Friday 31 May 2019
Our comments on smart meters and vulnerable energy customers has appeared in a number of national news outlets.
Smart meters miss targets
The Times, 31/05/2019, p.45, Emily Gosden
Only 1.03 million gas and electricity smart meters were installed by large energy suppliers in the three months to March, down by 22 per cent from the peak of 1.32 million in the fourth quarter of 2017, official figures show.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said it showed “yet again the target for everyone to have a smart meter by the end of 2020 is unfeasible” and called for it to be extended to 2023.
This story also appeared in the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, with the latter claiming the price of the roll out has “gone up by an average of £17 [to £391] and could rise again to £400” per person.
Urgent action needed to support vulnerable energy customers, says report
Mail Online UK, 31/05/2019
Energy companies, regulators, the Government and price comparison sites must better identify vulnerable consumers and improve the support given to them, the Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances recommends.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said: “It’s critical that energy customers in vulnerable circumstances get the right support at the right time, and this report rightly highlights a lack of consistency across the sector.”
This story was also picked up by BBC Online and the Mirror.
Nationalisation threat shocks power networks
Financial Times (subscription required), 28/05/2019, p.17, Nathalie Thomas
The article discusses the Labour Party’s proposed plans to renationalise the pipes and power cables that transport gas and electricity around the country.
According to the Party, since privatisation began in 1986, network companies have made “huge profit margins”, overcharged customers “to the order of billions of pounds” and failed to “invest properly.”
In 2017, Citizens Advice published a report revealing that networks make “eye-watering” profit margins in the region of 19 per cent at the expense of British households.
Those against the plans argue that nationalisation will jeopardise the country’s decarbonisation targets. Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, which is neutral on renationalisation, said there was “no evidence introducing fairer prices for customers will risk lower levels of investment in decarbonisation and electric vehicles”.
Utilities customers ‘should be compensated after being overcharged by £24.1bn’
Today, BBC Radio 4, 30/05/2019, ( 6.23am about 23″ into clip)
Our Executive Director of Advice and Advocacy James Plunkett appeared on BBC Radio 4’s flagship breakfast programme. He told Today the report was the result of over a year of very detailed research.
He said: “We think consumers should get the money back. And regulators should be much tougher in the future.”
Director of Policy, Matt Upton, appeared on Sky News and BBC Breakfast this morning (7.23am, about 1’23” into clip) to talk about the report.
He told the BBC regulators had made a series of mistakes in their projections on how much the utilities would need to spend on infrastructure.
He added: “We looked at how much regulators thought these costs would be, against how much they actually have been in reality over a period of 15 years. We think there’s a gap of in excess of £24 billion… we’ve all overpaid for our essential services.”
More help available for Universal Credit claimants
Sunderland Echo, 29/05/2019, Gavin Ledwith
Several offices have appeared in local newspapers to publicise the new Help to Claim service.
The Sunderland Echo reported that four staff at Citizens Advice Sunderland now devote their time to helping people apply for Universal Credit.
The office has helped 293 people with queries about the online-only applications in less than two months.
Chief Officer Denise Irving said: “One of the reasons behind the new service is to help people to understand the digital requirements of Universal Credit and we can help them up to their first claim.
“Clearly there is still a certain number of people who are not comfortable digitally so it can be good to have someone sitting alongside you to help you.”
Citizens Advice Hartlepool Chief Officer Joe Michna told his local paper the Hartlepool Mail: “We have had a steady trickle of new claimants coming in since the start of April and expect that to increase as word gets out.
“Whereas in the past it might take one or two weeks for us to see someone about Universal Credit, now it takes one or two days.”
Citizens Advice Plymouth’s Help to Claim service was featured on local website Plymouth Live. The article said the service will be individually tailored. It’s available, face-to-face, over the phone and online through webchat. Advice content may include assistance with the online application form or help with providing evidence like childcare costs.
In other news
More than five million renters in England get new rights from Saturday as the Tenant Fees Ban finally kicks in.
Council spending on local services down 21% over past decade, says Institute for Fiscal Studies.
BBC reports 11 English councils in danger of ‘running out’ of reserve cash.
A surge in “keyless” car thefts has driven motor insurance claims to their highest level in seven years.