Editorials praise Brown’s energy package

September 12, 2008

brown.jpgUnions and energy watchdogs lashed out at Gordon Brown’s aid package aimed at helping householders cope with soaring energy bills, saying it was “too little, too late”. Even  pensioners’ charities gave a frosty response.

But newspaper editorials on the whole were supportive, describing it as “bold politics. More importantly, it was good policy”, as The Times said.

From The Guardian to the Financial Times, the editorials praised the “eminently sensible” measures which concentrated on big companies helping householders to lag their lofts and cavity walls.

It may not have delivered on the pre-hype, but the editorials blame the government for bumping up the publicity in a desperate attempt to boost its poor showing in the opinion polls.

But the government resisted the temptation to impose a windfall tax on big power companies — a target on so-called excess profits.

Instead, the utility companies have been persuaded to invest 910 million pounds in helping householders pay the cost of insulating their homes.

The editorials said the government was right to resist pressure from Labour MPs and unions to impose a tax.

“In recent months, the government has often changed its tax plans under pressure,” the FT observed. “Not this time. It has been right to resist a windfall levy so far. It should continue to do so.”

The Guardian said: “Despite the chorus of carping, there was much to welcome in the devilish detail of the plans.

“Each of the biggest power firms has been forced to contribute an extra 50 million pounds to energy-saving funds.”

It added: “Much in energy policy is prosaic. A battered government in need of a political fix will not get much joy from publicising and planning the lagging of lofts. That does not stop it being a sensible thing to do. Minutiae it may be, but it matters.”

The Daily Mail believed a windfall tax would have distorted the market and driven big business abroad.

The FT suggested it would have eroded confidence over the fiscal structure’s stability and would have raised the prospect of further levies.

There were fears the companies would pass the cost on to customers, but the leader writers hoped regulator Ofgem would deal with any industry malpractice.

The Times looked at how they could be rewarded for their social contribution, and suggested tradable carbon permits could serve this purpose, as could allowing them to keep the proceeds of any efficiencies they achieved.

The Daily Mail, in a rare show of support for Brown, supported his “wise” decision not to give large-scale handouts to people to help with fuel bills.

“Isn’t it better to offer every family the chance to cut their bills permanently, by fitting better insulation, than to hand over a one-off voucher for 100 pounds, as was suggested?” it asked.

The energy efficiency measure would pay for itself within three years, though the Guardian pointed out that many would suffer during this time  and would continue to do so afterwards.

“Asking someone who is already cold to shiver their way through another three winters before the lagging arrives is not an acceptable policy,” it said.

“And even after the insulation arrives, the millions of hard-up households who have neither lofts to lag nor wall cavities to fill will still feel short-changed.”

It also said the country now faced a shortage of loft laggers.

The government gained “brownie” points for its green credentials. The country’s housing stock is among the least fuel-efficient in Europe, the FT pointed out, and reducing waste is critical to cutting emission of greenhouse gases.

The Times backed the view: “It sends a vital signal that efficiency must be at the heart of any sound energy policy, not the fringe.”


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I’ve just paid £149 to have my loft insulated by a company offering ‘free’ insulation. Unfortunately because I am not over 70 nor on benefits or a single parent, I had to pay.
I’m very pleased at the type of insulation installed and hoping this will lessen my gas bill, even so £149 may still be difficult for some people. It would have been ideal for the government to have made this free for people on low incomes, ie. a household nett income of less than 15,000 so more people would benefit. Single people get no favours in any budget yet we have to pay the same fuel/bills.

Posted by D.Dwyer | Report as abusive

Seems strange to me that people like myself who already have loft insulation,cavity wall insulation,double glazing, central heating and low energy lighting,do not get any help with this package.
Before the recent increase by n power my supplier i was paying 21% of my household income (according to the government10% is fuel poverty).
Been housebound for long periods due to a disability im finding it very hard to manage now never mind when the next bill arrives.

Posted by G.Riley | Report as abusive

There is also the winter fuel allowance available, and from what I understand, that will be increased under the new package. The government is bending over backwards to help. They can’t pay your bills.

Posted by Rachel | Report as abusive

Carry on Mr. PM! Another nice touch. Taxpayers, learn from our leader. Just insulate your pockets with crisp sterling notes and you will keep warm this winter.

Posted by Cybergeek | Report as abusive

When gas and electric prices were increased we were told that that it was due the prices being aligned with oil. Oil prices have dropped dramatically in recent weeks but there is no sign of gas or electricity following . The government takes no action because it is desperate for the extra tax revenues and needs the energy companies to finance the new nuclear pwer ststions we need. This government continues to show that ” Rome can be demolished in a day “.

Posted by Robin Brittain | Report as abusive

My husband and I are penshioners, and before we retired we saved hard and installed double glazing, loft and cavity wall insulation. We also had a combi boiler installed. Now we are going to have to pay for some feckless people to have these necessities. What a government!

Posted by Delia Mackenzie | Report as abusive

The editorials seems (rightly) to be praising the decision to forget windfall tax.

But the fact still remains that the householder will ultimately pay for this energy package – always supposing it can be implemented. Elsewhere I’ve read that insulating 14 million homes will take until 2020 at least. Sure, people like to exaggerate so maybe it’ll take up to 2017 but that’s still a long time.

And many homes cannot be insulated this way. What about them?

Perhaps Gordon Clown can now divert all those nice people drawing up Home Information Packs to doing some cavity wall insulation.

So I agree, forgetting the windfall tax is good. But simply redirecting it to an “energy package tax” is bad. It will come out of our own pockets.

The simplest he could have done was scrap VAT on fuel bills.

He’s a bad Chancellor. He never saved up when the going was good….just squandered our gold reserves among many other mistakes.

Posted by Dane | Report as abusive

Editorials should not praise Brown’s energy package, but should point to his huge lies and huge hidden tax on energy

Posted by Lec Neli | Report as abusive