Gas charges “disproportionately affect” low income groups – MP

Birmingham MP launches campaign against British Gas decision to raise minimum top-ups.

The MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, Preet Kaur Gill, earlier this week launched her campaign against British Gas’ decision to increase the minimum top-up amount for customers on pay-as-you-go tariffs from £1 to £5 – a move which anti-poverty campaigners and charities say will impact parents and pensioners on low incomes who will be forced to make a choice between food and fuel.

More than 1 in 10 experience fuel poverty in Birmingham – above the national average. Nationally, 2.5 million households cannot afford to keep themselves warm without pushing themselves into poverty. Those who use top-up meters are often in debt and have insecure incomes, and rely on small top-ups to ration their heating to see themselves through to payday. Research shows that those on pre-pay meters pay hundreds of pounds more in tariffs on average than direct debit customers.

Last week, Ms Gill sent a letter to the CEO of British Gas, Sarwjit Sambhi, to urge him to take his “social responsibilities seriously and reverse the decision immediately”. Ms Gill also set up an online petition last night to put pressure on British Gas, the country’s biggest energy supplier. On the petition’s page, Ms Gill says: “This decision will disproportionately affect those who are already struggling to get by. To implement it in the middle of winter, and what is the most financially challenging time of the year for many people, is the height of social irresponsibility.

A company which last reported profits of £466 million should not be increasing the burden on its most hard-up customers. We ask that British Gas does the responsible thing and reverses this decision.”