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From The Socialist newspaper, 14 May 2008

Price rises hit workers

MORE BAD news ahead for the Brown government - and for workers. While Brown keeps on pushing the need for a 2% pay deal for public-sector workers, prices in the real world keep spiralling up.

Fuel bosses say their profit margins have been squeezed by high wholesale prices for gas and electricity. Centrica, the firm that owns British Gas said it would "take the necessary action to deliver reasonable margins [profits - eds] in the retail business." Its shares went up on that announcement but there's no such good news for customers.

Analysts predict that gas and electricity prices could zoom up by up to 18% in the next few weeks - Centrica already raised prices by 15% earlier this year. USwitch reckon that fuel costs will have doubled since the start of 2005.

It will be ordinary working-class people who lose out most from these fuel price hikes. A Centrica rise would lead quickly to other firms putting up their prices.

Affordable fuel could only be provided if the energy giants are taken back into the public sector and run by and for workers and other users of energy.

Crunch

THE CREDIT crunch is still having a big impact. The IMF has warned that potential losses from the crunch will reach 472 billion and could get even higher. Europe's biggest bank HSBC, for example, had to write off 1.6 billion more debt in the first three months of this year after exposure to the American sub-prime market. HSBC's losses so far have reached nearly 8 billion.

But home owners and home seekers are suffering more than bank shareholders and executives. The number of houses being repossessed rose by 17% in the first quarter of 2008. The number of mortgage repossession claims (usually the first stage of house repossession) also rose. Meanwhile the number of mortgage deals available has gone down and got more expensive.

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In The Socialist 14 May 2008:

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