On 12th May 2014, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, received answers to three written questions on benefits, electricity and housing.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the financial impact on people on low incomes of uprating most cash benefits and tax credits by one per cent from April 2013 rather than in line with inflation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): For 2013/14, the main rates of working-age benefits, statutory payments and tax credits were up-rated by one per cent in the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2013. The Welfare Benefits Up-rating Act 2013 provided for the one per cent increase to apply for 2014/15 and 2015/16. Both of these were accompanied by Impact Assessments.
As part of his ongoing public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010 to monitor impacts on “protected groups”, the Secretary of State continues to monitor the impacts of the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Act 2013 in light of any changes to the underlying rate of inflation. The underlying rate of inflation for increases in 2014/15 is similar to that forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility and used in the Impact Assessment. It is therefore likely that the impacts on affected households will be broadly similar to those detailed in the Impact Assessment.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will act to reduce the unit price paid by those consumers who are able to purchase electricity only from a supplier because they are not on mains gas supply and so cannot benefit from a dual fuel tariff.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): The decision to offer a dual fuel discount to customers who take a gas and electricity supply from one supplier is a commercial matter for the companies concerned. The discount reflects savings made by the company by combining administrative costs of providing the two separate supplies. Dual fuel discounts typically range from £10 to £25 per year. It would not be appropriate for Government to intervene by requiring suppliers to reduce electricity prices for just one specific segment of customers.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether data on the provision of discretionary housing payments by local authorities are collected centrally.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The Department asks local authorities to provide data on their use of
Discretionary Housing Payments on a twice yearly basis. Information regarding April to September 2013 can be found at the following link:
The Department is currently gathering and quality assuring information regarding end of year spend from local authorities for 2013/14.