Scottish consumers to pay more for gas than rest of UK

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  By Angela Haggerty

Scottish Gas customers are set to be hit hardest by the UK’s latest energy price rise, it has emerged.  The news followed an announcement by British Gas of a price hike.

Owners Centrica announced the price increase on Thursday and while the average UK dual bill for electricity and gas will rise a substantial 9.2 per cent, customers in the north of Scotland are facing a hike of 11.2 per cent.

Customers in the south-west of England will see the smallest price rise at 6.8 per cent.

The rise will affect nearly eight million people in the UK and the average bill will increase by £123 to £1,444. The changes come into effect on 23 November.  Scottish consumers face paying more despite Scotland producing more gas than the country needs.

The news follows a similar rise announced by SSE earlier this month of an average 8.2 per cent, an estimated rise for most of about £106 to £1,380.  Other big energy firms are expected to follow suit with news of price hikes after only a year since the last round of heavy increases when bills rose across the board between six per cent and 10.8 per cent.

A spokeswoman for energy regulator Ofgem said prices were controlled by the privately-owned companies and urged them to put practices in place to help struggling customers.

“Energy supplier should be doing all they can to minimise the impact of these rising costs on energy bills by ensuring they are managing their costs as efficiently as possible,” she said.  “Suppliers must also ensure that they are giving customers all the advice and help they need to save money on their energy bills, for example through energy efficiency.”

British Gas blamed rising global energy prices and costs associated with the operation of the national grid and the government’s social and environmental programme, but the news comes just months after the company pledged to use profits to keep price increases low.

Freezing weather in the first four months of this year saw gas consumption shoot up by 18 per cent, giving the company’s residential earnings a boost of 3.2 per cent to £356m for the first half of the year.  Centrica reported £1.58bn operating profits overall for the same period.

Concerns have been raised by consumer groups and help organisations that the increases will leave the poorest customers with having to make a choice between heating or eating.  In February this year, protesters from Fuel Poverty Action, campaigned outside of the Scottish Gas headquarters in Edinburgh and said energy companies were “raking in profits” while one in four lived in fuel poverty.

Meanwhile, recently-released figures showed the extent to which Scots are already struggling as a result of austerity cuts and the introduction of policies such as the bedroom tax.  According to the Trussell Trust, which runs 25 food banks, more than 23,000 people in Scotland – including 6,608 children – received food parcels between April and September this year, a massive rise compared to the same period in 2012 when there were 4,021 pleas for help.

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