Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Action needed to help less well-off families with soaring energy bills

Call to tackle unfairness and help protect the Post Office network

Giles McNeill, Nettleham Parish Councillor gave his strong support today to new proposals to help less well-off families with their energy bills. Conservatives have pledged to reform Post Office Card Accounts so that families without bank accounts can benefit from the lower energy and water tariffs offered to customers paying by direct debit.

This could cut the energy bills of up to 4 million Post Office Card Account (POCA) holders by up to £100 a year. There are 8 million people in the UK who do not have a bank account or are effectively without a bank. Many of them use Card Accounts instead. But because they cannot pay their bills by direct debit, they face higher prices for gas, electricity and water.

• A Conservative Government will reform Card Accounts so that they can be used for the first time to pay utility bills by direct debit. This proposal, which is supported by leading utility companies, will bring significant savings to energy companies through lower collection costs, which can be passed onto consumers in the form of lower bills.

• In addition, because state benefits are automatically paid into Card Accounts each week, customers will benefit from a more convenient way of managing their finances and paying their bills.

• This policy could also generate up to £20 million a year in additional revenue for Post Offices, which could help keep Post Offices from going to the wall as a result of Labour cuts. By contrast, the Labour Party is planning to take the Card Account away from Post Offices, which will lead to more Post Office closures.

Giles McNeill explained:
“It is totally unfair that many of the poorest households across West Lindsey end up paying more for their energy and water bills because they do not have bank accounts and cannot pay by direct debit. Under Labour, it is the poor who suffer most.

“These new Conservative proposals will help people struggling with rising household bills by letting them use their Post Office Card Account to pay their utility bills. Energy and gas bills of up to four million people could be cut by £100, helping many families at a time when the cost of living is rising fast.

“These plans will also bring in additional revenue for Post Offices, helping maintain our important network and stave off more Labour cuts.”