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We're paying the price of energy firm's greed.

Byline: Alison Phillips

ACROSS Britain families are dreading the arrival of the next letter from British Gas.

After another way-over inflation price hike just before Christmas, the letters bring only stress and anxiety for hard-pressed workers struggling to get by.

But in the warm and comfortable Bentley household I bet they can't wait for the British Gas letter to arrive - because Phil Bentley, boss of the energy firm, is waiting for his golden goodbye agreement.

It is set to pocket him pay and perks worth more than PS10million, possibly up to PS13million.

You can imagine that Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, must be delighted with Phil Bentley's work to be waving him on his way with this package.

And so they might be, as British Gas is forecast to soon announce a profit of PS575million. And in the past seven years Bentley has helped to double prices.

So, he is being rewarded. For doubling the bills, doubling the desperation of elderly people too scared to turn on heating, doubling the fear of parents using dodgy loan companies to pay for fuel and doubling the hunger of kids going without breakfast as Mum chooses power over food, he is landing himself PS10million.

It is an utterly repellent bit of maths. How did we get to a situation where anyone is paid such ludicrous amounts of money?

These fatcats use the L'Oreal "Because I'm worth it" argument. Except they're not.

Because as soon as one of them is booted out or walks away, as Bentley is about to do, there's another one ready to take over right behind them. I bet there's no shortage of takers for the job at British Gas, where, in return for further whacking up bills, they can earn themselves a multimillion-pound pay day.

And all this comes as ordinary Brits are facing the hardest squeeze on their living standards in almost 100 years.

It's thought that three million people in Britain are now in fuel poverty - meaning 10% of their income is going on heating.

And a recent poll showed more than a third of people are now rationing heat and light at home to save money.

My friend's father-in-law was taken into hospital just before Christmas suffering hypothermia because he was too frightened to turn the heating on before on during the day. He told his frantic family: "Oh, I just put it on before m not made of money, Emmerdale. I'm not made of money, you know."

This gentleman worked his whole life and had modest savings but was surviving on a fixed income.

With the cost of everything racing up around him, he was just too terrified to keep his house tolerably warm. And that is the reality of doubling bills.

Food banks are reporting that, of the quarter of a million people who visited them last year, many were being forced to choose between heat and food. That is a choice no mother in Britain in the 21st century should be having to make.

Yet, at the same time, one of our biggest energy providers is rewarding an architect of this situation in the most grotesque style.

We have reached an age where greed is deemed to be good. Profits are perfect. And who cares about the consequences? No one.

For ordinary people just trying to get by, it has become a cold world. And it's getting colder.

POWER OR FOOD? NO MUM SHOULD HAVE TO CHOOSE
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 9, 2013
Words:576
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