Cost of living crisis: Rishi Sunak has shown he doesn't really care – Susan Dalgety

Thursday, 31 March is Meter Reading Day! Just when you thought there couldn’t be another ‘day’ to celebrate, the cost-of-living crisis has generated the day to end all days.

Monday, 28th March 2022, 4:55 am
Chancellor Rishi Sunak with Boris Johnson (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak with Boris Johnson (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Energy prices are due to rocket from April 1 and again from October 1, and experts are warning that we should all submit an up-to-date meter reading, on or just before Thursday.

Why? To stop greedy energy providers ‘estimating’ that you used more of your gas or electricity in April after prices have soared.

Consumer champion, Martin Lewis of Money Saving, is evangelical about Meter Reading Day. He said: “If you pay by monthly direct debit, I’d urge you to do a meter reading on March 31, the day before the 54 per cent rise in the April price cap.

“You need to draw a line in the sand with your energy provider, so that you’re saying ‘everything I’ve used up to this point should be charged the cheap rate’, rather than just letting it estimate what you’ve used in March and what you’ve used at the higher rate.”

And he has recorded advice for those people who have been told that their bills are going to rise more than 54 per cent. It seems that some suppliers are taking advantage of the price cap rise and increasing their estimate of customers’ usage.

So, if you’re currently in credit with your company, and your direct debit is due to rise by considerably more than 50 per cent, complain! But don’t forget to take a meter reading first.

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I have given up worrying about how I am going to pay my energy bills over the coming year. There is an inevitability about the crisis that is about to engulf us, and no-one, least of all the Chancellor, seems prepared to take drastic measures to help.

Rishi Sunak’s spring statement last week was nothing more than spin. Removing VAT on solar panels and heat pumps may help a few fortunate people who own the right type of property and have a spare few thousand pounds to invest in such equipment.

But with a typical air-source heat pump costing around £6-8,000, I doubt there will be much of a rush to fit them. And they are no use at all in a typical tenement, where so many of us live.

Sunak has increased the Household Support Fund by £500 million, which will see the Scottish Government getting an extra £41 million to help those most in need. I hope Kate Forbes, the Finance Secretary, puts that money to good use.

But he needed to bring the same urgency to tackling the increase in energy prices as he did to the pandemic. The £350 boost he announced recently is simply not enough, particularly as it includes a £200 loan to be repaid through future energy bills.

If the Chancellor was serious about helping us, he would subsidise energy bills by at least £500 this year. A grant, not a loan. He could claw the money back from well-off people though their personal income tax, or a windfall tax on energy companies. But he clearly does not care enough to make the effort.

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