The Government has announced an investigation into the energy supply industry, with the promise of increasing competitiveness to drive down prices. Is this a real fix for the energy industry or just a big election fix?
It sounds wonderful to have lower prices, until you look at the real business economics in such a move.
If you forcibly drive down prices by diktat, will energy companies really cut their profits or will they cut their costs? As Britain suffers a lack of new power-generating capacity, will this increase in competitiveness cause more or less investment in new capacity?
When you cut prices, you reduce income. That usually means a big business will slash its long-term investment first, not the short-term profits to shareholders. It also means a large company is far more tempted to engage in vicious, competitive sales practices verging on the criminal.
Deception and mis-selling can be expected as sales forces are driven to increase the number of customers, while the suppliers’ customer service and maintenance departments are slashed due to falling income. This is made worse if that sales force is on aggressive commission schemes, taking more money from the limited income.
Neither a competition inquiry nor the diktats to be expected from the Government to reshape the market for ideological purposes will solve the quality of service. Nor will they solve the quality and quantity of investment. But this inquiry is perfectly timed for local elections in a few weeks and the general election next year.
We need real power for the people, not another round of competitiveness ruining the economy, people’s lives and our environment. We need investment in new, efficient power generation that is owned locally, not by greedy remote overseas corporations. Breaking up the existing suppliers, as suggested, will not create new innovative businesses; they will be smaller, weaker, under constant demand to reduce prices – thus income, thus costs and services to the customer.
Michael Bond, Stockport, Cheshire
The announcement by Siemens that 1,000 wind farm production jobs are to be created in the North of England (“Wind of change”, 26 March) shows businesses are leading the charge to develop the green jobs of the future.
The number of green jobs is predicted to increase from 1m today to 1.4m by 2020. Leading businesses argue that these jobs will not be confined to the green-energy sector, and many roles, even in service industries, will feature a green component.
However, a greater understanding of the skills needed for these jobs is urgently needed, with clear direction and guidance to teachers. Recent YouGov polling of teachers, commissioned by Global Action Plan, shows that 63 per cent think their school is not doing anything to develop green skills.
The Government needs to improve this situation by helping to improve careers advice to ensure that students are adequately prepared for the future.
Trewin Restorick, Senior Partner, Global Action Plan, London WC2
I congratulate fellow Nuclear Free Local Authorities member Hull City Council and Siemens for deciding to develop a major green energy hub in the city. My own city of Manchester has strong connections with Siemens and I am sure this will be a fantastic economic, sustainable and energy-rich part of the solution to the UK’s future energy needs.
However, SSE has decided to ditch several offshore wind projects, our Prime Minister advocates a shale gas revolution and a new nuclear revolution, and the Met Office tells us that cold, wet winters and blisteringly hot summers could be the norm in 20 years’ time.
I urge the Government to stop messing about with shale and new nuclear and embrace a renewable local energy revolution that councils across the UK and Ireland are keen to play a full part in.
Councillor Mark Hackett, Chair of UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Manchester
The curse of Kardashian
Is Grace Dent the Julie Burchill de nos jours? Her veneration of Kim Kardashian (25 March) misses an important point about the danger of this type of celebrity culture.
Her “footballer’s girlfriend” comment disregards the worrying trend in manufactured super-ordinariness that is so prevalent in much media-constructed celebrity. Kim Kardashian is no rags-to-riches heroine, and I suspect that even her sex tape was a sophisticated marketing tool.
I know that it must be hard for clever readers of The Independent to understand this, but the young, ethnically diverse, mainly working-class girls, whom I used to teach in an East London further education college, really believe that they can become Kim or Katie Price or any other of these women who appear to have little actual skill yet are able to attain wealth and popularity.
So they underachieve chronically in their studies because – in their minds – the dream will come true. It does not. Role models such as Kim Kardashian are responsible for more female teenagers’ lack of aspiration than all the supposedly poor teachers in our schools and colleges put together. These kids then have to live the rest of their lives with disappointment and poor prospects of gainful employment.
Teachers should revolt – not strike
From my own assorted work experiences, I found that, compared with other professions, teaching in state schools was comparatively easy to move into at any age.
But it entailed putting up with far more day-to-day hassle than I was used to, a great deal of which was the direct result of endless streams of daft organisational and curriculum ideas emanating from distant academics and politicians who couldn’t organise the proverbial activity in a brewery – and who generally approved of our Great British educational apartheid and made quite sure that their own offspring went to a nice private school.
But what really finished me off was the docile acceptance of all this rubbish by the classroom teachers. And that still seems to be the case (forget about all those in the myriad peculiar promoted posts who would sell their grannies for yet another move further way from the dangerously demanding electronic chalkface).
A meek little strike without upsetting the parents is no good at all. What should have been done years ago, and cries out to be done now, is point-blank refusal by the front-line troops to have anything at all to do with any more new organisational or curricular wheezes.
Alison Sutherland, Kirkwall, Orkney
As a teacher, I feel supported by colleagues in my secondary school. However, I went on strike in protest at the unsustainable average working week of 55 hours for secondary teachers and 60 for primary. The amount of bureaucracy required by Government and Ofsted not only reduces time to design challenging activities, but leaves us physically shattered and unable to give the energy required to facilitate the best educational experience for students.
Teachers went on strike to work to create a better learning environment, and not over petty details, as the Government and some media seem to make out.
Dr Isabelle Humphries, Cambridge
My schoolteacher wife supported the national NUT strike. This allowed her to spend the day on lesson preparation and pupil attainment records – roughly doubling her weekly quota of unpaid work.
David Mitchell, Cromford, Derbyshire
Coupling and uncoupling
In The Dream of Gerontius, where the death of Gerontius and the soul’s ascent to heaven is related, Edward Elgar sets the words of Cardinal Newman. When Gerontius meets the Angel who has accompanied him thither, he addresses her: “I wish to hold with thee conscious communion.” So “conscious uncoupling” seems an appropriate way to part from an angel.
Anthony Bramley-Harker, Watford
Ian Turnbull (letter, 26 March) informs us that “homage” has Latin origins and doesn’t rhyme with French cheese. Perhaps he could enlighten us on the origin of Farage – French or Latin?
Dave Keeley, Hornchurch
Just one wrong word
According to your report (“Revealed: secret second police corruption probe”, 27 March), information on police corruption was “inexplicably shredded”. The only thing wrong with that phrase is the word “inexplicably”.
Pete Barrett, Colchester