The energy secretary, Amber Rudd, has been heavily criticised for her choices in appointments to the committee that will form her new fuel poverty watchdogs. Ms Rudd, who has come under fire in recent times for apparent “hypocrisy” in the COP21 Climate Change talks and for taking an axe to green subsidies, has now decided to appoint the former chief of npower and the chief energy industry lobbyist to her new body.
The former chief executive of Npower, Paul Massara, resigned his position after a huge amount of customers left the energy giant following a dismal record with customer service an improper billing. He will now sit on the committee for fuel poverty as of this week.
Mr Massara will be joined by Lawrence Slade. Mr Slade is currently fulfilling the role of chief lobbyist for the energy industry in his position of CEO of the trade body Energy UK. In recent times Mr Slade has spoken out against the claims of the public and Ofgem that the energy industry is letting down its customers due to the fact that the prices of household energy are not falling in line with the decrease of the cost of wholesale energy.
The purpose behind the formation of the new committee is to help advise the government on how they can help reduce the number of people who are struggling to keep up with their gas and electricity bills.
According to the Labour party, 13,000 people died due to having cold homes last year. They also claim that insulation has fallen by around 80% under the conservative government.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change were in charge of the appointments of both men, overseen and approved by Amber Rudd. The Fuel Poverty Action group said that the decision of Ms Rudd was absolutely shocking.
A campaigner for the group, Laura Hill, said:
“[I am] devastated to hear the people who were involved with driving up energy bills are now responsible for protecting the most vulnerable.
“These people’s careers have been built on making astronomical profits for the big six [energy companies]. They have very little interest in ending fuel poverty.”
She said that this decision proves that the conservatives are “in bed with the big six” and went on to say that they should be implementing a mass insulation programme.
A spokesman for the energy department said:
“It is only right that the independent group advising government on tackling fuel poverty includes members with experience and expertise in the energy sector, as well as the charitable sector.
“We look forward to hearing the committee on fuel poverty’s views and advice on how the government is helping vulnerable consumers.”
The new committee’s members are believed to be earning around £8,000 per year for working two days per month. The body will replace the fuel poverty advisory group that was disbanded after a review of its operations in 2015.
The committee will be chaired by the chief executive of Age UK- a charity aimed at helping the elderly in this country, Tony Wright. Mr Wright was also chair of the British Gas Energy Trust, which was set up to help individuals and families that are in fuel poverty.
David Blakemore is another committee member. He was director of Phillips66 until last year. The company acts as an oil refiner and distributor of heating to customers that live off of the grid.
These appointments have been made against the backdrop of serious concerns that the government has slowed down its efforts to tackle fuel poverty since it took control of the energy department after last parliament’s coalition was ended. This concern has been raised by both the Labour party and various charities.
Labour say that around 4.5 million homes were made more energy efficient in the last parliament but now that the conservatives have a majority government, they are only going to achieve the same for a further 1 million homes.
Energy minister, Lord Bourne, said last week that plans to replace schemes such as the Green Deal would not be rolled out until some time in 2018.