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From The Socialist newspaper, 9 September 2020

Nottingham City Council: The (mis)adventures of Robin Hood Energy

Nationalise the big six energy companies!

Nationalise the big six energy companies!   (Click to enlarge)

Clare Wilkins, Nottingham Socialist Party

The 'not-for-profit' energy company set up by Nottingham's Labour council has collapsed with the loss of 250 jobs. The council, which has spent 95.6 million on Robin Hood Energy, recently wrote off a loan of 24 million that was made to try to keep it afloat. The council is expected to lose at least a further 38.1 million over the collapse.

The council originally stated that it sold the company to Centrica/British Gas. The latter has said that it has only bought the customer base of 112,000, and any monies paid to the council depend on customers transferring to it. Robin Hood Energy was the energy 'provider' for 12 other council companies and another not-for-profit company, so the impact is much wider than Nottingham.

The council recently announced up to 650 more job cuts and further cuts to services. It is in the midst of drawing up an emergency budget that threatens more cuts and has even threatened a Section 144 notice to provide minimum statutory services only.

The GMB union is arguing for better redundancy terms but is not fighting job losses. The unions should be demanding redeployment of all workers to other council jobs, no job losses in the council, no cuts to services, and reinstatement of previous cuts.

Apologising to Robin Hood Energy staff who were losing their jobs, council leader David Mellon said that resignations of councillors on its board was "not the right direction to take", because "you can't expect councillors to be experts on running a fuel business"!

This begs the question why a council carrying out cuts when it should be providing services thought that it should venture into running an energy company.

The gas supply was privatised in 1986 by the Thatcher government. Between 1990 and 1995 the National Grid, that provides all the country's electricity and the regional electricity boards was sold off.

Now, while there is still in reality one gas supply and one grid supplying electricity, 69% of gas and 70% of electricity are supplied by the 'Big Six' energy companies. A false market has been created by giving licences to small companies to 'provide' energy. There are around 60 of these, including Robin Hood Energy.

The answer to this privatisation madness is to renationalise energy production and supply under democratic worker, customer and community control.

Labour councillors should be demanding this, and not thinking they can enter this false market by setting up an energy company. They should not be running other commercial ventures in other cities and carrying out cuts to public services and jobs.

The collapse of Robin Hood Energy shows that Labour councils playing the capitalist game with council tax payers' money does not work. No-cuts budgets, demanding restoration of funding for previous cuts and the Covid crisis, and a socialist programme for energy provision and public services is the only answer.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 9 September 2020:


Coronavirus news

Fight the schools Covid crisis

Safety overridden in drive to bolster the economy

Caerphilly lockdown puts profits before safety

Under the microscope


Campaigns and party news

Jobs, training, pay, we want a future!

Dover: Solidarity with refugees - applause and cheers for socialist ideas to unite working class

BLM: Socialist alternative to racist capitalism

Big push to hit finance target


News

15% now - unions must fight for NHS pay rise

Callous Tories threaten not to uprate the minimum wage

XR blockade: Don't let the Tories criminalise protest

Grenfell fire inquiry stops victims attending

Video game developer attacks Black Lives Matter


What we think

U-turn Tories' splits are growing


Workplace news

Fight Amazon's anti-union spies

NSSN rally: Workers must not pay the price of Covid

Nottingham City Council: The (mis)adventures of Robin Hood Energy

Covid-19 pandemic increases financial pressures on Welsh local government

Ireland: Debenham's workers occupy stores

Hull: Defend Tony Smith!

Reinstate Richie Venton


Unison

A critical election for Unison general secretary


TUSC

Back at work! TUSC to stand in elections again against pro-austerity politicians


International news

Belarus: Mass opposition continues to defy repression by Lukashenko's regime

Strike wave marks new stage in revival of Iranian workers' movement


 

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