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U-turn likely on support for 2-year energy price guarantee

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A self-congratulatory motion put forward by two East Cambridgeshire councillors may have to be reworked after they praised the Government’s two-year energy price guarantee – which was dropped today.

Council leader Anna Bailey and fellow Conservative Cllr Julia Huffer had proposed the motion to this week’s full council meeting which invited councillors to be “thankful for the significant work by the Government to support the residents of East Cambridgeshire”.

Their joint motion begins by noting the “the benefit of the two-year energy price guarantee and the certainty it will give to residents across the district as well as the enormous help that the £400 energy bill discount will provide to every household”.

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In today’s statement by new chancellor Jeremy Hunt, he reversed previous policy announcements which could mean the average annual energy bill will rise to more than £4,000 from April.

Mr Hunt made it clear that the energy price guarantee, which caps the unit price of energy and was due to last for two years from this month, will be limited to just six months.

The Bailey and Huffer motion also invite councillors to note “the additional support of the £650 cost of living payment for those in receipt of means-tested benefits, £300 for pensioner households and £150 for recipients of disability benefits in East Cambridgeshire.

“And thanks the Government for providing equivalent support for those not on the mains energy grid.

“It also notes the protection of jobs in East Cambridgeshire that the six-month protection for businesses will provide.

“East Cambridgeshire District Council welcomes the plans by Government to secure long term energy independence for the country by maximising domestic energy production through North Sea oil and gas, as well as nuclear and renewables”

The two councillors put forward a motion that invites backing to declare that “East Cambridgeshire District Council is determined to ensure the protection of the residents of East Cambridgeshire from the cost-of-living challenge driven by Covid and Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, the combined effects of which have led to rising energy prices and residents facing significant cost of living pressures”.

Both also note that the council “is also doing its part to protect our residents from the cost-of-living challenge”.

Cllr Anna Bailey

Specifically, they list:

Continues to invest in our Housing and Community Advice Service fully utilising our Housing and Community Advice Bus, Community Hubs, and advisors at The Grange

Supports the provision of warm hubs in the district

Works with partners in Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) to help residents with energy bills and obtain EPC reports

Provides advice to residents through our Energy Advice Officers to access grant funding to undertake energy efficiency measures

The motion also notes that “this council has frozen its share of Council Tax bills for the last 9 years, the only district, unitary, or county council in the country to have done so

“This council has a long track record of having a balanced budget for 2 financial years at a time; this council has no external borrowing.

“This council has a prudent level of reserves in the General Fund equivalent to 10% of our operating budget

“Therefore, this council resolves to freeze its share of Council Tax for 2023/24 for a tenth consecutive year”

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It is on the agenda to be proposed by Cllr Bailey and seconded by Cllr Julia Huffer.

A second motion has been put forward, proposed by Lib Dem Cllr Mark Inskip, and seconded by Lib Dem Cllr Charlotte Cane

Cllr Mark Inskip

They want the council to note that:

Annual price inflation is at a level not seen for 40 years.

On 1 April 2022, Ofgem increased the energy price cap by 54%.

On 1 October 2022, energy prices increased by a further 27%.

Over a period of just over six months the average standard tariff has increased by £1,222 to £2,500 for the average household.

The Government suspended the pensions ‘triple lock’ for 2022/3, meaning East Cambridgeshire’s 18,000 pensioners have seen a rise of 3.1% this year (instead of 8.3% under the triple lock formula). This will cost pensioners in East Cambridgeshire hundreds of pounds.

In 2021/22 Foodbanks in East Cambridgeshire distributed 2,981 food parcels (Trussell Trust, 2022). In addition, people living in rural areas such as East Cambridgeshire are disproportionately affected by fuel price increases because of poor public transport and longer distances to reach work, education, and health services.

They want the council to declare a ‘Cost of Living Emergency’ and ask the Chief Executive to write to relevant government ministers and our local MPs to ask for urgent action to relieve the cost-of-living crisis.

Measures proposed:
Provide immediate financial support for consumers of heating oil, bottled gas, solid fuels, those reliant on generators for electricity and those on prepayment meters.

Consider reducing VAT to 17.5% putting money back into the pockets of average families, boosting the economy and helping to support local retailers

 Deliver a real and immediate increase in investment in UK renewables and an energy plan for the UK which reduces costs for the end user and leads to the decarbonisation of the UK energy network in the long term.

They add the desire for the council to resolve to “ask the Chief Executive to develop proposals to:

“Expand the East Cambridgeshire Council Tax Reduction Scheme to reduce the tax burden for lower income households

“To protect and expand funding for partnership grants delivering advice services to residents in next year’s budget and future years

“Work with partners to improve access to affordable food across East Cambridgeshire

“Council calls for an East Cambridgeshire Cost-of-Living Emergency Summit, with stakeholders, including all tiers of local government, Citizens Advice, Food Banks, Local Trades Unions, and Chambers of Commerce along with local Members of Parliament”.

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