How to beat 60% rise in gas prices? Wear two jumpers, says energy boss

One of the UK's biggest energy suppliers came under fire yesterday after one of its senior executives said consumers struggling with record-high gas prices should keep warm by putting on two jumpers.

Charities for the aged and consumer groups reacted angrily at the comments made by Jake Ulrich, the managing director of Centrica, which owns British Gas. Mr Ulrich made his comments after a report commissioned by his firm warned that household gas bills could rise by 66 per cent over the next two years. That could see some families receiving a £1,000 bill for their gas alone.

British Gas customers have already seen a 15 per cent rise in their gas bill this year, adding an average of £130 to their bills. There were protests from the firm's customers in February, after Centrica posted increased profits of £571m for 2007.

Mr Ulrich said: "I think people will change the temperature they keep the house. I hate to go back to the Jimmy Carter days in the US, but maybe it's two jumpers instead of one."

Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, said: "The millions of pensioners affected by fuel poverty will need much more than an extra jumper to stay warm and well this winter. It is unacceptable that older people could be putting their health at risk because they don't feel they can afford to heat their home adequately. Far more radical action is needed from both the Government and energy companies if the poorest and most vulnerable pensioners are to be protected."

He also urged the Government to introduce emergency measures, such as a fuel voucher scheme, to make sure the nation's poorest pensioners could survive the winter ahead.

Graham Kerr, from the energy industry consumer group Energywatch, said the "inappropriate throwaway lines" from British Gas showed they had lost touch with their customers.

He said: "British Gas customers such as pensioners and others who are on low or fixed incomes are unlikely to see the funny side of suggestions from Centrica that they should put on another jumper to protect themselves against energy price hikes. "The remarks demonstrate how out of touch they are with the daily struggle for their vulnerable customers to keep warm. British Gas and Centrica claim to take fuel poverty seriously, comments like this don't help anyone."

Mr Ulrich told The Independent last night that he, "certainly didn't mean to cause any offence" in making the comments.

"My comments were intended to reflect that people are already thinking about energy efficiency as a way of offsetting increasing energy prices. Upon reflection, I appreciate how they might have been misconstrued and regret any offence caused."

Mr Ulrich also claimed that high oil prices and falling UK production meant that cheap energy was a thing of the past. A barrel of oil hit a record price of $147 this month, but has since fallen back to $133 a barrel.

Energywatch accused the company of making an "artificial and toxic link" between its high gas prices and oil.

It is not the first time that a call to put on extra layers to combat the cold has caused outrage. The former Conservative MP Edwina Currie landed herself in trouble when sheadvised the elderly to guard against hypothermia by wearing "woolly hats and long johns".

The energy supplier Npower caused a similar row in 2006. After increasing energy prices three times that year, it suggested that children should be kept warm with woolly hats and hot water bottles.

Looking good in layers

Guga Filho, a personal shopper at Selfridges in London, said Britons did not always manage to pull off a multi-layered look with style.

"It's not a matter of just putting two things on top of each other," he said. For women, wearing a three-quarter sleeved jacket with a long sleeved T-shirt was also a traditional no-no.

But anyone expecting to turn down the heating this winter will be pleased to know that the look is now in vogue. But chunky jumpers should never be worn together.

As for men, the fashion pundit Iain R Webb said that adding extra clothes could be "intensely stylish" when done correctly. He said: "A fine cashmere crew-neck top, which are available on the high street, can be layered with a cardigan or knitted jacket.

"In fact, Bill Gibb, a designer from the 1970s, based his trademark style around wearing four or five layers of different knitted pieces."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Sport
football
News
Hillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test