We mustn’t force the poorest to pay for repairs to our crumbling infrastructure
I wrote a report in the Independent yesterday about MPs warning that future infrastructure costs of around £250bm will be added to consumers’ bills.
The Public Accounts Committee warned that the most vulnerable people would be hit hardest by the extra charges.
Committee chair Margaret Hodge is concerned that making consumers pay for such essential improvements as updating ageing pipework and reservoirs through their bills will leave struggling people unable to afford to pay for their energy or water.
She has demanded that the Treasury produce and publish an assessment of the long-term affordability of bills across the sectors. “They need to assess the combined impact of increased bills on different household types, including those households most vulnerable to price rises,” she said.
This is an important issue. Not only must we ensure that vulnerable people aren’t penalised by being forced to pay for improvements to assets owned by private companies, we also need to ensure that any cash spent will actually benefit consumers, not just the companies that deliver – and charge us a packet – for our energy and water.
Now others have weighed into the debate.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said: “Questions need to be asked about the fairness of paying for infrastructure through bills. Less well-off consumers spend more of their income on gas, electric and water bills than others, which in turn means costs for infrastructure makes up a larger share of their spending than other consumers.”
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd said: “It’s vital that the Government and regulators get a tighter grip on the massive costs that are being passed on to household bills. We need to see rigorous, independent scrutiny to ensure that these costs are affordable and provide value for money for consumers.”
Even the energy giants themselves support an enquiry. Paul Massara, RWE npower chief said: “There can be no doubt that a full, public and regular review of how much Government policy is costing customers is the right thing to do.”
Over to you, Treasury….Tagged in: Energy, infrastructure, Margaret Hodge, MPs, Public Accounts Committee, vulnerable, water
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