Council set to become first to debate pre-payment meters scandal

Aerial view of Norwich, including the cathedral

Norwich City Council will become  the first local authority to formally debate the pre-payment meters scandal.

Papers for the Council meeting on 31 January include a motion lodged by councillor Lucy Galvin.

The motion calls for the Council to continue its work to support vulnerable households on pre-payment meters and to urge the central government to do more to help.

Energy Secretary Grant Shapps has recently announced that the Government will ask energy firms to abandon the forced transfer of homes onto pre-payment meters.

However, Norwich political leaders will be asked to write to the minister to express their continuing concerns about recent investigations by the media which revealed energy firms have secured almost 500,000 court warrants to install traditional pre-payment meters.

With reports suggesting that many of these court applications are approved in bulk, the Council leaders will also be asked to write to Norwich Magistrates Court to ask what processes magistrates followed prior to granting energy firms warrants of entry. 

The motion goes on to call for more information about how magistrates could be sure these households were not classed as vulnerable and what sanctions magistrates can take if it is found that energy firms did not complete vulnerability assessments on customers before applying for a warrant. 

Cllr Lucy Galvin (Nelson ward, Green Party), commented:

Pre-payment meters could cost customers in excess of £200 more for their energy this winter and so the Council must use all communications methods at its disposal to explain, inform and continue to underline to residents that they do not have to accept a prepayment meter.

Council resources are stretched, but we also need to make extra attempts to ascertain which city council tenants have prepayment meters, especially those who might be at extra risk of being cut off, and monitor them to offer assistance, for example through housing officer and other support.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented:

3.2m pre-payment customers have been cut off from keeping themselves warm and sadly it is falling to councils to pick up the pieces caused by the delays in central Government action on this issue and the inadequate nature of support for vulnerable people.

Figures for the Warm this Winter campaign found that 64% of pre-payment meter customers are vulnerable, with 51% having health conditions or disabilities.

A third are now living in cold, damp homes posing a health risk to themselves and their families.

The fact is that none of these vulnerable customers should be on pre-payment meters in the first place.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition continues to call for a full ban on the forced transfer of customers to all kinds of pre-payment meters and a Government inquiry into energy firms practices around pre-payment meters. 

Other councillors wanting to use a copy of the motion to tailor to their own council area can find this online.