If you’re a councillor, please bring a motion similar to that below to your next Council meeting. Let us know how you get on by emailing email@example.com and we will publicise the motion being debated online and via Twitter and LinkedIn. As an alternative councillors could look at the more general fuel poverty motion for local authorities.
Local authorities can also become members of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition to keep up to date on the issues and contribute to the sharing of best practice. Councillors can also ask local MPs to sign the Warm This Winter pledge.
We thank councillors in Norwich for their work in developing this motion.
NOTICE OF MOTION: END THE PREPAYMENT METERS SCANDAL
Due to rising energy prices, many households are struggling to pay their bills.
Homes with prepayment gas or electric meters, which require people to pay for energy before they use it, are in an increasingly difficult position. In contrast to billed customers, who are given warnings before being cut off, they lose their energy supply when their money runs out (after a small emergency credit), yet standing charges carry on racking up, from 5p-80p a day, meaning customers can build up debts even when not getting any energy. Households with prepayment meters cannot have more than £10 of debt and if they are unable to pay in advance they are essentially disconnected, leaving them without power in their homes.
The Council has supported some residents on prepayment meters through [insert information relevant to local authority]. However, those residents on prepayment meters remain at risk.
Rules state that suppliers cannot force-fit a prepayment meter under warrant for people in very vulnerable situations if they don’t want one, charge them for warrant costs on debts, or use warrants on people who would find the experience very traumatic. However, nearly half a million warrants allowing energy firms to forcibly install prepayment meters in people’s homes have been approved by courts since July 2021 (these are often approved in batches at courts far away from the customer’s home).
Citizens Advice said it was continuing to advise “high numbers” of people each month who were having prepayment meters forcibly installed. About 65% of the people being moved on to one for debt reasons are disabled or have a long-term health condition, and 40% are single people with children.
Cutting off people’s water supply is banned; energy is likewise essential and fair access to it must be protected.
Council resolves to:
1. Ask group leaders to jointly write on behalf of the council to The Energy Secretary to express its profound and urgent concern that warrants have been issued without the appropriate checks being undertaken to make sure that the rules are being followed, and to underline that nobody should be left without energy as a result of them not being able to afford bills; and call for the Government to immediately implement a legal ban on prepayment meters being forcibly installed (or smart meters being turned onto pre-payment mode) without the explicit, informed consent of households.
2. 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; and offer assistance to those who wish to move to other forms of payment if appropriate.
3. Continue to provide where possible discretionary help to residents with prepayment meters.
4. 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.
5. Write to [Nearest] Magistrates Court to ask what processes magistrates followed prior to granting energy firms warrants of entry, 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.
6. Ask group leaders to write to Ofgem setting out the concerns of the Council and for these to be taken into account in investigations into the prepayment meters scandal.