Friday, May 30, 2008

Social Tariff’s, the latest stupidity

The beeb's business and news programmes were beside themselves with righteous indignation over the cost of energy this morning and demanding putting more people on Social Tariffs to alleviate "fuel poverty"

Regulator Ofgem hopes the measures will help alleviate the "fuel poverty" suffered by people on low incomes. But campaigners say the plans do not go far enough, and that poorer families will continue to face a fuel crisis.

I'm sure that times are very hard for the poor given the way prices are escalating, shit even I'm feeling it and I have a reasonable disposable income, but I really don't think that it should be up to the energy suppliers to sort social problems. That's what we have a Department for Work and Pensions for (formerly DSS), complete with Secretary of State, assortment of Minister and Lord knows how many civil servants complete with gold plated pensions to figure these things out with the treasury.

We are of course back to our old problem of the complicated benefits system which doesn't deliver anything like the social security that is promised by the welfare state, despite consuming nearly half of GDP. In truth though the reason that they want the energy companies, i.e. their shareholders and other customers, to bear that problem. Is that there is no more money in the coffers and we are being bled dry by high taxes. Far easier to spread this round as another hidden tax which doesn't appear in the headline figures.

Anyway, who decided that there is such a thing as fuel poverty and set the threshold?

The government estimates 2.5 million households are in fuel poverty - defined as when more than 10% of household income is spent on fuel bills - but watchdog Energywatch says the figure is more than four million.

Only 10% of household income for fuel to be defined as being poor and needing state help? That doesn't seem very high to me and also doesn't take in to account absolute values i.e. someone being wasteful by leaving lights and other appliances running for 24 hours a day – why should I pay for those too lazy to turn them off?

Furthermore, considering Maslow's hierarchy of needs this is a Physiological need and at the very bottom of the pyramid so it isn't unreasonable for it to consume a large part of income, along with food. I don't know what a suitable figure should be, say food and heating 70% of income, but I don't see why I should be subsidising people so they can afford to smoke, drink, take expensive holidays and buy the latest HD TV's.

I also see another perverse and dangerous incentive here. Those living next to someone on a "social tariff" have been known in the past to run an extension lead next door to get cheap/free electricity. Will I then be expected to re-house both families and, given they are likely to be uninsured (which wouldn't pay out even if they were) pay to replace all their goods and chattels, when their houses burn down in the inevitable fire? I suppose we'll also be expected to cough up compensation if anyone is electrocuted.

So, all things considered this is the worst way to cure a problem brought on by the stupidity and incompetence of those who profess to be competent and capable of leading us through this mess. Bastards. Incompetent bastards at that.

And while I'm on the subject this lunacy is being proposed:

Most of the energy companies have so-called "social tariffs", and ministers are proposing that data identifying poorer families could be shared with the companies to ensure they pay the cheaper rates. This could see information about who is on certain benefits shared with the suppliers, although new legislation would be needed to do this.

Given the Government's track record of IT projects this really isn't the way to sort it out. We can also look forward to paying compensation because people's personal information is found in a skip or the internet as well.

Given these problems you would think that those claiming to be working in the best interests of those who are suffering would be outraged at this suggestion, but oh no:

Age Concern director general Gordon Lishman said that the sharing of data was "controversial, but justified".

He added: "We feel strongly that the severe pressure of rapidly rising energy prices justifies this kind of action, providing the data is handled by a trusted third party and people are fully informed about the scheme and given the option to opt out."

FFS they should be protecting us from the encroachment of the state not encouraging it! Next they'll be saying ID cards are the solution.

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