LIBERAL Democrat Cornwall Councillors have claimed that “insane” energy bills were preventable and point to short-term thinking by Conservative Governments as the root cause.

Last Friday (August 26), Ofgem announced that energy bills will increase from 1st October by 80%, with a further 50% increase expected in January, Edwina Hannaford, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Cornwall Council said:

“We’re already facing a climate emergency, a housing emergency and a health service emergency. Now we’re facing an energy emergency. How many emergencies do we need before the Conservative Government realises that radical action is needed?”

“The Liberal Democrats were the first party to call for the price of energy to be frozen, with no further increases in October or January. This policy has since been copied by the Labour party and if the new Prime Minister has any sense they’ll put it into action on day one. It’s simply immoral for the current zombie Government to leave people on low incomes to worry about paying these impossible prices.”

Leigh Frost is the Liberal Democrat Cornwall Councillor for Bodmin St Petroc, and also runs Celtic Produce, a family-owned farm shop. He says that the price of energy is the number one topic of conversation at the checkout: “We have a very diverse range of customers, and even the richest are talking about how they’ll be affected by the latest price rises. But those on the lowest incomes are contemplating extreme measures to cut their energy use. One customer told me he is planning to put his bed into the lounge so he only has to heat one room this winter, and a local church is talking about opening a “warm bank” where residents can try to defrost themselves when they can’t afford to keep the heating on at home. It is truly shocking that we are even talking about such measures in a wealthy country in the 21st century.”

“We’re doing our best to protect our customers from price rises, but there’s only so much we can do. We’re used to spending £800 per month to run our fridges, but when our current contract ends, we’re looking at bills of over £4,000 per month. That’s the equivalent of two full-time wages! At a time when we’re trying to reduce food waste, it’s insane to be in a situation where it’s actually cheaper to turn off the fruit and veg fridges and just throw the food away when it’s not fit to sell.”

Cllr Colin Martin is the party’s spokesperson on sustainable energy. He points out that the UK is seeing much larger price rises than other countries because of a series of political decisions by the Conservative Government:

“In 2015, the Conservatives said they wanted to “cut the green crap” that the Lib Dems had forced on them during the previous five years. They scrapped energy efficiency standards which would have ensured new-build homes generated all their own energy from on-site renewables. They virtually banned onshore wind turbines, even though they are the cheapest way to generate electricity; and they cut support for solar panels, just as the industry was taking off. They have completely failed to retrofit existing homes with insulation, solar panels and low-carbon heating which would have reduced our dependence on expensive, imported fossil fuels.

The Conservatives also allowed many of the UK’s gas storage facilities to be closed down over the past few years. Germany and Italy have over ten times more storage capacity than the UK, and this is one of the main reasons that our energy prices have risen faster than anywhere else in Europe.”

Cllr Martin says that in addition to freezing the price cap, two further measures are urgently needed:

“First, the government must decouple the price of electricity from the price of gas. The cost of wind and sunshine hasn’t changed, but current Conservative Government policy means the price we pay for renewable electricity is tied to the cost of gas.”

“Secondly, the government must ensure that every home in the country gets the support it needs to install insulation, solar panels, heat pumps and batteries to break our dependence on fossil fuels and permanently reduce our energy bills.”

“We have the technology to solve all of these problems. What the Conservative Government is lacking is the will to do so.”