Support energy for life pledge, says MP

An East Anglian MP is calling on electricity companies not to let down pensioners who were promised cheap energy for life.

An East Anglian MP is calling on electricity companies not to let down pensioners who were promised cheap energy for life.

About 100 people, mostly in this region, are facing massively increased energy bills because Powergen has decided not to honour a promise made by its predecessor. People who worked in the electricity sector in the east of England prior to nationalisation in 1948 were promised huge discounts on their bills for the rest of their lives as part of their contracts. Those remaining are almost all in their 80s or 90s, or their widows. Their bills are at a fixed rate and in some cases amount to just a few pounds a year.

The price promise was taken on by the Eastern Electricity Board until privatisation in 1990, and the supply is now with Powergen and EDF Energy. Until now former staff have continued to enjoy cheap energy - but Powergen has decided to end the deal. The power company says it will refund the difference between what they have been paying and a standard tariff for this year only, to give them time to adjust for the change. But from next year they will have to pay the full amount.

Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer believes that Powergen should think again. He said: “The people affected are the most elderly and vulnerable. That was the basis on which they were originally employed. They were not well paid and it was seen as part of their wages and their retirement benefits.

“I know there is no legal responsibility but there is a very strong moral responsibility. The companies have inherited the benefits of the work that these people did. They should carry it on. In the light of the size of the companies and the numbers of people involved, it would not be difficult for them. The numbers will get smaller as time goes on.”

Powergen spokesman Nick Sandham said: “Because of the impact of increasing prices of fuel we felt it wasn't really fair that most of our customers were having to bear the cost of these increases while others weren't. Also a tariff that doesn't reflect the level electricity consumption, which this didn't, didn't seem right.

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“We realise the implications in terms of the fact that families have been paying this rate for quite some time. We have said that we will fund the difference for a year, and then we will work with them to find the best product that meets their needs, and in the mean time we will give them energy efficiency advice.”

EDF Energy said they had around 50 customers in the East of England on the special tariff but could not say whether it had any plans to end it.

t Have you been affected by this issue? Call Sarah Brealey on 01502 712060.