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

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.

Energy bills campaigners send message to leadership debates

Campaigners will take to the streets of Darlington ahead of the next Conservative Leadership Debate to demand urgent government action on the energy bills crisis.

New figures from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition show that around 36,000 people in over 9,000 homes will be in fuel poverty from 1 October in Darlington alone.

Now campaigners have formed a new group, Warm This Winter, to ask the leadership candidates to take the issue seriously.

They will be asking attendees at the event in Hippodrome to raise the energy bills crisis with Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak and ask them to commit to doing whatever it takes to avoid a nightmare winter for millions of people.

Local organiser, Kendra Ullyart, who is also coordinator of Darlington Friends of the Earth, said:

We all deserve to be warm in our own homes but right now soaring energy prices mean that millions of people are struggling to pay their bills, never mind this winter when costs will climb even higher.

The worrying part is that gas prices are predicted to stay high until at least 2030.In 2020, there were already thousands of households in Darlington living in fuel poverty, but rocketing energy costs mean there are now many more who need urgent, long-term solutions.

That’s why Darlington Friends of the Earth is adding its voice to the Warm This Winter campaign, to demand emergency financial support for those who will need it most this winter, as well as funding for a massive insulation scheme to cut the nation’s bills. Moving the country away from expensive gas and onto cheaper, renewable energy will also help to protect us all from future price shocks.

The public has grasped the scale and seriousness of the energy crisis, and deserves a leader who will act in our best interests. Tonight we hope Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will set out credible plans to ensure everyone stays warm this winter, and for years to come.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, added:

Across the North East hundreds of thousands of people will find themselves in fuel poverty this winter, with millions more having to make difficult decisions about household finances this winter.

We congratulate the campaigners for taking action in Darlington. The Warm this Winter campaign simply must succeed in ensuring the government helps those people who need it today and fixes the UK’s broken energy system for good.

Warm This Winter is a new campaign to ensure that families are helped this winter and to put the country in the best possible position to avoid future shocks and save money in the long-term.

It is calling on the government to provide more direct financial support to vulnerable households now, a national programme of energy efficiency for households to cut waste, a rollout of cheaper onshore renewables, and an end to the development of new oil and gas fields so that we are not locked into volatile fossil fuels for longer than is necessary.

Further action is planned for hustings in Birmingham, Norwich and London. To get involved, email