There is an alternative

As more people struggle to heat their homes whilst the energy companies continue to increase their profits, the Labour Group on the London Assembly have today presented an alternative.

London Assembly Labour’s alternative budget for London is an effort to make Mayor of London Boris Johnson invest in meaningful projects that will help struggling Londoners. Boris’s record as Mayor is pathetic; he has failed to deliver anything but vanity projects and has overseen cuts to London’s frontline emergency services.

With fuel bills increasing by up to 11 per cent this year, fuel poverty is rising in London. National Energy Action has calculated that, for every 1 per cent increase in energy prices, 40,000 households are pushed into fuel poverty nationally.  The most recent round of price hikes will have pushed an estimated additional 266,000 into fuel poverty.

With this in mind, London Assembly Labour proposes to action a research project in to the establishment of community energy cooperatives in London. The study would draw on the experiences of successful energy cooperatives, such as Brixton Energy, to establish what would be required to introduce a borough-wide energy cooperative, culminating in a ward-level pilot study.

We would commit £500,000 towards establishing community energy cooperatives in London. This is an essential investment. Energy prices are an increasing worry for families who are finding the cost of living spiralling out of control. Families are choosing between food and fuel and this can be seen by the surge in the number of people visiting food banks as they struggle to buy the basic provisions to survive.

It is critical that energy becomes more affordable. Energy cooperatives enable the members to become invested in the energy they produce and use. Where the community owns a stake of the energy that is being generated, the benefits are spread across the membership, helping to keep more of the money the energy generates in the local community. Further, co-operative ownership of the energy supply also democratises the process of energy consumption and production, while reducing the opaqueness surrounding pricing under a market dominated by a small number of companies.

Boris talks a good game and is adept at making speeches laying the blame for London’s problems at David Cameron’s door, but he has singularly failed to use the powers and resources at his command to improve life for ordinary Londoners. Our budget alternative puts forward tangible suggestions that could help Londoners now and build a future not reliant on the “˜big six’ energy companies.

We have a simple message for Boris, he is the Mayor of London, a great city of over 8 million people with drive and determination. He should be standing up for Londoners and helping them during these difficult times.

Murad Qureshi is a Labour Londonwide Assembly Member and spokesperson for the Labour Group on environmental and health issues.

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