Letters: Confusing energy bills will only make it harder for households to budget this winter

An energy bill on a phone - PA
An energy bill on a phone - PA

SIR – The Government’s assistance with the cost of energy is being handled differently by suppliers.

Some companies are refunding the monthly £66 payment direct to consumers upon receipt, while others are reducing monthly direct debits by £66. I don’t know if Ofgem has agreed to these arrangements, but I would have thought that consistency would be the best way to avoid confusion.

One of the major companies has been retaining the £66 in error, and leaving the direct debit amounts unchanged. I gather this is because of a problem with the computer system. This situation needs to be resolved urgently. Consumers have enough to worry about without inaccurate bills.

Ray Cope
Former director, Gas Consumers’ Council
Langford, Bedfordshire

SIR – Our latest energy bill has indicated a 35 per cent decrease in consumption over the past year. This was on top of the previous year’s savings.

How disappointing, then, to see that the cost has risen by £140 a month during the same period. However, as pensioners, my partner and I have received £250 each for our annual winter fuel allowance, the £400 subsidy from the Government and a £150 council tax refund. The final result: little change.

The Government’s energy policies amount to giving with one hand and taking with the other. Is anyone going to sort this out?

Paul Caruana
Truro, Cornwall

SIR – Is it really necessary for the Government to spend £25 million of taxpayers’ money on an information campaign telling us how to save energy?

Turning off radiators in empty rooms, switching off heating when going out, taking showers instead of baths – have we become such a hapless nation that we need to be asked to do these things?

Peter Rosie
Ringwood, Hampshire

SIR – I’ve made a point of being particularly naughty this year, in the hope that Father Christmas will bring me a sack full of coal.

Martin Bastone
East Grinstead, West Sussex

Seeing a GP

SIR – Dr N W Bunting (Letters, November 25) says GP practices dealt with more than 28 million appointments in September.

But how many of these were carried out by GPs, and were they face-to-face or on the telephone?

It is easy to bandy about figures, but the truth is that for many people it remains very hard to see a GP. First you have to wait on the phone forever. Then you are quizzed by a non-medical receptionist before being informed that all appointments have gone by one minute past eight in the morning.

Roland Fry
Wisbech, Cambridgeshire

SIR – “Naming and shaming” GP practices will damage patient care. “League tables” take no account of the different circumstances affecting practices and only cause mistrust and fear for patients about the care they are receiving.

Behind your headline lies the fact that GPs and their teams last month delivered a record 36.1 million consultations, almost 40 per cent of these on the day they were booked and more than 71 per cent in person, the highest proportion since before the pandemic.

This was overlooked to feed the idea that remote care is “bad” and in-person care is “good”, when we know that safe, appropriate care is being delivered remotely and many patients find it convenient.

Our figures show that four in 10 GPs are already planning to quit in the next five years due to chronic workload and workforce pressures – and unfair scrutiny will only make this worse.

The Government should focus on delivering the 6,000 more GPs promised in its manifesto, not on demonising and demoralising hardworking GPs who are keeping the NHS upright.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne
Chair, Royal College of GPs
London NW1

Houses for the young

SIR – Each time a proposal for progress is made by the Government, it is vetoed by a relatively small group of rebel MPs. This week, for example, these MPs have obstructed radical changes to planning laws.

This removes the opportunity for hundreds of thousands of young people to own their own homes, and for improved availability in the rented sector. It also goes against basic Conservative beliefs, and will not be forgotten by young voters at the next election – or indeed their parents and grandparents, who were able to achieve home ownership.

Mike Powell
Loughborough, Leicestershire

Human rights reform

SIR – It is widely believed that the problem of illegal immigration cannot be resolved while Britain remains committed to the European Convention on Human Rights – so what is the Government waiting for?

With a Home Secretary who campaigned to leave the ECHR, a Justice Secretary who is believed to be sympathetic to that course of action and a Government with a “stonking” majority, what appears to be missing is the political will to take the necessary action.

If the Government is being deterred from leaving the ECHR by fears that it will be accused of abandoning human rights, it could easily counter those spurious claims by substituting the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the ECHR’s stead.

If the crucial political will is not forthcoming, on this issue in particular, then the Government has real cause to fear the will of the people as expressed at the next general election.

Christopher Gill
Bridgnorth, Shropshire

Fruitful multiplication

SIR – In my school in Liverpool in the 1940s, the chanting of times tables (Letters, November 25) rang around the corridors shortly after register at 9 am. It was a confidence-boosting exercise, as enjoyable as it was necessary.

Alex Robb

SIR – Times tables were something “we did in our family” too (Letters, November 25), despite my sons’ primary school not teaching them in the 2000s.

I bought a pack of flashcards, and added the incentive of a penny per instant correct answer. Progress was rapid, as a full house of 110 earned what seemed a fortune to a small child.

Frances Williams
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – When I was a primary school pupil in the 1950s my times tables were drilled into me, and I am thankful for it.

However, I still remember a question in my 11-plus examination that asked: “Which number multiplied by itself makes 169?”

I was mentally working my way through the 12 times table when my class teacher whispered: “Thirteen thirteens”.

Mary Moore
Croydon, Surrey

Second homes don’t always bring discord

A GWR advertisement for Cornwall, depicting St Ives, by Brian Batsford, 1935 - Alamy
A GWR advertisement for Cornwall, depicting St Ives, by Brian Batsford, 1935 - Alamy

SIR – Chris Rodda (Letters, November 24), from Boscastle in Cornwall, berates visitors who try to ingratiate themselves with the community “on their annual visit”.

Our experience of owning a second home in south-east Cornwall has been very different. Our flat is one of 100 in the building; 20 per cent of the occupants are resident owners, and they welcome us as friends each time we visit.

Our lease prevents us from holiday letting so we visit every month, often with friends and family, bringing much-needed income for Cornwall’s tourist industry in all seasons. We frequently travel down to support village events, and in December will be back for the Mount Edgcumbe Christmas charity fair.

Tourism in Cornwall delivers nearly £2 billion a year and directly employs 53,000 people. Malcolm Bell, the retiring boss of Visit Cornwall, should have considered the facts before attacking those from “up country” (report, November 23), many of whom love Cornwall and try to put back more than they take out.

Geoff Pringle
Long Sutton, Somerset

Loving ‘Love Actually’

SIR – Tim Robey thinks Love Actually is “the embarrassing uncle of British film”.

It’s not woke enough, apparently. Or funny. Or credible. Whoever heard of an unmarried British prime minister? How about Edward Heath? Or Boris Johnson, when he came into office?

Mr Robey is wrong to think that all “major” critics loathed the film. America’s leading critics of their day – Stanley Kauffmann, Andrew Sarris and Roger Ebert – all reviewed it favourably.

Mr Robey also claims that the movie encountered unanimous hatred from Britain’s broadsheet critics. James Christopher in The Times found it “shockingly likeable, and I’ve seen and wept through it twice”.

Mr Robey mocked one sentence from my five-star review in the Daily Mail (to which I moved after being film critic for a broadsheet paper, The Sunday Telegraph), where I praised Richard Curtis’s “self-discipline”, but that was exactly the quality needed to compress so many subplots into a coherent movie.

Over-serious critics missed the point then, and they’re still missing it. Too many have poured scorn on Curtis’s films for not being didactic pieces of social realism – something they never set out to be. Love Actually should be judged according to romantic comedy criteria, and with regard to the social mores of its own day, not ours.

The box office returns around the world tell their own story: audiences loved it. If critics can’t understand why, they should be looking at themselves, not at films they choose not to understand.

Christopher Tookey
London N1

G&T time

SIR – As an affirmed G&T aficionado, and after half a lifetime in the marine industry, I must question Craig Heeley’s assertion (Letters, November 25) that it’s “G&T time at five bells of the clock”.

All mariners know that five bells is either 2.30, 6.30 or 10.30 (am or pm) – all of which, in my view, are either too late or too early for a G&T.

Graham Wistow
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

SIR – When I was a young man starting work in the City, I took a call from a client for my boss, who was not in the office. She suggested he might ring her back at “dressing time” – not a phrase in general use in the lowly streets of Tottenham back then.

Brian Howard
Enfield, Middlesex

Hockney’s Crocs

SIR – How I admire David Hockney’s yellow Crocs. What an icon – and such fun. My hero.

I wonder how long it will take for yellow Crocs to sell out. Sadly, mine are red.

Jacqueline Davies
Faversham, Kent

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