy bills can only be described as deceitful and unfair.
These strong words come following the announcement that Bord Gais are likely to hike their prices in regards to electricity supply and gas. It is expected that Bord Gais will increase their prices for electricity by between 10% and 15% and many commentators believe that Airtricity and ESB Electric Ireland are likely to follow suit. Gas prices are also expected to rocket by up to 28%.
This is devastating news for consumers across the country. This increase could mean an extra €300 on household energy bills per annum, an increase which consumers can scant afford.
I believe that this announcement will have a disastrous effect on countless families. I frequently meet families and individuals who are struggling to keep their heads over water as it stands. The fact that energy prices had not been raised had been a huge benefit to families faced with increased taxes and levies but this is no more. Paying such high rates may drive many over the poverty line. To pay an additional €300 on top of the numerous household bills that flood in the door is simply not feasible.
This announcement is particularly frustration given the false impression that was fed to consumers over the last number of months. Consumers were encouraged to switch from ESB to Bord Gais energy for a cost effective and money saving plan. This “lower cost” message was the subject of a highly intensive media/marketing campaign.
While I understand and appreciate that energy costs globally are high, given the cost of oil, it is unacceptable to foist such a huge percentage increase on the public. In addition we need to closely monitor the treatment of these companies to those in arrears or already struggling with their bills. It is estimated that Bord Gais already has over 114,000 customers in arrears. We need a comprehensive framework to protect such vulnerable individuals and to not simply cut off their services.
I am calling on the Government therefore to protect these vulnerable people in our society. The Government additionally need to be very conscious of these increased rates in budgetary discussions. The Budget for 2012 must have regard to the increased need for support for those who simply cannot afford these bills. The household benefits package will have to be maintained and strengthened to protect such people.