Council to discuss motion on pre-payment meters
Council to discuss motion on pre-payment meters

At tonight’s meeting of Norwich City Council, a motion will be discussed on the need to ban pre-payment meters.

Research by Citizens Advice has found that 3.2 million people across Great Britain ran out of credit on their prepayment meter last year because they couldn’t afford to top up.

Whilst protections are supposed to be in place to stop vulnerable customers being moved onto prepayments meters, there are serious concerns that not enough is being done by energy companies to identify customers in these circumstances before installing a prepayment meter, and that this is leading to a rise in voluntary self-disconnections.

Labour is calling for an immediate moratorium at least for the duration of the winter while an urgent review takes place of how customers on pre-payment meters can be properly protected, building on leading consumer affairs organisations calls for a long-term review of the treatment of users of prepayment meters.

Labour has already called for an end to the injustice that people on prepayment meters have to pay more for their energy than those on direct debits. The party has called for additional government support to individual households on prepayment meters, to level the playing field on the cost of electricity and gas for households.

Locally, last autumn, Labour-run Norwich City Council introduced a discretionary energy rebate scheme to provide some of the most vulnerable residents in our city with help towards energy bills. The majority of payments went out automatically to eligible residents, including those eligible for council tax reduction in bands E to H, or who have a disabled band reduction in band A to H. The scheme was also opened up to residents who don’t meet these criteria but who do have a pre-payment meter so they could benefit from this payment too.

A ‘Payzone’ top-up terminal has been installed at City Hall so top-ups can be issued upon referral. The council is also able to issue food vouchers which tenants can offset against energy costs, to avoid having to choose between heating and eating. Wider cost of living support to anyone struggling to pay energy bills can be found on Norwich City Council’s website: including money and debt advice, benefits advice, a benefits entitlement checker, energy bills support, accessing food bank and social supermarket and warm spaces.

Cllr Emma Hampton, cabinet member with responsibility for energy and fuel poverty, will respond to tonight’s motion for the Labour Group and says:

“At the moment, energy companies are pushing people onto pre-payment meters knowing that we’re in the midst of a cost of living crisis and many simply won’t be able to pay.  The government need to legislate and work with the regulator to to forced installation of these meters. Protections are supposed to be in place to support the most vulnerable and ensure they’re not being moved onto pre-payment meters, but in reality companies aren’t doing due diligence. People are being disconnected by the backdoor. It’s already a huge injustice that pre-payment meter users have to pay more than the same energy, and this is something The Labour Party has long been calling for an end to.

The support we are able to offer locally can be a vital lifeline for residents. But we need to see national, widespread action to give people security in the long-term. As a council, we remain committed to delivering energy improvements cross-tenure to properties in Norwich so it takes less energy to heat homes in the first place: cutting both bills and carbon emissions. To go further and fast than this, we need the government to fund a nationally-led but locally-delivered national retrofit strategy. We also need the government to fix our broken energy system: by investing in renewables, regulating the market better and offering a proper level of support to those already struggling.”


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