A local solution to energy bills, a new word, a farewell to floral designs and a phantom at the opera

 

Share
Related Topics

Michael Fallon, the Energy Minister, has advice for customers angry at SSE's whopping 8.2 per cent hike in fuel bills: switch to another firm. In one of the more nakedly cynical moves by one of the Big Six, the nation's second-largest energy company is putting up bills by an average of £111 a year three weeks after Ed Miliband pledged to freeze prices if elected.

Fallon's advice to shop around for a cheaper tariff is all well and good, but at some stage the energy supplier you switch to will also push up bills. If you are a family whose household budget is already cut to the bone, it is easy to feel like all the power – in every way – is out of your hands.

There is no quick, easy solution – and switching is always better than sticking with an extortionate supplier. But there is a way to feel empowered again – through community energy. In Brixton, local residents invested in solar panels, fitted to the roof of a social housing development, last year. The scheme is so popular that Brixton Energy Solar is on its third project, which is under way this autumn.

Some 69 people have invested in Brixton Energy Solar 3 to fit solar panels to the roof of a council block. The energy produced will supply local homes, and investors get an annual return on any profits. For the first time, many residents who previously felt disenfranchised by the system have taken back some power – literally. Hundreds of schemes like this – which are also popular in Germany – are being created across the country. This is the democratisation of energy.

Of course, renewable energy is subsidised by the Government through "green taxes", which David Cameron has put under review, despite a warning by Vince Cable on Friday that it would be "foolish and short-sighted" to scrap them. People might feel aggrieved that their taxes are going towards subsidising green power. But boosting renewable energy is essential to generating interest and incentives, and in turn a flourishing sector. Without this, Britain will remain hooked on carbon.

The Big Six blame green taxes – not themselves – for pushing up bills. But the last word should go to Inca Williams, a young engineering student from Brixton who did work experience on installing the panels in her neighbourhood for Brixton Energy Solar. She says: "I was motivated to get involved in the project because it is funded by local residents rather than a company I had never heard of. I think we need to be less reliant on expensive energy providers, who have increased their prices for electricity and gas recently."

Sacked and then ransacked

Last week I wrote about Richard Benyon, the Conservative MP and rural affairs minister with a vast 20,000-acre estate, being responsible for overseeing the erosion of protection of village greens and open spaces. The next day he was sacked as minister and, hours later, vandals caused £1m of damage to planes and vehicles on his land and caused his horses to flee up the A4. While I remain deeply concerned about what the Government is doing to our common land, no one deserves such a wrecking spree to be carried out at their home – whether it's a tiny flat or a huge estate.

Women's choice

I normally recoil at new or hybrid words, but I quite like one coined by Helen Calcraft, the co-founder of the advertising agency Lucky Generals. She says high-flying women must combat "succsexism" – the view that women have to choose between being feminine and popular on one side, or successful on the other. She says women are to blame for succsexism as much as men. One thing is certainly sure: successful women are often invited to bitch about their rivals in a way that men aren't. So, on Wednesday, when Janet Yellen was appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve, Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, was asked by a journalist how she felt about no longer being the most powerful woman in economics. Lagarde said she was "overjoyed". If she and Yellen were men, would Lagarde have been asked how she felt about no longer being the most powerful man in economics? I doubt it.

Change of a dress

Walking around the stalls at the Conservative Party conference earlier this month, I came across a husband and wife who decided to set up their own children's clothes-making business after they both lost their jobs. The clothes for boys and girls, by Betsy Boo Creations, are in beautiful original fabrics and designs featuring birds and animals – such a change from the floral tweeness of, dare I say, Cath Kidston. When Kidston herself said last week that her vintage floral designs had a "shelf life", I could not agree more. As the mother of a three-year-old girl, I am desperate for something different to dress her in.

All the world's a farce

At the opera last Monday evening, I spotted Theresa May in the audience for The Marriage of Figaro just hours after the Government reshuffle in which Norman Baker, the Lib Dem who has doubts about the death of David Kelly, was appointed as one of her ministers. The Home Secretary was said to be "spitting tacks" over the decision, taken by Nick Clegg, but she looked serene when I spotted her watching Mozart's comedy at Covent Garden. In fact, she seemed to rather enjoy the farce about mistaken identities and best-laid plans going awry … a bit like The Marriage of Figaro.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'