‘Patronizing’ energy regulator says ‘make packed lunch’ to afford sky-high bills

Reuters/Tim Wimborne
In protest against Ofgem’s tips, which were labeled as “patronizing rubbish” by one Labour MP, Fuel Poverty Action are demonstrating outside the regulator’s office in what they are calling the Packed Lunch Protest.

Energy watchdog Ofgem caused uproar on Tuesday after suggesting families struggling with heating bills should make packed lunches and take flasks of coffee to work in order to free up funds.

Ofgem’s suggestions come as figures reveal UK energy firms made an average of £114 profit per household over the past 13 months.

Fuel Poverty Action, however, said instead of issuing “patronizing advice” the Big Six energy firms needed to modify their behavior.

Activists claim nearly 3,000 people in the UK die each week during the winter because their homes are poorly insulated and they cannot afford to top up the meter.

Speaking to RT at the protest Clare Welton said the situation was “absurd" and called the measures "insulting".

“Ofgem is dishing out insulting and patronizing advice and is telling poor people to change their behavior, when it’s the Big Six who need to change their behavior.

“We’re protesting to highlight the absurdity of the situation – thousands of people are dying, we know the bills have been rigged to benefit the Big Six and yet somehow it’s lunchtime meal deals that are to blame.”

"People on normal incomes can't have the heating on as much as they want to" she added, saying that having worked with children, she saw that increasing numbers were coming into schools cold and hungry.

The Big Six declared profits of £2.9 billion in the last year, with profits rising by 50 percent. The average annual household energy bill is £1,300.

Ofgem's other tips for families living on the bread line include cancelling a gym membership in favor of jogging or ‘getting fit for free’, and getting a SIM only mobile phone to reduce charging for texts and calls.

The regulator says that by making packed lunches, the average worker would save £735.80 each year, and not purchasing a daily morning coffee would save a further £676.

Ofgem estimates that if all their suggestions were put into practice, consumers could save up to £2,075.80 each year.

Demonstrators chanted "packed lunches won't keep us warm" and demonstrators read extracts from the Energy Bill of Rights, one of the group's main campaigns.

Welton further said that as well as staging a protest, the group is launching a petition against the Big Six.

“We’re having to start our own petition to get the money out of the Big Six that they should never have taken in the first place. We are sick and tired of the excuses and inaction of the government and Ofgem who are standing idly by, propping up the poverty profiteers whilst thousands of people die this winter.”

“The solution is clear: home insulation and a move towards affordable, sustainable and democratically owned energy, away from the Big Six who have proven themselves time and time again unfit to run our energy system,” she added.

Labour MP Caroline Flint also called the suggestions “patronizing rubbish,” saying “people don't need lecturing on taking a packed lunch to work, jogging round the block or getting a second-hand mobile phone, they need a regulator that will stop energy companies ripping them off.”