Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s higher energy bills, the end of furlough and removal of the £20 top-up to Universal Credit, a triple whammy, as millions of families will struggle financially this winter having to choose between feeding themselves or keeping warm!
From 1st October over 15 million people could be waking up to a massive increase in their energy bills with the announcement that the energy cap on some deals will be increasing by £139 per year. This is happening due to a combination of factors including Brexit and a rise in wholesale gas prices by more than 50% since the beginning of the year. Cheap energy deals are disappearing and becoming a rarity in the open market putting huge financial strains on low-income families and pensioners. The good news is that we can still reduce our bills as the price cap applies to certain energy deals like standard, default and out-of-contract tariff. Basically, they all mean the same thing i.e., if you have haven’t switched your energy supplier in a while or took no action when your last fixed deal ended, then you will be one of those that will be impacted by the price rise. Global prices of fossil fuels are rising, especially gas due to Covid-19 and a longer winter last year also meant that refiling of gas stores was delayed. Since some of our electricity is generated from gas, this means electricity prices are affected too. Energy companies are not obliged to increase their prices to match the new cap but big energy firms will do so in order to keep shareholders happy.
Add the removal of the £20 per week top-up to Universal Credit and the end of furlough and we are heading into a perfect storm brought about by polices of the Westminster (Tory) government which the Scottish government (SNP & Greens) have no control over. The worst hit will be those on prepayment meters. These are like pay as you go i.e., top up as you go along and are mostly used by low-income groups. Prepayment customers are charged more for each unit of energy than people on standard credit meters. In fact, the cheapest prepaid tariffs (£1,052, according to Ofgem) was found to be over £200 more expensive than the cheapest direct debit tariff (£846) in August 2019. Prepayment meter tariffs are also covered by the price cap. These are set to rise by even more. If you’ve chosen a fixed deal (one that has a set contract length) then you won’t be affected by the price cap changes. Housing charity Shelter estimates that nearly half a million private tenants are in arrears and this figure has doubled since the pandemic. Private renters spend more of their income on housing than any other housing tenure. Social housing is scarce and not readily available to fill the gap. The outdated Local Housing Allowance Rates needs a major overhaul as is not fit for purpose e.g., Scottish Borders is allocated a maximum of £74.79 per week rent (£324.09 per month). This is fine if you live in some remote parts of the Borders and in social housing but not in Peebles or the surrounding areas including Innerleithen. A private one-bedroom flat for rent in Peebles is around £450+. Which planet do these politicians live on, definitely not the same as us mere mortals?
We are going to witness a winter of discontent across the country if the Westminster Tory government does not get its act together and remove policy’s that impact the majority of the citizens of this country. Here is hoping that the four nations can keep themselves warm and well fed this coming winter.
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 20th August 2021.
This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on global warming and the opportunity we have right here in Scotland as the host nation of the upcoming COP26 global climate event in Glasgow.
It’s been over a year now since the pandemic struck all humanity no matter where you lived in the world, rich or poor. We are now facing a double whammy from mother nature vis-à-vis Covid and climate catastrophes all across the planet. Scotland is to hold the next United Nations Climate Change Conference later this year. For nearly three decades the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits – called COPs – which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. During this time climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority. This year will be the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP26. So, what can we look forward to with COP26? Leaders of more than 190 countries will be attending the Scottish event and we are hoping that our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will seize the opportunity to highlight Scotland’s pioneering role and contribution in renewable energy across these four nations.
Before COP26, many countries from around the world were signatories to what came to be known as the Paris agreement. This was COP21 and took place in Paris in 2015. The Paris Agreement’s central aim was to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to bring forward national plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions – known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or ‘NDCs’. They agreed that every five years they would come back with an updated plan that would reflect their highest possible ambition at that time.
What have we done collectively since this historic signing of the Paris Agreement? Rich and powerful countries like the US, had left the treaty in 2020 under the Trump administration but have formally re-joined this year under current President Biden. Iran, Iraq and Libya – all among the 14-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) – as well as Yemen and Eritrea have not ratified the agreement. Some of the pros of the Paris agreement are that it has global support as 197 countries have signed the document and will have the ability to bring all parties together to address the real issue of keeping the earth’s temperature to a rise of 2 degrees Celsius maximum wile aiming for 1.5 Celsius by the end of this century. The temperature increase would decrease water supplies and crop levels. In addition, melting ice would raise sea levels, flooding coastal communities and destroying thousands, if not millions of homes. By committing to reduce greenhouse gases, the Paris agreement is aimed at preventing these ecosystem disruptions.
The cons of the Paris agreement are that its difficult to enforce on a global level and has a massive impact on energy related jobs e.g. Fossil fuels. On top of this you have complex rules that varies from country to country and actually may not go far enough to slow global warming. Thirdly the rich countries are manipulating the process and figures to protect a backlash from their own citizens.
Finally, where does that leave us as citizens of Scotland and what can we do to influence politicians of all ideologies and the big corporations that are driving this profit-making madness to human extinction? Please check out my next column in September for the real reasons behind the apathy from pursuing urgent policies both locally and nationally, the current status-quo’s main benefactors along with possible ideas and solutions to empower citizens of the world to help save our only home!
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 6th August 2021.