Price freeze 'would save £100m'
A freeze of energy prices would save the taxpayer more than £100 million in reduced bills for public services, Ed Miliband said as he led a Labour drive to promote its central policy to tackle the rising cost of living.
The Opposition leader said £40 million would be cut from NHS costs, £28 million from schools and £21 million from defence if the move was implemented now by the Government and put a halt to an average 6.4% rise in bills.
Labour says that it will act to freeze prices until 2017 if it wins the general election in May 2015 and use the time to reform competition and transparency in the energy market and introduce a tougher industry watchdog.
Tories have dismissed the pledge as a "con", suggesting energy firms will simply push up prices in the run up to any freeze or immediately afterwards, wiping out any benefit.
But the policy has struck a chord with voters and dominated political sparring at Westminster in recent weeks as the bosses of the "Big Six" energy suppliers face fire for dramatically raising household prices.
Labour's figures are drawn mainly from answers to a series of parliamentary answers tabled to Whitehall departments by shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie.
Mr Miliband highlighted the claimed savings of the Government matching his pledge as he visited one of the party's top target seats for the 2015 general election - Hornsey and Wood Green in north London.
"If Labour win the next election, we will freeze energy prices until 2017," he said during a tour of Crouch End.
"Labour's price freeze will save families an average £120 and an average small business user would benefit by over £5,000.
"But it's not just Britain's families and businesses that would benefit from this price freeze, it's our vital public services too.
"New figures today show that if David Cameron put in place our freeze today, public services would save £100m.
"And that matters more than ever in an era when there's less money around."
Savings to the NHS were the equivalent of 1,300 nurses' salaries, he said, and would help the NHS " deal with this winter's A&E crisis, the equivalent of the salaries of 1,300 nurses.
"Our schools could save £28m, that's the same as the salaries of over 700 teachers.
"This freeze will happen under the next Labour government. And while prices are frozen we will reset the broken energy market."
"Across Britain families are struggling from the cost of living crisis and the Conservative Party just doesn't have an answer."
He went on: "Last week in Parliament, the Conservatives and Lib Dems voted against Labour's energy price freeze on the same day it emerged that David Cameron has actually cut his own energy bill thanks to his tax cut for millionaires.
"This shows how out of touch the Tories have become - they are on the side of energy companies not of families struggling with the cost of living crisis and relying on public services that are under huge financial pressure."
Financial Secretary to the Treasury Sajid Javid said: "Labour have got their sums wrong.
"Their policy would actually cost the public finances more in lost VAT and corporation tax, meaning more borrowing and more debt - exactly what got us into a mess in the first place.
"But Labour's price freeze is a price con - it would mean rising prices before, rising prices after, and even Ed Miliband says he would break his promise if there is a wholesale price rise during the freeze.
"That's why hard-working people won't believe Ed Miliband would deliver on his promise."