Each week another member of the ‘Big Six’ club of power companies announces rises of between 8% and 10%. Anyone saying that these drip-drip-drip announcements are a coincidence needs a reality check. Do they draw lots to see who gets to go first? The first always cop for the most flak whereas those ‘going’ 5th or sixth are met with resigned shrugs.
The Tories can huff and puff all they like but the responsibility for this fiasco lies completely within their bailiwick. A country’s power network is a vital element in its infrastructure. It has a strategic significance. Without power, or the capacity to create power, a country is much more vulnerable to economic and political enemies.
Driven by the scent of greed and a dash for cash, Thatcher’s Tories embarked upon a massive privatisation plan. Even their own supporters accused them of ‘selling off the family silver.’ Well they were right and we are reaping the rewards. One of the ‘big 6’ makes great claim on its website that it has a main aim - to increase the amount of dividend it pays to its shareholders year on year. As the profit it made last year was in excess of £1billion this is not inconsiderable. Forget quality of service, reliability, planning ahead, helping the needy and customer service – think about the money. Add in the massive exec salaries and bonuses and community good is trampled into the mud by corporate greed.
50 years ago the nation had a nationalised electricity network. It was run by experienced engineers who had a strong tradition of service. Above all these engineers strived to ‘keep the lights on.’ They improved the national grid, developed nuclear power stations and made the UK self-sufficient in energy. No £2million bonuses for these men - and they were mainly men.
Of the Big Six, two are owned by massive German companies (NPower and E.On), one is owned by a Spanish company (Scottish Power) and another by a French state-owned company (EDF) who run the nuclear stations. Hinckley Point Nuclear station is to be built by a consortium comprising a Chinese state owned company and EDF. Quite staggering that the Tories deride Ed Miliband as ‘Red Ed’ yet it is the Tories who are pushing billions of public cash into one state and one communist company.
Red Ed is far too timid. His call for a price-freeze is unrealistic and quite puny. He should set out his stall to re-nationalise the power industry. We are in a crisis which demands strong measures.
It would also be worthwhile to turn loose independent auditors on these greedy power bastards and trawl through their books looking for evidence of cartels and price-fixing.