Europe

‘Get on with it!’ Britons invoke 70s blackout spirit as food prices and energy bills soar

Renationalisation of energy firms slammed by Ann Widdecombe

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Families are facing a grim winter with experts predicting the cap on energy bills will hit almost £3,600 per year from October before rising again next year. It is a grim forecast which will pile pressure on the Government to take rapid action as it spells pain for more than 20 million households.

But Britons in Romford, Essex, this week expressed their determination to overcome the hardship to come.

Farm worker Stephen Pike, 74, told Express.co.uk: “I remember the three-day week. We never had any lights. They turned the electricity off at a certain time – no arguments – because the miners were on strike. We were told to cook Sunday dinner at a certain time.

“We had candles in jam jars. You prepared your meals beforehand. A sandwich is just as good as a meal.

“The British are always good at moaning, but when it comes to it, you get on with it. You find other ways.”

Bloomberg News reported earlier this month Britain is making plans for organised blackouts for industry and households over winter when cold weather might coincide with shortages of gas.

The media outlet, citing people familiar with Government planning, reported electricity capacity shortfall could total about a sixth of peak demand, according to the latest “reasonable worst-case scenario,” even after emergency coal plants have been put to use.

Under such an outlook, coupled with below-average temperatures and reduced electricity imports from Norway and France, the UK could be exposed to four days in January when it may need to trigger emergency measures to save gas.

However, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said there is no question of the lights going out.

In the 1970s, the UK was gripped by miners’ strikes which led to a series of blackouts with most of the country’s electricity production coming from coal.

Almost all businesses were forced to limit their electricity usage to three days per week while the BBC and ITV had to stop broadcasting at 10.30pm each night.

Britons were told they had to limit heating to one room and keep lights switched off unless they were essential.

Joan Shepherd, 76, from Romford, said she could remember the blackouts.

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She told Express.co.uk: “I remember power cuts and the three-day week. It could be a possibility again.”

Friend Mary Foster, 74, a retired PA also from Romford, joked: “I’ve got plenty of candles and batteries. We got used to it.”

Joan added: “I worry for the children and grandchildren.”

To which Mary replied: “I think we’ve seen the best, but our parents probably said that and they lived through the war.”

Cypriot Ahmed Ali, who lives in Sidcup, called for a further windfall tax on energy companies’ profits.

He explained how his annual bill with British Gas has risen from £1,700 to £2,200. Mr Ali said the energy giant’s most recent offer was for a fixed rate deal at £4,460.

The 62-year-old said: “At the moment I can manage, but I don’t know… There are worse people than me. I’m trying my best – not going on holidays, not buying expensive items.”

Regulator Ofgem is set to announce the new price cap, which will come into effect from October, next Friday.

Energy consultancy Auxilione said its final prediction is officials will set the cap at £3,576 per year for the average household. The cap currently stands at £1,971.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have suggested plans to freeze bills at the same level as now, while many of the biggest energy suppliers have backed a similar idea.

But the Government has made it clear it will not do anything substantial until a new prime minister is in office on September 5.

Mr Ali urged politicians to sit down and do something to get energy bills down.

He said: “They’ve been distracted by the Tory leadership contest. People are suffering. Is it right?”

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