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Thursday, 18 February 2016

The great energy rip-off

When it comes to choosing Gas and Electricity suppliers I am baffled. Tariff type, Unit rate, Standing charges, dual fuel, DD, Exit fees, etc, etc. All I want to know is the overall price for supplying gas and electricity but dream on.

My fixed tariff agreement is about to expire. If I do nothing I will be transferred to the Standard Rate with a big hike in charges. Lest I should be bombarded with suggestions that online switching sites are the answer, I know but they can be part of the problem: The Charity Age UK earned £6m a year for encouraging thousands to sign up to special rate that was £245 higher than cheapest tariff.

Money Saving Expert assures me that by using the Cheap Energy Club I can make significant savings by switching to British Gas. That seemed like a good idea before I heard the boss of Centrica on the BBC's Breakfast Time show this morning justifying the rise in British Gas profits of 31%. What if I sign up and then they reduce their prices? I will be stuck with a fixed tariff until February 2017 unless paying exit fees makes a change worthwile.

After reading about a supposed good deal on a switching site a few months ago I decided to switch. My current supplier then phoned to tell me that comparison sites do not necessarily offer the best advice because "there are various ways of calculating costs". Also some sites do not include all suppliers in their comparisons. Then of course there were the meter readings; were they up to date? And don't forget the mild Winter effect.... I accepted the advice offered and left the decision to another day. My supplier couldn't offer a better deal at the time although there could be a better deal in February when new tariffs may be available. I am still waiting and it is decision time.

The Government assures me that competition is good for the economy benefiting customers with lower prices. But what about consumers who are unable to navigate the obstacle course and the many pensioners who do not have access to a computer or lack the necessary internet skills?

Competition has become a means of boosting profits at the expense of the vulnerable. In fact, a proposal considered by the Competition and Markets Authority is a plan put forward by energy companies themselves to end the use of indefinite standard tariffs and 'force' households to choose a new gas and electricity deal every year. A "licence to rip off consumers" was the verdict of the charity Citizens Advice.

Instead of being given a licence to rip off consumers, energy suppliers should be compelled to advertise their cheapest rates, thus enabling customers to choose between suppliers for the best deal.

Now that that would be an innovation!


  1. Talking of rip-offs, I've dusted off my copy of the 2014 Llandaff Cathedral Easter Vestry accounts. Why? Because it was reported on this very website that this year's accounts had been "balanced" at long last, despite the delayed Chapter meeting and the PCC being asked for an extra £20 per head. Oh and the £400K from the Friends that Gerwhine wants to get his paws on.

    You see, I don't believe any figures that come out of Llandaff these days. Back in Jan 2014 the deficit incurred during 2013 was a huge £94,567, compared to a deficit of £71,673 in 2012. The loss of 2014 was £29,271 which was put down to "redundancy costs", but the money saved was mainly from sacking the Cathedral Choir.

    Is it possible for the Cathedral to have saved another £30K between 2014-15, resulting in a balanced account? I don't see how, quite frankly, unless giving suddenly improved and I have reason to think that it didn't.

    Where does the Cathedral spend most of its money? In a sane world, it would spend a goodly portion on maintaining the building, and on its mission, and it would also have a decent reserve account for the proverbial "rainy day".

    Now consider what the Archbishop said at his ill-fated intervention at the Friends' AGM in June 2015. "The money in the Cathedral, a great deal of it - £750,000 in fact - has gone from the Cathedral's coffers on the new organ, in terms of the sale of the house and in terms of the trust money that it had. So really the Cathedral itself at the minute is quite poor in terms of cash reserves."

    Let us take this statement at face value for the moment. The Cathedral cannot have any substantial cash reserves left. We also know that it has been spending very little on maintenance. It has in fact been heavily reliant on cash from the Friends, e.g. for the frankly useless revamp of the Kitchen that somehow swallowed over £25K.

    Where else does the Cathedral spend the money it raises from its congregations?

    The 2014 Easter Vestry accounts show a sizeable amount going out on salaries: £221,831 to be exact, along with a huge £16,541 spent on "office supplies". Exactly how do they burn through £16K's worth of paper per year? There was also a "sundry" cost of £15,113 that was nowhere explained.

    But about that £221K. The Easter Vestry accounts don't break it down and therefore it's not immediately obvious how it was arrived at.

    By reference to the July Management Accounts for 2013, one finds that £60,178 was spent on Music and £83,374 for Administration. Because July is 7/12ths through the year, the final figures can be estimated from these amounts.

    Note that these are overall figures, not salaries as such. The Management Accounts give us a further breakdown:

    Wages (Music) = £34,362
    Cathedral Choir (boys' and girls' scholarships?) = £19,484
    Wages (Office) = £26,274
    Wages (Vergers) = £32,998

    Assuming all these to be 7/12ths of the final year cost, this can be estimated as:

    Wages (Music) = £58,906
    Cathedral Choirs = £33,401
    Wages (Office) = £45,041
    Wages (Vergers) = £56,568

    These total up to £193,916 which is some way short of £221,831! (the difference is £27,915 - another salary perhaps?)

    But it gives an idea of how much the Office staff were costing us in 2013, and the Vergers too. One has to wonder whether anything has been done to bring these costs down, yet the Cathedral chose to destroy its musical tradition instead of economising on its administration.

    Do the Admin and Verging staff deliver value for money? And more importantly, do you trust the Cathedral's management to spend the money wisely, and to be totally transparent about it?

    These are important questions and quite frankly, no one is asking them at Llandaff.

    1. Thank you Bursar, most illuminating and very helpful.
      Lots of people have been asking lots of questions for a long time, especially about the Organ Appeal, the annual deficits and Discretionary Funds replenished by His ++Darkness dipping his hands into the collection plate from time to time.
      The main feature of life in Llandaff in recent years is that you can't get anyone to provide a straight forward answer to a direct question, least of all the glove puppet.

    2. @The Bursar.

      I understand the scholarships for the boy choristers are 2/3 and the girls 1/4 of the school annual fees. I believe these were around £8,000 in 2013.
      Therefore 1 boy scholarship would have been worth in the region of £5,400pa and 1 girl scholarship £2,000pa.
      14 boys at £5.4k would be £75,600.
      16 girls at £2k would be £32,000.
      Therefore, in round figures I think you'd be looking for something in the region of £100-£110k to cover the cost of all the choral scholarships.

      So I don't believe the sum of £19,484 you identified above would have been for scholarships.

      It is far more likely and realistic that the "Wages (Music)" figures would cover the pay of the Director of Music (Moorhouse), Assistant Organist (Gunga), Parish Organist (Thomas) and the boys Health & Safety chaperone (say approximately £28k, £18k, £6k and £6k respectively).

      The "Cathedral Choirs" figures would more likely have been the cost of the Lay Clerks, Choral Scholars and extra singing men (for those special occasions like every Thursday men-only evensong when Moorhouse booked 8 or 9 men to sing to a congregation of 5 or 6).

      Remember, 6 Lay Clerks at £3,300 each would only cost £19,800 per annum.

    3. Bloody hell - how many organists are needed to play one organ? One to pull the stops, one on the pedals and one on the manuals? And where does Timmy Mallet in his black cloak fit into all of this?

    4. More relevant to the current situation and state of financial affairs, how many virgers does it take to keep re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?

    5. This week's grumblings on The Green concern the response to the recent 30 minute lecture given to the Cathedral Stewards by Darth ++Insidious at their dinner.
      It is reported that glove puppet Gerwhine is not at all satisfied with their reaction and has now retaliated by accusing members of his flock of being "subversive".

    6. Christ was called a subversive by the Pharisees and Sadducees.
      Christ challenged their misinterpretations of the scriptures, mismanagement of the temple and tolerance of the money changers in return for commission/bribes.
      At their behest Christ was crucified.

      The parallels with the goings-on in Llandaff are uncanny.

      How I long to be called a subversive in defiance of Pharisee Morgan and Sadducee Capon.

    7. Subversive Steward24 February 2016 at 12:37

      Rest assured, Pharisee Morgan is ignored by the Stewards almost as much as by the Friends.

    8. That would be poetic justice after His ++Darkness ignored the stewards representations about a professional fund raiser/development manager and promoting Graham Holcombe to the post of Dean.

    9. Like the playground bully, Bazza wastes no time sticking two fingers up to those who disagree with his point of view on any matters but he does not like it one little bit if anyone dares to repay him with the same compliment.

    10. The ears in the walls of the Chapter house report there is still no sign of the Quinquennial report. In fact it was not even mentioned.
      Not one of the stuffed toys sitting on the Llandaff Chapter had the balls to even raise the subject.

    11. A timely reminder of some recent relevant statements and claims from Gerwhine and one of his sycophants.

      Dean of Llandaff Very Rev Gerwyn Capon, a former chaplain to the Archbishop of Wales who took over his current role in March 2014, issued a statement .....“The Cathedral has had a full structural review which was revisited and updated in November 2015 as part of the quinquennial survey. The building is perfectly safe, and the Chapter will be launching a restoration appeal for the fabric in partnership with The Friends of Llandaff Cathedral. The quinquennial survey will be presented to the Cathedral Chapter in February and is not a public document."

      gaychristian January 19, 2016 at 5:57 PM
      What motivates you people? The promise has been made that the report will be made available in Feb - what right have you to demand it before then.

      Summary of progress to date.

      The Chapter have not launched any appeal.
      The Friends of Llandaff Cathedral are certainly not in partnership with the non-existent appeal, indeed Gerwhine has driven the Friends to open revolt.
      The Quinquennial survey has not been presented to the Cathedral Chapter.
      The “promise” that “the report will be made available in Feb” is unfulfilled.

    12. Further to the latest meeting of the Council of the Friend's of Llandaff Cathedral with bully boy Bazza's little glove puppet on 25th January, one hears there is no sign of the minutes appearing.
      The smart money on The Green is on Gerwhine refusing to sign them.

    13. You may be correct 1662, but there are at least two possibilities.

      First, Arthur Impey might have produced an accurate set of minutes (that record Gerwhine was given a two hour roasting by the Friends' Council resulting in their refusal to hand over the requested £400k) that the Capon is refusing to sign, which I understand is your preferred option.

      Second, Arthur Impey might have produced an incomplete or inaccurate set of minutes (that do not record the facts of what actually occurred - to spare the glove puppet's blushes) that the Friends' Council are refusing to sign or accept.

      As we all now know, the modus operandi in Llandaff Cathedral is misdirection, concealment and duplicity.
      If I were a gambler, my money would be on the second option.

    14. My money is with yours Essene, concealment and duplicity is the norm in Llandaff.

      Again, the monthly statistics for Communicants don't appear on the "From The Registers" page of The Bell this month.
      How pathetic.
      The duplicitous dean's best efforts will not prevent the ears in the walls ensuring the truth gets out, will not prevent the "subversives" continuing to ask difficult questions or inconvenient and embarrassing reports leaking out.

      Thanks to the glove puppet and oily Toad regime, attendance and giving continue to dwindle.
      And the only response?
      A retired member of the Chapter claims the glove puppet has turned the place around.

    15. And if I were a betting man/lady Essene, I'd say yours was a good forecast. Concealment of evidence is a favorite pastime, epidemic, at 39 Cathedral Road and the Archbishops Registry as well.

  2. This would be a good time to remind disaffected members of the Friends, the PCC and the Chapter about the effectiveness of digital recording devices. Small and easily concealed audio and video recorders can work wonders when the honesty and transparency of our appointed leaders is under question.

    Just ask Fr Stephen Crossan!

    1. Subversive Steward1 March 2016 at 13:05

      The Arch Hypocrite has already fallen foul of digital technology once. The ears in the walls of Llys Esgob report that he's still on the warpath over his £3/4 million organ appeal revelation. The last thing bully boy Bazza needs is a true record of what he says being made.