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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 February 2010

Fast news

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."

Bankruptcy high

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.

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In The Socialist 10 February 2010:

Fight university cuts

Unison general secretary election

Fighting leadership needed in Unison - Nominate Roger Bannister for general secretary

Greenwich Unison backs victimised branch secretary

Socialist Party news and analysis

Preying on the living and dead

Waltham Forest: Campaigners score a victory

Fiddling MPs: Jail the whole lot of them!

Vulnerable lose out on benefits

Socialist Women: Fighting for equality through socialism

Fast news

Socialist Party workplace news

Civil service strike ballot: Vote 'yes' for action

Boycotting the 2010 SATS in schools

Coventry youth workers' strike

Metaldyne workers strike

Stoke: Axiom workers in overtime ban

Saving jobs and services in Worcestershire

Workplace news in brief

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Hazel Blears must go

TUSC: Wellingborough socialists make a stand

PCS young members

PCS young members network conference

Bristol job centre workers fight transfer

Socialist Party feature

Trade unions in Britain - are they ready for the coming battles?

International socialist news and analysis

Northern Ireland: An agreement to cement division

Sri Lanka President Rajapakse removes his rival, Fonseka

Tamil Solidarity -: Successful northern conference

Unison witchhunt

Trotskyism on trial

War and occupation

Armed forces: Release Lance-Corporal Joe Glenton

Trade union rights for service personnel


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