Alan Castle: Hike in costs herald an unhappy new year for us

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CHRISTMAS is past and we have entered another new year, but it will be months until we can expect a rise in temperature and new life in the garden.

Meanwhile, outside the snow and rain showers still come past the window, the temperature seems to be stuck on one degree or lower and our roads remain a skating rink.

I thought that Royal Mail might bring some light into my life, but no. The first item I opened after the New Year period was the renewal of the car insurance. Up £70 on last year. Right, I thought, onto the web and let’s check out a few of these much-advertised price comparison sites.

I scanned every one, but surprise, surprise, not one saved me any money despite their claims that they could save me over £100 if I used them.

When I looked at my cover, counted up the add-ons that I required and then matched the two, the difference was only a pound. I stayed where I was.

Next, my energy supplier told me that prices were going up by some five per cent.

I understand the world is overflowing with gas if reading the national press was anything to go by.

Granted the cost of coal and oil seems to be rising, but where does the five per cent come in?

I called them and called them and called them. I gave up in the end; the piped music drives you mad. But I think it is part of their cunning plan to avoid answering your call.

Next I had to fill the car with fuel. The tank had got quiet low but I was shocked to see the dials clicking by at an enormously fast rate to show £50 and it still wanted to continue, but I thought enough was enough.

The Government-increased duty charge and the hike on VAT had not helped matters, but fuel seems to be going up and up, practically month by month.

I am lucky. I have a mains gas supply, unlike many in the rural areas who have to rely on heating oil. A friend was telling me that in the last few weeks the price has shot up dramatically.

Energy firms know when they have you in their grasp. Come the start of winner, up goes the prices.

This year, the winter has been severe and money will be pouring into their coffers.

Companies will make a huge profit. Will we, the users, see any benefits like a price cut when nature begins to warm up and we can cut down on our use?

I think not.

A RECENT message from our leaders at Northumberland County Council read: “Sorry folks, we are going to have to cut down on salting your roads and pavements because we are running out of salt and cash.”

I might point out that salt and snow ploughs have been as rare as a temperature above freezing in our part of the area, but that is nothing new.

I have a bit of advice for them and I am sure many others have too.

You could immediately save £220,000 a year by scrapping the unloved and totally unwanted Northumberland News and the cash could be transferred to this essential front-line service.

Do it now and gain some credibility.

I RAN out of space last week, and am close to doing it again, but wanted to congratulate one section of our local council workforce who battled through the adverse weather conditions to carry out their duties, which was much appreciated.

While the rest of the country, according to the TV, appears to have piles of rubbish growing in the streets, our local bin men did their job brilliantly.

Even in the week after New Year, our bin was emptied on the normal day and in Christmas week it was one day late because of the holidays, all as advertised.

Well done them!