Archive | October 2014


What are we paying these people for?

npower logoThe npower Saga (see previous posts on facebook) seems to be drawing to a close. At least I’ve now received “Your amended final energy” (which I guess is the same as the final bill I asked for!).

This shows an outstanding balance of £6.72. I’m assured this has been written off due to the length of time it’s taken to sort out (currently 301 days and still counting). But that begs the question of why they sent me a cheque for £5.62 recently, which, as with the previous two payments, was not accompanied by any sort of explanation.

One week ago I had an e-mail from my “main point of contact” in the Executive Complaints Team informing me that I will receive a goodwill payment “in 10-14 working days”.

The book is now open on whether this will happen as promised, or not!

British Gas logoMeanwhile, this morning we had a visit from someone who wanted to read our gas meter on behalf of British Gas. We explained that we don’t get our gas from British Gas. The man checked his machine and confirmed that he had the right address and correct Meter Reference No – and that we get our gas from Ecotricity.

So we asked why did he want to read our meter. He double-checked his machine, and realised that he shouldn’t be reading our meter before 5 November.

So we persisted with our query as to why he wanted to read our meter when we do not now, and have not in the past, had our gas from British Gas. He responded that he was just following instructions, and went away promising to return on Bonfire Night!

HMRC logoBut the best part of my day was the letter from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the oldest and proudest Government Department.

I’m coming up to the age at which I would have retired had the government not abolished retirement. Anyway, I’m lucky enough to still qualify for State Pension, so I’ve been getting lots of letters from the Pension Service to explain what’s going to happen.

Those nice people at HMRC have now written to me to explain one of the implications of having a private pension as well as State Pension.

Apparently there’s something called the ‘Contracted-out Deduction’ (COD), which relates to people who have been part of an employer’s pension scheme in the past.

Despite working as a Benefits Adviser for the Refugee Council for some years, I’d never heard of this, so naturally I read on with great interest.

Did you know that part of your private pension includes an amount of COD; “broadly speaking, the amount of Additional Pension you would have received from the State if you had not been contracted out.”

Well that sounds like good news. So how much do I get? Read on!

In April 1997 “changes were made to the law that mean COD amounts are no longer taken into account when calculating State Additional Pension.”

So, because I “became a member of an employer’s or private pension scheme after April 1997” (pause for effect).

“Your total weekly COD has been calculated as £0.00.”

Brilliant. So some body (or probably computer) at HMRC has spent his or her precious time working out that I’m not entitled to something that I’m not entitled to.

Bear in mind, that this is also something that I’ve never heard of, and so would never have considered querying anyway.

Don’t laugh. Your taxes are paying for this gold standard service (I no longer pay tax!).


A more positive vision

It’s easy to dismiss those who disagree with you with fatuous labels such as “Nimbys” or  “the no-no brigade” (‘We must tackle energy issues’, South Wales Evening Post, Letters, 15 October).  Far better to engage with your opponents to find a solution that suits all.

Vic Collier is quite right in that we need to tackle the question of how to provide our future energy needs, but we need to do so in a way that protects future generations rather than adding to their woes.

The solutions proposed by former Energy Secretary Owen Patterson amount to nothing more than continuing along the road that has brought us to the sorry state in which we find ourselves; rising carbon emissions, accelerating climate change, and increasing levels of highly toxic waste that will plague our descendants for centuries.

Far from objecting “to any and all projects”, those who oppose fracking and nuclear power share a positive vision of the future with many of our political and business leaders.

A vision of a carbon neutral Wales, powered by renewable energy, tapping in to the tide, sun, wind, knowledge, talent, academic excellence and business expertise that Wales has in abundance.

I would urge Vic Collier and others of his ilk to develop and encourage an attitude of how that can be achieved rather than why it must not be done.


Footnote: The “vision” in the penultimate paragraph above is an extract from a recent e-mail from my friend Donal Whelan.  The full quote is:

“I’ve been working with some fantastic people recently while campaigning against fracking, from NGOs to community groups, with people at workshops, protests, renewable energy conferences and village hall meetings. Out of all of these places there’s a shared vision emerging, one of a future carbon neutral Wales, powered by renewable energy, tapping in to the tide, sun, wind, knowledge, talent, academic excellence and business expertise that Wales has in abundance. People feel really passionate about this!
It’s not rocket science – tidal lagoons like Swansea dotted discreetly around the coast; ranks of majestic wind turbines miles out to sea, like sentinels against the coming storms of climate change; every house in Wales fully insulated and solar panels on every east and west facing roof (for a more balanced load than south-facing, we learn from Germany); half a dozen pumped water energy storage systems like Dinorwig evening out the load; a cutting-edge smart electricity grid called back into public ownership; community owned projects feeding benefits back in to local people; enough surplus energy to sell to other countries, earning enough to maintain the national energy system and keep it up-to-date.”
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