Karen’s article for the Westminster Chronicle on the Cost of Living Crisis

Posted: 27/09/13

Most people are simply not feeling the economic recovery that is-finally- being talked about. Bank bonuses may be back, luxury property prices may be soaring and yacht sellers reporting good business again, but millions of working people, pensioners and those looking for work are still feeling the pinch. As wages fall behind prices month after month, this is not a recovery that is boosting living standards.. And it is gas and electricity prices that are causing more concern than almost anything- for small businesses as well as for people worried about paying their bills and heating their homes this winter.

Already, over 3600 households in North Westminster live in fuel poverty- not far off 1 in 10, With older people, families with young children and those in Westminster's huge private rented sector being most at risk. Since gas and electricity bills have gone up £300 for the average household far larger numbers face anxiety about how they are going to manage their household bills. We think it is the bills that should be frozen this winter -not your home.

This is why we have committed a Labour government to an energy price freeze until the start of 2017, to buy time to take further action to break up the big energy companies which have failed to provide a fair deal for the consumer. This will save a typical household £120 and an average business £1,800. These are proposals which have won the support of consumer representatives, like Adam Scorer, director of policy at the independent organisation Consumer Futures, who said he did not accept the threats from the big six power companies. Adam Scorer added "As a consumer representative I can only welcome initiatives for energy prices to be frozen for any period of time. This new level of debate, started at the Labour conference, has exploded a whole load of assumptions about how the market has to be."

The free market economy has delivered great prosperity to this country, and competition between businesses drives value for money and quality in the interests of consumers. However, there are times when governments must act to protect people, when the market simply does not work property. In the past, both Conservative and Labour governments have applied a one-off ‘windfall tax' on the massive profits in some private companies. Last week, we chose a different approach, designed to put the benefit directly into the pockets of customers and small businesses. You can even find out how much you would save, by checking http://labour.org.uk/energy. So help us ~freezethatbill"- and let me know what you think by writing to me at the House of Commons, London SW1A OAA or e-mailing buckk@parliament.uk .