Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 2nd August 2017

In a representative democracy, the only chance we voters have to shape Government policy is voting for MPs, doing so on the basis of the manifesto they set before us. That’s why it’s a big deal to u-turn on a manifesto, it’s a broken contract with the electorate, every one is a serious breach of our democratic traditions and yet in just two months we’ve numbed to the Conservatives ditching their election commitments.

One such policy u-turn was on implementing an energy price cap, limiting the costs of energy to levels far more reasonable than the ones consumers currently face. A commitment stolen from Labour’s 2015 manifesto, which at the time the Tories claimed was unworkable, only to later propose it as their own policy.

Given the squeeze on people’s living standards, capping energy prices would come as a welcome boost to most people’s incomes, but for the 2.3m British households affected by fuel poverty it would go further, it would be a lifeline. With British Gas announcing a 12.5% increase in energy prices this week, it’s clear that something has to be done but this isn’t the Government to do it.

As a council, do our best to help tackle rising energy prices. Crawley’s collective energy switch scheme has saved households an average of £200. As a landlord, the council has retrofitted many of its properties to include solar panels and is building new Passivhaus-standard council houses, units so draft-proof they require almost no heating.

The Town Hall redevelopment project will take things further, creating a new low-carbon Town Centre Heat Network which will reduce energy costs for properties connected into the system. Meanwhile, grants remain available for those on low incomes to help improve their homes’ energy efficiency, reducing residents’ energy costs while helping to move the town towards our goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.

As ever, as a council we will always do our best to serve the town but to really tackle this problem we need a voice in Westminster prepared to speak up for Crawley and a Government that is willing to listen.

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