Stacey’s letter: Responding to OFGEM’s advice on finding money for fuel bills.

Posted: February 4, 2015 by tallbloke in fuel poverty

With the news that the Big Six energy companies can afford at least a 14% cut in bills rather than the ~4% they have given us since wholesale prices tumbled last year, and the ever rising tide of #Greencrap taxes added to fuel bills to subsidise windfarmers and landowners, it’s not surprising ordinary folk on ordinary wages are feeling the pinch. Here’s an open letter to OFGEM from Stacey, a full-time local authority employee living in my local area. She wrote this after reading advice from OFGEM to economise in other areas of her life so she could keep paying for her fuel. (Families struggling to pay fuel bills were told on an Ofgem website to save money elsewhere – by making packed lunches and taking a flask of coffee to work, or scrapping gym membership and getting a cheaper phone package.)

staceyDear Sir/Madam

I’d like someone from Ofgem to come round my house in the morning when we try to avoid putting the heating on at all, and watch us scuttling around with dressing gowns over our clothes, and tell me I need to cut costs further.

Comments like this are ridiculous, disgraceful… and insulting.

I already have to say no to many of my kids’ school trips. My daughter knows that, so she doesn’t even ask me unless she really has to go.

The other day when my six-year-old son was given a free book at school he said “Mummy, that’s good, you don’t have to spend your money now”. It was heartbreaking.

And of course they get no pocket money.

We haven’t been on holiday for five years. The grandparents have to help buy shoes and coats. And as for gym membership – which Ofgem alo suggested we should cut down on – I could never afford that!

Coffee shops? Of course I never go. I’ve had to get rid of my tumble drier for goodness sake, that’s how conscious I am of cutting costs.

I barely have the heating on. And still I see no reduction in my monthly energy bills.

And yes, Ofgem, I do make a packed lunch for myself. The only reason my kids don’t have them is because I want them to have a warm school dinner.

And anyway, if they didn’t eat school dinners it would only add more to my weekly Aldi shop – which I’ve already reduced by £20.

These suggestions are laughable.

Ofgem is letting these big companies off. It’s like a race to the bottom for families like mine. We are the ones being attacked down here.

Perhaps I’d take it on the chin if I didn’t already work as many hours as I can and make every cut I possibly can.

It is patronising to suggest I wouldn’t already be doing that.

I work five days a week for the local council as an administrative assistant. I am contracted to work 37 hours, but it is often 45. I earn £17,000 a year. That is £8.80 an hour, which is above the living wage I am told. On that, I scrape by.

As a local government worker my wage has barely risen in years. It was frozen for three years until 2013, when we got a 1% rise.

This year we went on strike for a day and secured a 1.1% rise. That equates to mere pennies. I have not noticed a difference. But that day’s strike cost me £65 – almost two weeks’ worth of food shopping.

In October I split up with my long-term partner and now live in our mortgaged, three-bed home alone with the kids. But it’s not just because I am now a single mum that times are tight.

Even as a two-parent family we struggled. My partner worked as a life guard, but even then we relied on his parents to help with new clothes for the kids and DIY in the house. We always just met the bills but that was it. There was no give at all in our budget.

On my own I still manage the basics – the bills, the mortgage, the food.

But that is only because I’ve made further cuts. For any extras – by that I mean a school trip, a school uniform – I need a credit card. I am £3-4k in debt.

My gas fire is broken and I can’t replace it. So for heat I rely totally on central heating. I can’t afford to have it on the clock though. I use it as and when we have to.

We try not to in the morning. We’re rushing round, so that keeps us warm. We get dressed and then put dressing gowns over the top.

When we get home it is freezing and takes a while for the house to heat up. We maybe have it on for four hours, but I find we go to bed early to keep warm. We all wear a lot of jumpers. Of course I worry about the kids catching cold, especially as they have asthma.

My energy bills are around £100 a month with EDF, but I am dreading checking the latest meter reading. I have put it off. Despite the cuts I have made I have seen no reduction in cost.

In addition, I have reduced the food bill by £20 a week by buying only items on promotion.

I can’t plan meals in advance, I have to go with what they have. And I can’t afford the main supermarkets. I spend around £40 a week to feed us all.

If I did packed lunches for the kids that would go up. As it is, my son gets a free school meal at primary school, and my daughter’s cost £10 a week. I always have a packed lunch myself.

Ofgem is responsible for making sure the energy companies take the hit, not us.

But they are letting them off and I feel the hit every day. When I go home to my freezing house tonight and read these comments again I will feel nothing but disgust.

  1. tallbloke says:

    The telegraph has this today:

    The death rate in England and Wales is around a third higher than normal for this time of year, official figures show.
    Some 28,800 deaths were registered in the fortnight ending January 23, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
    This is 32 per cent higher than the average for that period over the previous five years (21,859).
    The ONS suggested that the flu virus and the cold snap could be to blame for the increased death rate.
    The latest analysis by Public Health England (PHE) found that deaths among people aged over 65 have been higher than expected for six weeks, even taking the time of year into account.

  2. A C Osborn says:

    Roger, they just don’t really care. They live in a completely different world to the poor and struggling.
    It smacks so much of “Let them eat cake” that it is a national disgrace.
    I do hope that the Stacey’s partner is still contributing to the upkeep of his kids as his moral responsibility.

  3. Stephen Richards says:

    It’s the same syndrome exhibited by the Public school elite that dominates British politics. They have no cognisance at all of how the plebs (their languange not mine) below them live.

    They have lived their lives from birth to politician without being touched by the unwashed poor of the land and see no reason why the poor should not be able to fund the polis rich relatives in the way they are accustomed.

    Follow the peoples army. Vote UKIP. End this stupidity before it is too late. Incidently, you probably don’t realise that it will be too late after the next GE in the UK.

    2017 is a significant date. Not because you MIGHT get a referendum but because you won’t. The SNP, Lib Dems and Labour will recind the referendum act.
    I have a suspicion also that the Lisbon treaty will come into full force by then. Leaving may not be an option ?,

  4. tallbloke says:

    Speaking of silver spoons, here’s the master of spin turbines responsible for much of this fuel poverty getting his feet back under the table:

    Former Energy Secretary Chris Huhne – who was jailed for perverting the course of justice in 2013 – has been granted a Commons pass, a Freedom of Information Act request has revealed.

    The ex-Lib Dem MP and ex-wife Vicky Pryce were both jailed after she took his speeding points in 2003.

    Some 360 former MPs were granted passes for the Parliamentary estate, according to the Press Association’s FOI request.

    Labour MP John Mann said Huhne should not have been given the pass.

    Mr Mann said: “I do not think someone who has committed a criminal offence that has meant they went to prison should get privileged access to the Houses of Parliament.

    “Let them queue with the general public if they want to get in.”

    Huhne and Pryce both served two months of an eight-month sentence.

    Huhne had quit the Cabinet and stood down as Eastleigh MP after pleading guilty.

    Speaking after his release, he said prison had been “a humbling and sobering experience”.

    Also on the passholders list was ex-Conservative minister Jonathan Aitken, who was jailed in 1999 for perjury and perverting the course of justice, and Derek Conway, who had the Conservative whip withdrawn and then stepped down as an MP after his employment of his son was heavily criticised.

  5. Bryan says:

    The ramping up of fuel prices must largely be blamed on climate fanatics like the greens.
    Energy companies experts have warned Governments for years about the consequences of green policies.

    Take a case in point.

    SSE frightened of Ed Millibands energy price ‘ freeze’ for the next three years forward fixed contracts for fuel from their suppliers at the price current before the recent fall.
    Then offered customers a fixed price deal
    Energy companies work on a 4% margin
    This means any large scale cuts could leave SSE bankrupt.

    Would that worry Ed?

  6. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on the WeatherAction News Blog and commented:
    #GreenCrap? Nah #GreenDeath visited upon the poor so the Green Champagne Socialists can buy up their beach front properties, fly to work (or if your in the London Assembly take a fossil fuelled taxi for a few yards) and make sure those they feign concern for are crushed underfoot.
    By their deeds shall they be known

  7. Joe Public says:

    From 2014:

    “Fury as bosses at power watchdog Ofgem run up a £1.2million bill on luxury rewards for staff… while consumers are still hit by sky high price hikes”

  8. doug Proctor says:

    It is outrageous that the minimum wage is not a living wage but a survival wage. In this age of enlightened sensitivity, of empathic pain for all of God’s living creatures, the struggles of the individual, real person doesn’t count.

    The old hippie show, Hair, had it right. The college-educated liberal cared only for the “milling crowd”. The eco-green is an intellectual fraud, concerned with academic principles, not with those the principles are supported to serve.

  9. A C Osborn says:

    Doug, if you think the minimum wage is not a living wage take a look at the Old Age Pension.

  10. Zeke says:

    “She wrote this after reading advice from OFGEM to economise in other areas of her life so she could keep paying for her fuel. (Families struggling to pay fuel bills were told on an Ofgem website to save money elsewhere – by making packed lunches and taking a flask of coffee to work, or scrapping gym membership and getting a cheaper phone package.)”

    This is a perfect illustration of the economic principle that if people’s money is spent on any public project, they will not have that money to spend on something for themselves. It has always been true, but it is now more visible because of the worthless wind turbines in the energy sector.

    I wish all the best. Hope things look up soon.

    ref: 100 reasons to vote UKIP

    51. Introducing a 35p income tax rate between £42,285 and £55,000 – taking many public sector workers out of higher rate of tax
    81. No new taxpayer subsidy for wind farms
    87. Scrapping the Bedroom Tax

  11. dscott says:

    Sounds to me like the Socialists and Econuts are perfectly content to lower everyone of modest means into total poverty. So I’m going to ask an impertinent question being an American: Would this family be better financially off on full government assistance instead of working her government job?

    Go Galt or Go Home!