Everyone Louise speaks to in Stockton South, irrespective of their background and income, agrees that energy bills are too high – and rising – taking a big proportion of monthly outgoings. Labour have firm plans to deal with this. The energy market just isn't working for families and businesses in Britain.
One of the reasons for this is that the Big Six energy firms are operating in a broken market. They generate the electricity, they sell it to themselves and then they sell it to consumers. Meanwhile, Ofgem, the regulator that's supposed to be responsible for putting things right has failed to stand up for consumers.
Labour will end rip-off prices for utilities
- We will freeze energy bills until 2017, ensuring that bills can fall but not rise, and we will give the regulator the power to cut bills this winter.
- We will create a tough new energy watchdog to enforce our reforms. It will have the power to strip energy companies of their licences if they repeatedly harm the interests of consumers, and will also be responsible for protecting off-grid households.
- We will make homes more energy efficient to bring down energy bills. We will do this by delivering a million interest-free loans for energy home improvements in the next Parliament.
- We will make 200,000 homes warm every year for those on low incomes, delivered street-by-street by local authorities and community organisations.
- We will require water companies to sign up to a new national affordability scheme, helping those who cannot afford to pay their water bills.
- We will strengthen the powers of Ofwat — the regulator of the water sector — to change licenses, limit price rises and enforce industry standards.
- We will simplify energy tariffs and make it easier for people to compare prices and get the best deal.
Louise was delighted to welcome Ed Miliband to Stockton to meet local businesses and managers to talk about rising energy costs and Labour's plan to tackle it.
Local Stockton pensioners Mary and Joe told Louise how an energy bill freeze would help them:
“Gas bills seem to get bigger every year. Labour’s freeze on bills is a good idea. It would stop us having to worry whether we can afford to turn the heating on and it will help our families too.”
Louise is also a keen supporter of co-operative energy suppliers and has recently switched to one. The presence of more, smaller in the energy market will challenge the dominance of the 'Big Six', helping to provide a fairer deal for consumers and reducing our carbon footprint. She has written about proposals to encourage communities to develop schemes to generate their own electricity here.