Confusing energy bills will only make it harder for families to budget this winter

An energy bill on a telephone – PA

SIR – Government assistance for the cost of energy is managed differently by suppliers.

Some companies are refunding the £66 monthly payment direct to consumers on receipt, while others are reducing their £66 monthly direct debits. I don’t know if Ofgem agreed to these arrangements, but I would have thought consistency would be the best way to avoid confusion.

A major company mistakenly withheld the £66 and left the direct debit amounts unchanged. I understand that this is due to a problem with the computer system. This situation needs to be resolved urgently. Consumers have enough to worry about without inaccurate bills.

Ray Cope
Former director of the Gas Consumers Council
Langford, Bedfordshire

SIR – Our latest energy bill indicates a 35 percent drop in consumption over the past year. This was on top of the previous year’s savings.

What a disappointment, then, to see the cost rise by £140 a month during the same period. However, as retirees my partner and I have each received £250 towards our annual winter fuel allowance, the £400 grant from the government and a £150 council tax refund. The end result: little change.

Government energy policies are the equivalent of giving with one hand and taking with the other. Will someone fix this?

Paul Caruana
Truro, Cornwall

SIR – Is it really necessary for the government to spend 25 million taxpayers’ pounds on an information campaign that tells us how to save energy?

Turning off the radiators in empty rooms, turning off the heating when you leave, taking a shower instead of a bath – have we become such an unfortunate nation that we have to ask ourselves to do these things?

Peter Rose
Ringwood, Hampshire

SIR – This year I have forced myself to be particularly mischievous, in the hope that Santa Claus will bring me a sack full of coal.

Martin Stick
East Grinstead, West Sussex

See a primary care physician

SIR – Doctor NW Bunting (Letters, November 25) states that general practitioners’ offices handled over 28 million appointments in September.

But how many of these were carried out by GPs, face to face or over the phone?

It’s easy to trumpet numbers, but the truth is that many people find it very difficult to see a family doctor. First you have to wait on the phone forever. Then you are questioned by a non-medical receptionist before being informed that all appointments are due by eight and one minute in the morning.

Roland Fry
Wisbech, Cambridgeshire

SIR – “Naming and shaming” general practitioner practices will harm patient care. The “rankings” do not take into account the different circumstances that influence practices and only cause distrust and fear in patients about the care they are receiving.

Behind your headline is the fact that GPs and their teams delivered a record 36.1 million visits last month, nearly 40% on the day they were booked and over 71% in-person, the highest percentage since before the pandemic.

This has been overlooked to fuel the idea that remote care is ‘bad’ and in-person care is ‘good’, when we know that safe and appropriate care is delivered remotely and many patients find it convenient.

Our data shows that four in 10 GPs are already planning to quit in the next five years due to chronic workload and workforce pressures – and unfair oversight will only make it worse.

The government should focus on delivering the 6,000 more general practitioners promised in its manifesto, not demonizing and demoralizing the hardworking general practitioners who keep the NHS going.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne
President, Royal College of GPs
London NW1

Homes for young people

SIR – Every time a proposal for progress is put forward by the government, it is vetoed by a relatively small group of rebel MPs. This week, for example, these lawmakers blocked sweeping changes to zoning laws.

This eliminates the opportunity for hundreds of thousands of young people to own their own homes and for better availability in the rental sector. It also goes against the core beliefs of the Conservatives and will not be forgotten by young voters in the next election, or even by their parents and grandparents, who were able to gain home ownership.

Mike Powell
Loughborough, Leicestershire

Human rights reform

SIR – It is widely believed that the problem of illegal immigration cannot be resolved as long as Great Britain remains committed to the European Convention on Human Rights. What is the government waiting for?

With an interior minister campaigning to leave the ECHR, a justice minister believed to sympathize with that course of action, and a government with an “amazing” majority, what appears to be missing is the political will to undertake the necessary action.

If the government is dissuaded from withdrawing from the ECHR by fear of being accused of abandoning human rights, it could easily counter these specious claims by substituting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in place of the ECHR.

If decisive political will is not available, on this issue in particular, then the government has real reason to fear the will of the people expressed in the forthcoming general election.

Christopher Gill
Bridgnorth, Shropshire

Fruitful multiplication

SIR – At my school in Liverpool in the 1940s, the song of the multiplication tables (Letters, November 25) rang out in the corridors shortly after the 9am recording. It was a confidence-building exercise, as enjoyable as it was necessary.

Alex Robb
Liverpool

SIR – The multiplication tables were something that “we also did in the family” (Letters, November 25), despite the fact that in the 2000s my children’s elementary school did not teach them.

I bought a pack of flashcards and added the incentive of a cent for every instant correct answer. Progress was rapid, as a full house of 110 earned what seemed like a fortune to a small child.

Frances Williams
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – When I was a primary school student in the 1950s I was instilled with multiplication tables and I am grateful for that.

However, I still remember a question in my 11+ exam asking, “What number multiplied by itself equals 169?”

I was mentally working on the 12 times table when my class teacher whispered, “Thirteen thirteen.”

Maria Moore
Croydon, Surrey

Second homes don’t always bring discord

A GWR advertisement for Cornwall, depicting St Ives, by Brian Batsford, 1935 - Alamy

A GWR advertisement for Cornwall, depicting St Ives, by Brian Batsford, 1935 – Alamy

SIR – Chris Rodda (Letters, November 24), from Boscastle in Cornwall, scolds visitors who try to curry favor with the community “on the occasion of their annual visit”.

Our experience of owning a second home in South East Cornwall has been very different. Our condo is one of 100 in the building; 20% of the occupants are resident owners and they welcome us as friends every time we visit.

Our lease agreement prevents us from renting for holidays, so we visit every month, often with friends and family, bringing in much needed income for the Cornish tourism industry in all seasons. We travel frequently to support village events and will be returning in December for the Mount Edgcumbe Christmas charity fair.

Tourism in Cornwall delivers nearly £2 billion a year and directly employs 53,000 people. Malcolm Bell, the retired head of Visit Cornwall, should have considered the facts before attacking those of the “up country” (report, 23 November), many of whom love Cornwall and seek to give more back than they take.

Geoff Pringle
Along Sutton, Somerset

Loving ‘Love Actually’

SIR – Tim Robey thinks Love Actually is “the embarrassing uncle of British cinema”.

She’s not smart enough, it seems. Or funny. Or believable. Who ever heard of an unmarried British prime minister? And Edward Heath? Or Boris Johnson when he took office?

Mr. Robey is wrong in thinking that all the “major” critics loathed the film. The leading American critics of their day – Stanley Kauffmann, Andrew Sarris and Roger Ebert – all reviewed it favorably.

Mr Robey also claims that the film met with unanimous hatred from British critics. James Christopher in The Times found it “incredibly likable, and I watched it and cried twice”.

Mr Robey poked fun at a line from my five-star Daily Mail review (which I switched to after being a film critic for a large newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph), in which I praised Richard’s “self-discipline” Curtis, but it was exactly the quality needed to compress so many subplots into one cohesive film.

Then the overly serious critics had missed the point, and continue to miss it. Too many have despised Curtis’ films for not being didactic pieces of social realism – something they never intended to be. Love Actually should be judged by romantic comedy standards and by the social mores of his day, not ours.

Box office returns around the world tell their own story: audiences loved it. If critics can’t figure out why, they should be watching themselves, not the movies they choose not to understand.

Christopher Tookey
London N1

G&T time

SIR – As an accomplished G&T enthusiast, and after half a life in the marine industry, I have to question Craig Heeley’s statement (Letters, November 25) that it is “G&T time at five bells of the clock”.

All sailors know that five bells are 2:30, 6:30 or 10:30 (am or pm) – which, in my opinion, are all too late or too early for a G&T.

Graham Wistow
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

SIR – When I was a boy who started working in the Municipality, I received a phone call from a client of my boss, who was not in the office. He suggested he call her back at ‘dressing time’ – not a common phrase in the humble streets of Tottenham in those days.

Brian Howard
Enfield, Middlesex

Crocs of Hockney

SIR – How I admire David Hockney’s yellow Crocs. What an icon and what fun. My hero.

I wonder how long it will be before the yellow Crocs sell out. Unfortunately mine are red.

Jacqueline Davis
Faversham, Kent

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