Friday, May 30, 2008

Fuel poverty plan being unveiled

This issue is perhaps more social than medical, but it impacts on me every year.

BBC NEWS | Business | Fuel poverty plan being unveiled

Lets get people out of fuel poverty. Good idea!

Lets collect and share data with the power companies so they can identify who to help. Then they can offer to insulate their lofts, make sure they are on the cheapest tarrifs, check the draft excluders on the windows.

Not so sure on that. You want to collect data identifying people who are at risk of fuel poverty. How would you do that? I can only imagine the Government would make use of data derived from pensions somehow.

Or (now wait a moment!) could this just be another way to try and persuade us of the merits of national ID cards?

I've just heard a minister on the Today programme, Malcolm Wicks I think it was. He was explaining why the Government thought this was a good idea. He began with the data sharing idea, which made me feel uneasy. I'm on record as to how I feel about ID cards. Given recent episodes of data insecurity I have no faith whatsoever that the Government would keep my data secure. But then he compounded the problem by stating that changing the Pensions Bill, the Government could give itself more "powers".

Government seeking more "powers".

Seeking yet more control over our lives.

Once again they forget that they are our servants, not our masters.

But there is no point in me being critical without suggesting alternatives. Of course, I speak from a position of relative ignorance, in that I am neither an expert in fuel poverty nor a Government minister (who are of course by definition infallible, like the Pope, until they decide to spend more time with their familes).

So how about this as a relatively easy, cheap to administer idea: anyone over 65 on income support gets sent a voucher to give to their energy company. No data sharing, its up to the individual to decide whether to engage with the scheme or not as they see fit. Consequently there is no need to change the Pensions Bill, with a commensurate saving of both Parliamentary time and tax-payers money (no changes/revisions means less working hours spent on it). I can't see that it would cost more than the suggested increase in executive powers. I can see that it doesn't make the Government any more top heavy. More legislation does.

But they won't listen. They never listen. They consult. They decide what they are going to do, decide on a timetable, go through a public consultation exercise (which is to inform, not seek views from, the public) then do what they decided to do. Then they pass laws designed to do what they want without thinking about the difficulties that those laws might cause. This Government is forever having to deal with the Law of unintended consequences. They usually seem to do this by retrospectively changing what they set out to do and saying that it had been their intention to do that all along.

By all means help the poor, Mr Brown. But you don't need "powers" to do that. You just need common sense.

1 comment:

sue francis said...

I have to admit I feel most concerned about this"sharing of data" i am all for helping the poor but this constant control and this Orwellian style government is sinister,not to mention the costs of it will go on admin and not to the benefit of those in need.
Another isue i have problems with is the proposed increase of pay and expenses for mps, is this paid for by abolition of the 10 rate of tax. In the words of Wendy Alexander " bring it on" which in this case, im applying it to general election, two words the government seem to forget.