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No relief as electricity costs rise

Thursday, 14th June, 2012

St Vincent de Paul Regional Manager, Pam Sky, says the electricity price hikes are too much for many families. St Vincent de Paul Regional Manager, Pam Sky, says the electricity price hikes are too much for many families.

By Gayle Ball

Low income earners, pensioners and City Council are expected to be among the hardest hit by a 19.7 per cent electricity price hike - the third double digit increase in as many years.

The rise, which will come into effect on July 1, was announced yesterday by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).

It comes on top of average increases of 10 per cent and 17 per cent across NSW in 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively, said IPART, which means prices have risen by almost 47 per cent in the last three years.

The latest hike will increase City Council's power bill by $300,000 next financial year, according to General Manager Frank Zaknich.

St Vincent de Paul Regional Manager for the Wilcannia Forbes Diocese, Pam Sky, said the price hikes were too big for many families to absorb.

"I'm sure it's going to affect people even more with the bigger power bills," Mrs Sky said.

"The price rises are so big.... I think that's very hard on people really.

"It'd be alright if it wasn't quite as much." Mrs Sky said she expected the local charity to receive more requests for financial help from low
income earners and those receiving Centrelink benefits.

"The call is getting greater," she said. "People are coming in now that have never had to ask for assistance before."

For the January to March quarter this year, 3,471 people in the Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese received assistance worth a total of $178,870.

Energy vouchers accounted for 37.4 per cent of that amount; food 22 per cent; debt payment support 20 per cent; and accommodation
9.6 per cent.

Society Conference President for the diocese, Phil Sky, said people could come into the centre and be assessed for their eligibility for assistance.

"We'll expect an increase of people looking for assistance for sure," Mr Sky said.

"It's a never ending thing - the cost of living - it's a daily struggle to put the food on the table and help the kids with their education.

"Everybody's struggling now and electricity bills are one of the biggest concerns."

"It's a big part of your household cost."

Mr Zaknich said the "significant increase" in electricity prices will force Council to pass on some of the costs.

"It will have a significant impact on our street light charges which will go up by $75,000 per year," he said.

"Electricity and heating costs will increase by $225,000."

Tonight Council will hold an extraordinary meeting to consider adopting a 3.6 per cent rise in rates which, if adopted, would raise an extra $480,000 in rate income for the next financial year.

But Mr Zaknich said the electricity price hikes would use up almost half that additional revenue.

"Clearly it hasn't been factored in by IPART," he said. "The rest of the community will be experiencing these increases as well as Council.

"Even if we can endeavor to implement a whole range of energy reduction strategies it won't offset these sorts of increases.

"Council would lookat how it could absorb and pass on the price hikes."

The extraordinary meeting will be held today at 5.30pm. The Member for Murray-Darling, John Williams, said that the solar bonus scheme and carbon tax were partly to blame for the latest price hike, while Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley said carbon tax would hit family budgets "much heavier than the Federal Government told us."

"As far as Labor's so called compensation payments are concerned, you don't have to be a genius to realise the flowon impacts of higher
energy charges and council rates will wipe out any small gain in your bank account pretty quickly," Ms Ley said.

"The sky may not fall in on July 1 but making ends meet is going to get a whole lot tougher than it already is."


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