Supporters of a campaign to help the elderly with their fuel bills have hit out at British Gas after its parent company announced profits of £606m following price rises.

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The importance of the EDP-backed campaign, Surviving Winter, was made abundantly clear yesterday with Centrica revealing an 11pc rise in profits, after increasing energy tariffs by 6pc at the end of last year.

The company made a profit of £50 per household prompting calls for the firm to use some of the cash to reduce energy bills for its 8.4 million customers.

Last year’s cold weather saw gas use leap 12pc and Sian Callaghan, director of regional corporate affairs for Centrica and British Gas, said the company could not promise that bills would not rise in the future.

She said: “What we have got to recognise is that the era of cheap energy is over. We are now having to import a large proportion of our gas and upgrade the National Grid in order to keep the lights on, while old coal power stations have to be switched off.

“We will try to soften the impact on customers by helping them with energy efficiency, so if prices rise, then bills do not have to because people are more energy efficient in their homes.”

Bishop of Norwich, the Right Rev Graham James, pictured, who supports Age UK’s Surviving Winter appeal, said British Gas’ profits were a “stark reminder” of the need for the campaign.

He said: “While British Gas has sought to help some people with insulation and other assistance, there remain many older people who find a choice has to be made between fuel and food.”

The Bishop thanked everyone who had donated to the Surviving Winter appeal saying the response in Norfolk had been “better than ever” this year.

Archdeacon of Norwich, the Venerable Jan McFarlane, said: “We know that British Gas will say that they need to make these kinds of profits in order to invest in sustainable energy sources for the future, but the figures seem hard to justify when prices were increased in November, just as we began a long and severe winter.

“There will be many who will have concluded they can’t afford to stay warm, and the consequences can be serious for the elderly and the infirm. That’s why the Surviving Winter Campaign is so important and why every donation counts.”

On Monday, British Gas announced it would create 1,000 extra jobs and Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said that although she understood how tough it was for consumers to pay bills, profits being used to create jobs was a positive step.

Centrica also confirmed yesterday that British Gas boss Phil Bentley would quit at the end of June –and will leave with a combined share, salary and pension package worth around £10m.

Trade union Unite said the energy regulator should be given more power to ensure utility providers “behave fairly”.

Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said: “These profits will anger a growing number of families who are struggling to pay the bills.

“The price increases in November caused hardship for customers while British Gas bosses boosted their profits and their own bonuses in the process.”

Underlying earnings at the wider Centrica group jumped 14pc to £2.7bn, but Centrica said it paid more than £1bn in tax and invested £2.7bn in 2012.

Chief executive Sam Laidlaw insisted the company needed to make a “fair and reasonable return so that we can continue to make our contribution to society and to invest”.

Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said it was time for a “complete overhaul of our energy market”.

“People will not understand why, just a few months ago, British Gas claimed they had no option but to put up their prices when now it looks like they’re making huge profits on the back of spiralling bills for hard-pressed consumers,” she said.

To apply for help from the Surviving Winter fund, call Age UK Norfolk on 01603 787111. To apply for assistance from the Warm and Well fund, call the Norfolk Community Foundation on 01603 623958.

10 comments

  • A Wash barrier and lock system, tidal power, would mean redundancy for two nuclear power stations and it could be build with a minimum of environmental impact. These gas price rises by companies run by Russia's oligarchs are squeezing us until the pips squeak, with other companies following like ducklings follow their mother.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • Switching suppliers is a very short term answer--the energy companies follow each other like sheep and you are soon back in the same boat. Maybe one way to tackle the issue would be to for the Government to look at setting up its own UK Energy Supplier.

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    Orson Carter

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • Hey BG which gas electric company do you work for? Nationalising and Regualting are two different things. The French regulate their industry and control price rises. The UK is where the rip off occurs.

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    norman hall

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • Look here, plunging masses of the poorest in society into fuel poverty is OK because the company has pledged to create 1,000 menial jobs in a few years from now. What is the problem? I know the profits may seem obscene but ultimately this is what will drive the economic recovery, so they are for the greater good. I do hope anyone who made a "windfall" when Margaret gave away the public utilities at massive under-value has invested the money wisely. In the long run it might appear that privatisation hasn't been to the public's benefit, but surely the principle of widening share ownership outweighs little things like a few poor people passing-on beacuse they can't afford to both heat and eat on their miserly state benefits. At least it means they're no longer a burden on the tax payer, which is what Margaret would have wanted. Now some people have been complaining that our current PM is dithering on the promised legislation to ensure cheap tariffs for all. Well let me assure you there is no such thing as a cheap tariff, and the talk of legislation is just another gimmick to assuage you little people when stories like this cause you to feel temporary annoyance. That's why the legislation cannot be rushed - it has to be held in reserve to be invoked whenever such a headline arises thus creating the pretence of action and leadership by the PM.

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    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • Just switch to another supplier if you are unhappy with British Gas. Simple.

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    BG

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • @ norman hall - Unlike us France they get most of their electricity from nuclear power plants. Subsidies are also paid to keep tariffs low to keep the French voter sweet. Also the French aren`t barking mad like us, paying out shed loads of money in subsidies for alleged "green energy" i.e. solar panels and wind turbines. Regulation in the EU is coming to an end and it is thought electricity prices in France will rise by 30% by 2016. Sacre bleu!

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    BG

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • When the whole of the industry was sold off to the highest bidders, it produced a cartel of companies whose sole idea was to make huge profits.In fact they must do their best for the shareholders. The myth of price competition was just that, a myth. Why compete against each other. The oil cartel had proven that competitive pricing wars were pointless and hurt profits. As for the toothless expensive quango Ofgem ,in the last week or so its CEO has been acting as head of PR for the gas and electric companies and stating that we must expect higher prices. So no help from Ofgem. As for changing companies. It is a nightmare and just like leaving one sinking life raft for another leaking life raft. Prices and tariffs are very difficult to understand , made this way by the companies themselves. Until the companies are reined in and regulated ,the soaring prices will continue as will the profit margins. Rip off UK is alive and thriving.

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    norman hall

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • Why are the big gas companies not investing in the means to hold gas than having to import from France.......they keep babbling on about investment but where is it!!!

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    beach cafe

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • How disgusting. None of the new jobs will benefit pensioners, who are bearing the brunt of this. Their incomes are not keeping pace with rampant energy price inflation, and other rising household bills like groceries. Meanwhile the corporate parasites continue to feast on a captive market. There is no price competition, in fact its little better than a cartel, as this profit announcement proves. 1,000 new jobs, piffle, what was actually announced was the sort of vague waffle that Chloe Smith specialises in herself. The 'jobs', created by a partnership between leading environment charity Global Action Plan, British Gas and Accenture, follows a recent report by the Work Foundation which found that since the start of the recession, youth unemployment in the UK has risen faster than any other G8 nation. The Transform partnership, supported by Jobcentre Plus, will give free sustainability training to 1,400 17-25 year olds not currently in education, employment or training. Every person that successfully completes the course will earn a BTEC qualification and is guaranteed an interview with British Gas, which is not the same as getting a job at the end of it. Its the sort of spin this government would be proud of. A nice announcement about creating jobs released 2 days before the obscene profits are revealed.

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    Police Commissioner ???

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • @ Orson Carter - You mean nationalise our utilities. Governments has never been good at running things and would only take any profits to pay for its own projects and as sweeteners to its core voters instead of investing for the future. The trouble is as a nation we are wasting too much energy. Gone are the days of just heating one room and a bath on a Friday. Now we want to heat the whole house and have a bath every day. Little wonder our bills are going up but for a £100 a month for all my gas and electricity I still think its fairly good.

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    BG

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

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