Column: Looking out for you

Election night in Ashfield at Festival Hall - Kirkby-in-Ashfield. Gloria De Piero Labour candidate.
Election night in Ashfield at Festival Hall - Kirkby-in-Ashfield. Gloria De Piero Labour candidate.

It is well known that the big energy firms receive a lot of complaints from customers.

Constituents often come to me when they cannot get their problems resolved and I always take up their cases where I can.

I recently intervened in the case of an elderly blind man from Sutton, who two years ago became aware that his duel fuel bills with British Gas were substantially higher than his neighbours’ bills. Despite new meters being fitted and numerous telephone calls querying what was happening, his bills did not come down and the stress began to affect him.

I wrote to British Gas asking them to look at his account and having done so, they have now issued a full apology. He was over £900 in credit in total – with more than £700 of this due to his electricity direct debit having been too high.

British Gas has agreed to a refund, has adjusted his direct debits to a suitable amount and has given him a further £50 of credit in apology for the way he has been treated. I hope that is the end to his problems.

Ashfield residents are always telling me they want a range of good apprenticeships to be available for their children, so like me, they will be disappointed by a report published recently which shows that the number of apprenticeships for under 25s has flatlined since 2010.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, which wrote the report, says it also has concerns about apprenticeships not offering young people a foundation they can build on because they are not of good enough quality. It has called for an increase in the number of under 25s doing higher apprenticeships to 30,000 by 2020 – compared to 4,200 19 to 24-year-olds today.