Energy bills: thousands cut off

Last year 8,500 households had their electricity or gas cut off because they could no longer meet their bills.

Some 11,000 people in Flanders have been affected in this way. Geert Marrin of Samenlevingsopbouw Vlaanderen blames energy prices that have shot up by a third over the past three years. The network operator is obliged to provide a minimum of energy, but Mr Marrin says that this is not a solution:

"The problem is that the safety net created by the authorities is not at all a comfortable one. That's because the social tariff is really higher than the market rate. The safety net is a temporary solution and the aim is to ensure that people have access to normal market rates as soon as possible. But you notice that commercial energy suppliers are doing everything to prevent this return. They e.g. ask for a surety. The most vulnerable people are excluded and the authorities that can no longer provide a proper safety net have to pick up the bill.

Samenlevingsopbouw wants benefits and the lowest salaries to be increased to ensure people can pay their energy bills.