Letters: Energy customers confronted with bills that bear no relation to reality

Millions of people are finding that their energy company accounts are in credit, despite soaring bills - Yui Mok/PA
Millions of people are finding that their energy company accounts are in credit, despite soaring bills - Yui Mok/PA

SIR – Last year I paid British Gas £378 monthly by direct debit, and the cost of my energy consumption over three months was £577.

When I received my statement, however, the direct debit had been increased to £472 (“Energy firms hoard £9 bn of customer cash”, report, February 3). The statement suggested that I had paid nothing, which was completely untrue, and I am currently about £1,000 in credit.

When I eventually managed to contact a company official, I was told that everything would become clear at the end of the contract in April. This accounting system is inexplicable.

Dr Daphne Pearson

SIR – My energy supplier emailed , advising me to increase my monthly direct debit by £40.

It went on to say that if I didn’t do this, it would. So why bother asking?

Alan Bristow
Little Neston, Cheshire

SIR – My advice to those being charged excessively: cancel the direct debit and pay monthly on a usage basis.

It takes very little time and saves a lot of money and stress.

Pamela Wheeler

SIR – Thank goodness for our wood-burner (Letters, February 3). Our central heating system crashed – but at least our lounge is warm. We are waiting for a spare part for our boiler, which has been out of commission for more than a week.

Dr Trevor Masters
Southend-on-Sea, Essex

SIR – Your Leading Article (February 2) criticises the plan to fine wood-burner owners who use the wrong sort of wood.

I disagree. A small but significant minority of people in houses fitted with wood-burner flue pipes burn material that causes a level of air pollution clearly in breach of smoke-control rules.

Recently, while cycling along a local road, I had to do a U-turn to avoid a house emitting brown smoke that smelt of burning plastic. Some wood-burner owners burn totally unsuitable fuel, and the Government is right to send a strong signal to them.

John Leng
Christchurch, Dorset

SIR – Stan Kirby (Letters, February 3) recommends eco-coal, made partly from olive stones.

There are also coffee logs – compressed waste coffee grounds from restaurants, which would otherwise make methane in landfill. They are widely available, clean and mix well with wood.

Mark Robbins
Bruton, Somerset

Harm of strikes

SIR – Strikes (Letters, February 2) are an old-fashioned weapon of dubious morality and wisdom.

Traditionally, if employees felt they were underpaid they withdrew their labour and inflicted financial harm on the one paying their wages. The employer had three choices: he could give way, he could hold out or he could close the business.

State employees do not hurt the employer – they hurt children’s education, delay sick people’s treatment and generally inconvenience the travelling public.

Increased wages will add to inflation, which will hurt everyone, and government debt harms the taxpayer and the country. It is nonsense to say one has no choice. I do not argue that pay scales are right or fair, but I do believe that state employees are better paid, and have more job security and better pensions, than those in the private sector.

Sir Frank Davies
Deddington, Oxfordshire

Bullying allegations

SIR – You discuss the allegations of bullying against Dominic Raab (Leading Article, February 3).

In my career as a public servant I faced bullying allegations twice – and was twice cleared after extremely stressful investigations.

In both cases, I was simply trying to get staff to do the job that taxpayers were paying them to do.

John Neal
South Normanton, Derbyshire

An unwarranted addition to classic carbonara

The Pasta Eater, by an unknown 19th-century artist, hangs in Rome’s pasta museum - Getty
The Pasta Eater, by an unknown 19th-century artist, hangs in Rome’s pasta museum - Getty

SIR – As a food lover, trained chef and home cook, I too was horrified by the New York Times’s suggestion of adding tomatoes to the classic carbonara (Features, February 2).

As you point out, the recipe was rightly denounced when it first appeared in 2021, and it should have remained in the bin. There is plenty of tomato in Italian food already.

David Brooks

The Lords’ door

SIR – You quite rightly draw attention to the astonishing and disturbing increase in the cost of the so-called renovation of the Peers’ Entrance to the House of Lords (report, February 3).

This was originally scheduled to cost about £2 million and has now jumped to £7 million in only 12 months. That’s a lot for a front door.

In my experience, many peers are sceptical of the need to have a new door at all. But if it is to be foisted upon them, despite their objections, they would at least like to have a full explanation as to why it is necessary. Yet attempts by Lord Forsyth, the chairman of the Association of Conservative Peers, to obtain information about the “new door” and why the costs have risen by such sky-scraping amounts have been brushed aside with stonewalling answers.

It is understood that Parliament is devoting considerable amounts of money to security-related capital expenditure. Security is always sensitive but it is not satisfactory that there is no meaningful financial information being provided about this.

At the moment there is great pressure on public spending, so it is vital that Parliament should be transparent, as well as setting an example of careful management of taxpayers’ money.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Con)
London SW1

RAF standards

SIR – I spent three happy years as an instructor and assessor on initial officer training at RAF College Cranwell. In that time I saw through three 18-week commissioning courses.

The decision to commission, retrain or fail students was mine alone. There was never any pressure to positively discriminate (Letters, February 3). On the contrary, the RAF already had an enviable record for taking candidates from across the social spectrum.

The RAF commissioning course was based on leadership ability, personal qualities, merit and potential, as assessed by us.

Sqn Ldr Philip Congdon (retd)
Cape Town, South Africa

SIR – In services such as the military, where operational effectiveness is crucial, talent should always be the determining factor in hiring decisions.

Positive discrimination, while well-intentioned, can harm the very diversity it aims to promote, and create an unequal and unfair hiring process.

Simply attracting diverse candidates without fixing systemic inclusion problems will result in major retention issues, defeating the purpose of diverse hiring efforts.

Employers must take a more proactive approach and avoid “diversity-washing”, where they aim to meet diversity targets without truly committing themselves to inclusive practices. A balance must be struck to ensure fair hiring practices and eliminate discrimination based on gender or ethnicity.

Sunil Dial
CEO and co-founder, CandidateX
London N1

SIR – In the argument over diversity in the RAF, it seems to have been forgotten that, during the Second World War, many of its personnel were people of colour.

Most were ground crew, but a significant number were officers. Among these was Flight Lieutenant John Smythe from Sierra Leone, who served as a navigator. After 26 bombing missions, he was shot down in 1943 and spent the rest of the conflict as a prisoner of war.

When one of his German captors asked why he fought for Britain he replied: “Sierra Leone is part of the British Empire and I am fighting for my King.” He also said of his time in the RAF: “It wasn’t until I looked in the mirror that I remembered I was black.”

After the war, acting for the Colonial Office, this remarkable man accompanied ex-RAF personnel to the West Indies to help them secure local employment. Many who were unable to find work returned to Britain on the Empire Windrush, hoping for a better life. Smythe was still with them when the ship docked at Tilbury.

Smythe was appointed solely on merit, his skin colour being totally irrelevant. Today’s RAF should take note.

Nicholas Young
London W13

Prodigal Prince

SIR – Dr Tony Saunders (Letters, February 2) implies that Prince Harry should be welcomed at the Coronation as a prodigal son.

The point of the parable, as made clear in the Gospel of St Luke, is that the wayward son recognised and acknowledged the error of his ways:

“Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” In this way he earns his father’s forgiveness.

Regrettably, the Prince has shown no sign of contrition.

Patrick Walsh
Newbury, Berkshire

Simpler hot drinks

SIR – With regard to elaborate types of coffee (Letters, February 3), perhaps there should simply be four hot drink options: tea, coffee, highly calorific and madly pretentious.

Sara Ellis
Wimborne, Dorset

Of pennies and pests

SIR – Rosemary Seager (Letters, February 3) is correct that putting copper coins in with the tulips works wonders.

Placing these coins on door sills leading to the garden also stops ants from entering the house.

Lynne Waldron
Woolavington, Somerset

SIR – What is really needed is a 99p coin.

Alexandra Wakid
London SW15

SIR – My wife and I have regular breaks in Minehead or Weston-super-Mare. One of the highlights of these trips is a visit to an amusement arcade, where we fritter away a couple of pounds on the twopenny sliders.

Please don’t deprive this retired couple of their childlike entertainment.

Dave Alsop
Churchdown, Gloucestershire

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