Electricity cost to escalate

DON Morgan believes pensioners have been short-changed by recent increases to their payments because they will soon be paying at least an extra $200 per year for their electricity.

"We have been given money from one level of government and then it has been taken away by another," the outspoken pensioner said yesterday.

"The government only gives us about $112 per year to help cover power costs, and single pensioners recently got their extra $32 per week, but that will soon be dwindled away if they keep putting the prices up on things that we can't live without."

The Tweed Heads South pensioner was commenting on news the Independent Pricing and REgulatory Tribunal (IPART) has given electricity suppliers permission to increase the cost of supplying power - by 16 per cent in the cast of Country Energy.

The increase, to come in effect from July 1 and said to cover the escalating costs of supplying adequate electricity infrastructure, will mean customers of Country Energy will pay at least an additional $3.92 per week for their power, or an additional $203.84 per year.

"We paid about $400 for our last quarter electricity bill, and it was large because we had the air-conditioner on throughout summer tokeep cool, which keeps away heat stress," Mr Morgan said.

"We also use a lot of power in winter to keep warm, and now it is going to cost us more than most pensioners can afford, especially when the pensions increase doesn't come into effect until September."

Member for Tweed Geoff Provest said the Tweed's low-income earners could not afford the increase, especially if none of the additional funds are used to improve local power supplies.

"Tweed pensioners are again being forced to pony up for NSW Labor's economic incompetence," Mr Provest said.

IPART consultants agreed more needed to be done to help low-income earners pay the additional cost.

It has suggested pensioner rebates should be increased form $112 to $130 and that should be a percentage of the bill, rather than a fixed amount.

IPART has also recommended the Government reconsider the eligibility criteria for the rebate by giving it to Health Care Card Holders, rather than just pensioners.

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