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The Socialist 22 February 2006 |
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Gas price rise the biggest in history !
BRITISH GAS is increasing prices by 22%, the second rise in six
months; most household energy bills will probably now exceed £1,000.
Newspapers call it the biggest gas price rise in British history.
We're told to exercise 'choice' by switching supplier but four other
major energy companies also increased prices! Energy isn't a 'consumer
choice' - it's an essential service without which we cannot lead our
lives. And one 'choice' we certainly don't have is to buy from a
non-profit-making nationalised company.
While British Gas shareholders last year divided the spoils of £337
million profits (up 64% on 2004), families struggled to foot gas bills
that grew 66% in two years.
The price rises' impact will be felt by 1.5 million UK families
living in 'fuel poverty' (or spending over 10% of income on energy
The number of such families had come down from a staggering four
million in 2000 but now another 250,000 families are tipped over the
edge. The social costs include increased ill-health, thousands of winter
deaths, more social exclusion and an adverse impact on children's
The 1986 flotation of British Gas was the most expensive
privatisation of a public utility. It's still costing us dear. Those
with big share portfolios grow very fat indeed, while most of us
struggle to pay hyper-inflating household bills. Very few of us will see
wage increases of comparable size.
The poll tax impoverished many families until it was defeated by a
strong working-class movement comprising public demonstrations and
'can't pay, won't pay' campaigns. Perhaps a similar fight could achieve
the renationalisation of public utilities, transport and services!