Many constituents have contacted me regarding the increasing cost of living and in particular the steep rises in energy costs that households are facing. Like you I am appalled by the impact that this is going to have on all of us, and in particular those who are already struggling with managing budgets on a day to day basis. Businesses are also going to be affected, damaging their viability and jeopardising employees jobs, and forcing those that do survive to put up prices adding a further twist of inflation for us all.
Though there are global pressures on energy supplies this situation is not one that has been inevitable. The UK Government has failed to ensure we have adequate gas storage facilities, failed to regulate our energy market properly, failed to meet Britain’s renewable potential and failed to ensure more homes are warm and well insulated. These failures are a big part of the causes of the energy crisis we all now face.
There are however things that could be done immediately to reduce the impact of energy costs. Labour in Parliament has identified fully funded measures that could reduce the expected price rise in April saving most households around £200, but targeting extra support to the squeezed middle, pensioners and lower earners, providing up to £600 off bills and preventing all of the increase in energy bills currently expected. The UK Government has so far failed to act on this matter, but I am pleased to say that the Welsh Government recently announced that the Winter Fuel Support Scheme set up to help the worst hit families to cope with rising fuel costs has been doubled to £200.
In the longer term action must be taken to ensure energy bills can be kept at a more affordable level, and Labour is committed to reducing our reliance on imported gas by accelerating home -grown renewables and new nuclear initiatives, ensuring that 19 million homes are warm and well-insulated, saving households an average of £400 per year, and regulating the energy market properly, so no firms can play fast and loose with the rules.
However, there is an urgent need to act now, and with my colleagues I will continue to demand the Government takes steps to address concerns about rising energy costs, at every possible opportunity.