OPINION - The Standard View: We need urgent action on energy bills, but all we hear is silence

·3-min read
 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

In times gone by, it was considered newsworthy when the average annual energy bill hit £1,000 a year. Today, Ofgem, the energy regulator, has set the new price cap for October at a staggering £3,549.

With the current level at an already historically high of £1,971, the new figure represents a rise of 80 per cent and left unchecked will immediately plunge millions of households into fuel poverty. But it is not over yet. Cornwall Insight, which correctly predicted this latest rise, projects that the cap could hit £6,600 per year in April.

The reasons for this unprecedented spike are well known by this point. The wholesale cost of gas, the single largest determinant of retail energy prices, has skyrocketed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But this has been exacerbated by choices made by various recent governments, which have cut back on funding for energy efficiency since 2012. And while renewable energy sources — now an incredible nine times cheaper than gas — have grown, with further support they could have formed an even greater part of our energy mix and in doing so saved consumers money.

What is required now is bold action from the Government. Instead, we have silence. Ministers did not even appear on the media this morning to provide any sort of reassurance to the millions of people — and many businesses — wondering how on earth they are going to get through this winter and what basic necessities they will have to cut back on in order to cope.

The cost of energy, and how we soften the blow, will be the defining issue in UK politics in the coming years. We need answers urgently.

More ‘school streets’

The introduction of “school streets” to the capital formed a significant plank of the movement to improve our city’s toxic air. The schemes — which typically prevent parents from dropping off or collecting their children by car — have spread across London in the last few years, where enforcement cameras can result in £130 fines.

But as we report today, just one in four have been rolled out in areas where there is the greatest need to tackle air pollution. Figures from Westminster University find that of the 420 schemes introduced in the last two years, only 103 were placed outside schools considered a “priority” in terms of air quality and the dominance of vehicles.

We must ensure that schools located on busy roads are included, in addition to those on more residential streets. But those situated on busy roads cannot be left behind or placed in the “too difficult” box.

Clean air is a human right, and one all our young people should expect on their way to and from school.

Carnival is electric

Europe’s biggest street party is back, as Carnival makes a welcome return to west London this weekend.

The festival brings beats, jerk chicken, and eclectic and colourful costumes, as part of a lively parade. And now it’s going green, as 2022 will see the first ever electric float.

With the last two Carnivals forced online due to Covid restrictions, there is a lot of music, dancing and revelling to make up for.