Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/611/8835
Energy price shock
AHEAD OF its expected announcement of an "embarrassingly high" record £540 million profit for 2009, British Gas has announced a small cut in consumer prices of 7%.
The company is estimated to have made £1.5 million in extra profits each day during the recent cold snap in the weather.
British Gas, as one of the big six energy companies in the UK, has benefited from a sharp drop in wholesale energy prices this year. This has enabled the supplier to reduce its average dual fuel bill to customers from £1,310 in January 2009 to £1,123 now. However, that is still higher than its average bill in January 2008 of £1,005. In July 2008 it increased gas bills by a staggering 35%.
John Hall, an independent energy analyst, reckons: "They could have cut prices by 20% a year ago but they chose not to." And John McShane of Saturn Energy said: "The big six energy suppliers had been playing poker with people's bills, refusing to pass on cuts despite falling wholesale prices."
A record 134,142 people were declared bankrupt in England and Wales during 2009. Last year's figure put into the shade the previous high of 107,288 personal insolvencies set in 2006.
The final quarter of 2009 saw 35,574 people declared bankrupt - the highest level since records began in 1960.
These people are mainly casualties of the ongoing recession reflecting the impact of high unemployment, short-time working and pay cuts on living standards.
Greek cuts fight
Savage cuts in living standards demanded by the Greek Pasok government provoked two days of strike action by public sector workers last week.
In addition, a 24-hour strike has been announced by civil servants for 10 February with a general strike called by the Greek General Confederation of Workers (GSEE), the country's largest trade union federation on 24 February.
Prime Minister George Papandreou's austerity measures include a public sector salary freeze, an increase in petrol taxes and a hike in the retirement age, supplementing a crisis plan unveiled last month to deal with the country's recession-hit and debt-ridden economy.
Greece's debt stands at more than 294 billion euros (255 billion dollars), its 12.7% deficit is well beyond EU limits of 3% of output for eurozone members and it suffered a triple downgrade of its sovereign debt in December.
Workers are further enraged that the cuts in their living standards being demanded by the EU and Greek bosses are being carried out by social democratic Pasok elected only last October to replace the previous anti-working class conservative New Democracy government.
See www.socialistworld.net for background information
In The Socialist 10 February 2010:
Unison general secretary election
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
PCS young members
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
War and occupation