Darling pledges more help for energy bills

Energy bills

Alistair Darling has promised an extra £100 million to help people insulate their homes, as part of a range of new measures designed to help people struggling to meet the cost of rising energy bills.

In his pre-Budget report, the chancellor announced that the government’s Warm Front scheme, which helps households install free energy efficiency measures, would be extended by £100 million. This, he hopes, will help up to 60,000 more households.

“The Warm Front scheme has already used its additional £50 million to help modest income households get free energy efficiency measures,” he said.

Darling also announced that the £6.8 billion energy saving programme, which was introduced in September, would lead to a 70% increase in installation rates for cavity wall and loft insulation.

However, Mervyn Kohler, a special adviser for Help the Aged, says that this is very unlikely. “In reality the system is just too slow. Many elderly people are just put onto a list and have to wait – the fact is that there is a lack of a skilled labour force to do the jobs promised.”

“But while this is not a brilliant offer for millions of pensioners across the UK, every little bit helps.”

Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern agrees: "Increased funding for Warm Front is very welcome, as is the clear commitment to tackle unfair pricing policies which mean poorer customers pay more. But a radical new fuel poverty strategy is urgently needed to help the poorest pensioners and families who are struggling to afford their bills."

The price of oil has soared in recent months, with some energy companies upping their prices by as much as 35%. However, as the price of oil and gas continues to fall, the energy industry has been reluctant to pass on the cut to consumers.

As a result, Darling has asked the industry watchdog Ofgem to closely monitor price changes and publish quarterly reports.

“If sufficient progress is not made in the next few months in closing unfair gaps in pricing between payment methods, the government will use statutory powers to end unjustifiable pricing differentials,” he said.