Great Britain

Council denies energy scheme it backed was a 'white elephant'

BRADFORD Council has defended its decision to support and promote an energy company that one Councillor has deemed a “white elephant” that failed to deliver what was promised.

In 2017 Bradford Council announced it was backing White Rose Energy, a not for profit company aimed at providing low income residents with a fairer energy deal.

The company was spearheaded by Leeds City Council, and Bradford Council urged people to sign up as a way of saving money on their energy bills.

The Council would receive either £7.50 or £15 every time someone in the district signed up, which it would then have to spend on further fuel poverty alleviation work.

It was expected to bring in between £30,000 and £50,000 a year for Bradford Council.

But last month the company folded due to its partner, Nottingham Council run Robin Hood Energy, collapsing.

It has since been sold to British Gas and its customers transferred.

White Rose Energy agreement to undergo further scrutiny at Conservatives' request

Bradford Council has not been impacted financially.

Councillor Debbie Davies (Cons, Baildon) was recently elected deputy leader of the Conservatives on Bradford Council. She had raised concerns about the White Rose Energy when it was first proposed in 2017, and called for greater scrutiny of the decision to back it.

Cllr Davies said at the time that the deal had “set a few alarm bells ringing” because the energy firm wouldn’t always offer the best deal for each customer and pointed out the company didn’t offer the Warm Homes discount which gives pensioners on low incomes £140 off fuel bills.

After hearing that the company folded, Cllr Davies asked how much income the Council had received through its partnership with White Rose Energy and the answer was £11,299 - far short of the original annual predictions given.

She said: “As well as not bringing in a fraction of the income predicted, the collapse of this scheme has caused disruption and confusion to those few who did sign up who now find themselves back with British Gas.

“The Council should admit this was a white elephant scheme and I hope they will learn from their errors and be more careful in future before committing time and money to similar ideas.”

However, the Council has defended its decision to back the scheme, arguing that hundreds of people who signed up had benefitted from cheaper energy.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s Executive member for Healthy People & Places, said: “Giving approximately 650 customers a better deal on their fuel bills for three and a half years doesn’t sound like a mistake to me.

“The fact of the matter is that the big six energy companies were fleecing their customers at the time.

“These big businesses had no challenge or competition to keep prices at a more reasonable level hence why we stepped in to support the initiative.

“Since then, belatedly last year, Government put price caps on these companies which has inevitably changed the market.

“The end result is that 650 people enjoyed better fuel prices, the council gained £11,000 and the lobbying on the industry led to a price cap so more customers had a better deal.”

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