Energywatch expresses caution after budget

Consumer watchdog Energywatch has given a cautious welcome to the Chancellor’s budget speech today (Wednesday). The watchdog warns the Government not to move at the speed of “the slowest energy companies” in the fight to tackle fuel poverty.

Energywatch also criticised Chancellor Alistair Darling’s plans to give nine million pensioners a one-off increase in the winter fuel payment this year, which it says will only “give a year’s respite”.

Campaigns director Adam Scorer says: “Identifying the targets is important but to equip Britain for the times ahead requires a coherent strategy and determined action.” He adds: “But the game is up for suppliers who are all talk and no action.”

The watchdog has recently criticised energy providers npower and Scottish and Southern Energy for not doing enough for those living in fuel poverty. Npower has also called for a mandatory social tariff.

Scorer says: “One thing the government should have learned by now is that relying on voluntary action by suppliers will not deliver the goods.”

The Chancellor’s budget announced plans to give “a fairer deal” to the five million energy customers on prepayment meters. The Government plans to work with energy companies and will legislate “as necessary”. Darling also outlined plans for energy companies’ spend on social tariffs to rise from £50m to £150m this year.

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