West Australians have been hit in the hip-pocket, with price hikes to power and gas set to add about $250 to the average annual household bill.

The cost for electricity will rise 7.5 per from April 1, and a further 10 per cent more from July 1.

Premier Colin Barnett said the average weekly power cost increase for consumers would be $4.13 from July 1 – about $215 a year.

Mr Barnett said people facing financial hardship would pay an average $2.78 more a week – or about $145 a year.

About $16.8 million of rebates and hardship assistance measures will be made available.

The state government has also accepted a 7 per cent increase to the gas tariff, which will add a further $33 to a typical household’s annual gas bill – taking the combined average electricity/gas hike to about $248.

Tariff rises will also apply to small businesses, with an average weekly increase of $7.29 (about $379 a year) from July 1.

The combined increase for electricity of about 18.3 per cent is significantly lower than the 25.9 per cent hike assumed in the 2010 state budget.

Mr Barnett said the reason for the price hike was the “botched up break-up of Western Power” in 2005 under the previous Labor government.

“When they did so, they said it would put downward pressure on electricity prices,” Mr Barnett said.

“The disaggregation of Western Power has been a disaster. And an expensive disaster for Western Australian householders.”

Mr Barnett claimed that before the split-up of the electricity provider, Western Power was running at a profit, while it was now running at a loss.

Opposition leader Eric Ripper rejected accepting responsibility for the increased prices, saying the government had to own full responsibility for their decision.

“It’s time for (the government) to do away with the blame game,” Mr Ripper said.

“The split up of Western Power occurred in 2006.

“It’s time for the government to take responsibility for their decisions. It’s their budget; they’ve been in power since September, 2008.

“They have to take responsibility for what they are doing; they can’t any longer hide behind blaming their predecessors.”

The government has also accepted Alinta’s proposal to raise the cap for gas tariffs for residential and small business customers in the Mid-West/South-West, Kalgoorlie-Boulder and Albany regions.

Albany faces the biggest price hike, with gas rising 10 per cent compared to the 7 per cent rise for the rest of the state.

Alinta claims the tariff changes were needed to ensure customers were provided with reliable and sustainable gas supplies in the longer term.

“This government will increase tariffs responsibly to ensure the lights stay on, while also considering the financial pressure many families are already under,” Mr Barnett said.

Payments provided through the Hardship Utilities Grant Scheme will increase from $380 to $408 from April 1, and $450 from July 1 for households in the state’s south. The number of financial counsellors funded through the program will be increased.

Payments for households north of the 26th parallel will rise from $633 to $680.

You can find this and similar articles on the WA Today website.