At Gateshead Council Cabinet yesterday, there was a report about energy conservation and fuel poverty. I did point out that the report made very little reference to the environmental benefits of conservation but the main point of my contribution was the issue of prepayment of energy bills. I take the view that if someone is paying in advance for their energy rather than in arrears, it should not cost more for gas and electricity. Indeed, there is a good argument for saying it should cost less. Prepayment is part of living within one's means. It is about avoiding debt. It should be a standard part of the energy system. Sadly, energy companies charge customers on prepayment more.
In the near future, Gateshead Council, thanks to early legislation introduced by the Lib Dems in the Coalition, will become an energy provider when our district heat and energy system is up and running. A power plant will provide hot water and electricity to local consumers. My hope is that this will be rolled out to the whole of the borough, not just central Gateshead. I told the Cabinet that we need to allow for prepayment and have a pricing structure that does not charge higher bills for those paying upfront for their energy. This is an ideal opportunity to help people live within their means, a principle which is close to my heart. Expect me to continue pushing this point.