Fuel poverty in Kingston is being tackled by offering a voucher scheme to people who can’t pay their bills, but the proposal has ignited fresh debate over energy firm profits.
Food bank charity The Trussel Trust is working with Npower to pilot the scheme, which is also being rolled out in Durham and Gloucester.
Laurel Fogarty, the Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate for Kingston & Surbiton, welcomed the proposals but claimed they revealed wider problems that demanded a nationalisation of the industry.
She said: “When people are forced into a choice between heating their homes or feeding their children it’s time to change how we do things.”
Ms Fogarty, 29, argued that a government takeover was the only way to put people’s energy needs before the profits of big business.
“Under democratic control we can plan and invest in green sustainable energy provided to us at an affordable price.”
Climate Change & Energy Secretary Ed Davey is also contesting the Kingston seat on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.
He said that thanks to his party, the big six energy companies were facing record competition from 21 independent suppliers – treble the number in 2010.
“In government we’ve halved switching times, and led the way on collective switching allowing communities to club together and increase their bargaining power.”
He added there was more to be done, proposing a raft of measures including boosting smaller suppliers’ market share from 10% to 30%, 24-hour switching for consumers and a nationwide insulation programme.
Kingston Greens candidate Clare Keogh said her party also favoured a national insulation project, which would help tackle climate change.
She said: “We want to localise our energy production empowering local people to generate their own energy through community projects or even in their own homes.
“Not only will this measure break the big six’s grip on the market but give people real power over their energy.”
Representatives of the Conservatives and UKIP were approached for comment.
Picture courtesy of Juan Antonio F. Segal, with thanks