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Social economy bodies ask political leaders for ‘21st century’ energy debate



The UK’s political leaders must engage in an “informed, pluralistic debate” about key issues such as energy and the economy, according to a coalition of social businesses.

In a letter sent on Friday to the leaders of each of the main political parties, the Social Economy Alliance – a group of 22 leaders from the social economy – has called for “21st century” thinking on the subjects. It says that it would be “tragic” if conversation wasn’t conducted in this way.

The letter adds, “Our key economic debates in the run-up to the general election must not be about big state versus big business. But about big problems versus big opportunities.”

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The Social Economy Alliance’s intervention into the debate comes after Labour leader Ed Miliband used a speech at the party’s conference in Brighton on Tuesday to pledge an energy bill price freeze.

He wrote a letter to the big six energy companies a day later, calling on them to work with the government on a prize freeze in order to “reinforce in the public mind that [they] are part of the problem not the solution.”

Launched in June, the Social Economy Alliance is led by trade body Social Enterprise UK, and backed by the likes of the Young Foundation, Co-operatives UK and the Social Investment Forum, as well as a number of thinktanks, charities and MPs.

Its letter to the political leaders outlines that politicians – along with journalists – have a key role to play in energy and economic debates.

Both groups, it says, “should ensure that community and social sector voices are heard when key economic issues are being debated – the voices of co-operation, citizen action, small business, and community enterprise.

This is the way to prevent further alienation of the electorate mainstream politics – in the 21st century the public needs informed debate and media reporting, where consumers can learn about alternatives at their disposal when it comes to market problems.

The energy market is a perfect illustration of why economic and social policy can and must be mutually reinforcing in 21st century Britain.”

Further reading:

Ed Miliband’s pledge to freeze energy costs sparks intense debate

Households must act against ‘imminent’ energy price hikes, says MoneySuperMarket

Regulator supports calls to speed up energy supplier switching process

Ecotricity announces plans to undercut ‘big six’ electricity prices

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013