We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info
As many households struggle with soaring power bills Centrica’s massive windfall has provoked accusations of profiteering. It comes after a row over debt collectors breaking into the homes of hard-up British Gas customers to forcibly install pre-payment meters.
Record operating profits of £3.3billion were recorded at the company, up from £948million in 2021 and surpassing the firm’s previous highest of £2.7billion, posted in 2012.
The general secretary of the Unite union, Sharon Graham, said the figures were “obscene”.
She said: “Energy companies are showing us everything that is wrong with the UK’s broken economy.”
Trades Union Congress general secretary, Paul Nowak, called for public ownership of energy companies and said: “While millions of families struggle to heat their homes, firms like Centrica are raking in monster profits.”
Millions of British Gas customers, along with those of other providers, have been struggling to pay energy bills as prices have soared due to the war in Ukraine.
Centrica chief executive Chris O’Shea is now under pressure to scale back a potential multi-million-pound pay and incentive package.
He is in line for a salary and bonus bonanza of up to £4.2million linked to Centrica’s performance.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called the huge profits a betrayal for British Gas customers who are “struggling to keep their heating on”.
He said: “Once again the Government’s failure to implement a proper windfall tax is allowing oil and gas businesses to make billions off the back of hardworking families.”
But the financial performance at British Gas itself was not as strong as its parent company. Adjusted operating profit decreased to £72million in 2022 from £118million in 2021 – a 39 per cent decline.
Centrica’s annual report said protecting vulnerable customers is a priority. The firm has committed to donating 10 per cent of both British Gas Energy’s and Irish operator Bord Gais’s adjusted operating profits “to help until the current crisis is over”.
Tom Mars-land, of Disability equality charity Scope, said: “It’s obscene that energy companies continue to make massive profits as disabled people face devastating situations because they can’t afford enough energy.
“We’re being inundated with heartbreaking calls from disabled people who haven’t eaten for days, who can’t afford energy to charge wheelchairs and stairlifts but are racking up huge energy debts.”
Centrica’s North Sea profits are subject to a windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas operators. However, there have been calls for the oil and gas windfall tax to capture a greater proportion of profits, especially considering Shell and BP also reported record profits this year.
Labour wants the scrapping of an investment allowance which cuts tax for oil and gas operators that invest on increasing production.
Sana Yusuf, of Friends of the Earth, said the Government “needs to back a tougher windfall tax on excessive profits of fossil fuel companies like Centrica to help fund insulation and homegrown renewables needed to bring down bills”.
‘I can’t use a hot water bottle as I can’t afford the energy’
Disabled Michelle Dearden has had to use food banks and is struggling to keep her heating on because of soaring prices.
The mother of five often goes to bed with the heating off and under numerous duvets to keep warm, on an empty stomach.
She is neurodivergent – the term describes people whose differences such as autism or other learning disabilities affect how their brain works.
Michelle, 52, from Lampeter, Ceredigion, does not have anything else to cut back on.
She told the Daily Express: “It’s like all my rights have been stolen. I’ve done all I can.
“I can’t even use hot water bottles because it takes up too much energy to boil the kettle.”
The cost-of-living crisis has left her isolated just when she needs her family the most.
Michelle added: “I haven’t seen my daughter for three years now. She lives in Dover. I just don’t have the spare cash to travel there from Wales.”
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has been urged to introduce a lower, social energy tariff for people like Michelle.
The charity Age UK says that the measure could benefit up to 10 million vulnerable households – funded by taxation or by spreading the cost across better-off consumers.
Louise Rubin, of disability equality charity Scope, told MPs recently: “So many are fighting to keep vital medical equipment on, which drains electricity, and they are missing medical appointments because of the cost of getting there.”
Michelle said that such a tactic would be “a fair way of helping people and it would help me get a bit of dignity back”.
Social tariffs are found in the telecoms industry, and some energy firms did offer them before the introduction in 2019 of Ofgem’s price cap.
The Daily Express’s crusade to End the Disability Bills Crisis fights for more financial support for the hardest-hit families.
Source: Read Full Article