Bridget Phillipson: Energy rip-off

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OVER the course of the last week, we’ve seen four of the big six energy companies announce a further round of price hikes.

Energy bills have gone through the roof in the last two years. When bills rise, the energy giants tell us they us they are passing on their costs.

But when wholesale prices come down, customers notice little change. Many people don’t have access to the internet and the cheapest tariffs.

Even if you do, finding the best deal is time-consuming and at times seems impossible.

Switching is at its lowest ever level, with consumers unconvinced that they can find a better deal by shopping around.

There is a serious lack of transparency over costs and profits. The regulator Ofgem has failed to get tough with energy providers.

It is families and pensioners who have suffered. Labour is calling for a new regulator with greater powers to take on the vested interests in the energy industry and make sure that households aren’t ripped off.

IT’S not just gas and electricity bills that are placing pressure on household budgets across Wearside.

 Many families are struggling with rising food prices. I recently visited Sainsbury’s in Silksworth where staff organised a campaign with the charity Fareshare to tackle food poverty.

 Thanks to the generosity of local people, over a thousand meals were donated to those in need.

 Across the region there has been an increase in the number of food banks as people are finding it harder to put a meal on the table.

 I pay credit to the churches and community groups who are taking action, such as the Bethany Centre in Houghton where I met with volunteers.

 When faced with people struggling due to unemployment, benefits delays or a crisis, they step in to help.

 But it is deeply troubling that in 2012 we should even need food banks.

ELECTIONS will take place for the brand new post of Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) on November 15, here in Northumbria and in forces across England and Wales.

 The PCC will have the power to hire and fire the Chief Constable, hold the force to account and set policing priorities for the area.

 I served on the Bill Committee scrutinising the legislation as it made its way through Parliament.

 Like many others, I wasn’t convinced it was the right approach and I fear there will be difficulties ahead, but it became law.

 The Electoral Reform Society is predicting that turnout could be as low as 18.5 per cent.

 This would represent the lowest voter turnout in modern times.

 The Police and Crime Commissioner will have a key role in shaping policing as well as tackling crime and antisocial behaviour in our area.

 Regardless of how you vote, it’s important you have your say at the ballot box.