Claire Smith: Power profits are on the up, so tell Sid

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IF YOU remember the eighties you might recall those Saatchi campaigns for the great utility sell-off – which came with the catchphrase: “If you see Sid… Tell him.”

Selling off nationalised industries was a great act of Thatcherite audacity – persuading the public to buy something we already owned.

The plebian sounding Sid represented the great “shareholding democracy” – whereby ordinary people would own shares and “share the prosperity”. According to free market voodoo economics introducing competition to the market would help keep prices down.

Does anyone believe that now?

This week Perth based SSE made a half-yearly profit of almost £400 million after increasing prices by 9 per cent. British Gas told shareholders it expected yearly profits of £1.4bn as customers faced a 6 per cent rise in bills.

Does anyone believe there is no connection between the rise in prices and the rise in profits?

Far from encouraging competitition, the Big Six tend to raise prices as one – and may even be manipulating wholesale costs to skew the figures.

And what ever happened to Everyman Sid? E-on and N Power are German owned, EDF is French and Scottish Power is Spanish. Only Centrica and SSE are UK companies.

Figures from uSwitch show the average energy bill in the UK has gone from £522 in 2004 to £1,334 – an increase of £812 or 156 per cent. According to Saga 25,000 older people die every year because of cold-related illnesses – and higher prices mean more deaths.

Scotland is an energy rich country – we have oil, we have water driving hydro turbines, we have windfarms on almost every hill.

So why will thousands of people die of cold this winter because they cannot afford to pay their heating bills?

This was the week the energy companies went too far. This was the week energy companies became the new banks. If you see Sid… tell him.