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.)
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.