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Ofgem staff should be ‘marched back into work’ to stop energy market volatility

·2-min read
 Electricity pylons_energy
Electricity pylons_energy

Ofgem has faced criticism for allowing the majority of its staff to work from home amid concerns widespread remote working has contributed to “public sector sluggishness”.

According to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, 85pc of Ofgem staff were working remotely in May.

The regulator provided a “monthly snapshot” of employees working remotely on the first Monday of every month from May 2021 to May 2022, which showed 1,147 of 1,350 employees did not come into the office on May 1 this year. The year before, 99pc of staff were home-based.

The regulator said it had moved to a hybrid working model in April, which required all staff to attend work at least one day a week, with the rest of the time working from home.

Joe Malinowski, of price comparison service the Energy Shop, said it was surprising Ofgem staff had not been “marched back into the office” following the collapse of several supply chains.

“Given the significant problems of energy markets, many of which have been of Ofgem’s own making, one would genuinely have expected staff to have been marched back into the office to get on with the job of getting market working for consumers again,” he said.

Joe Ventre, of The Taxpayers Alliance, said there were "bound to be concerns that widespread remote working is contributing to public sector sluggishness.”

Last week Ofgem was criticised for creating “an energy market built on shaky foundations” which led to the collapse of several suppliers.

Meg Hillier, MP and chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “Once again, it's the public who has to pay for the mistakes of those charged with protecting them. It's unacceptable.”

The cost of failed energy providers totalled £2.7bn, which was passed on to all billpayers in Britain. Meanwhile, the energy price cap will hit £2,980 when it is next reset in October. It is expected to rise to £3,000 in January, according to predictions by energy consultancy Cornwall Insight.

Gareth Davies, head of the National Audit Office, said Ofgem had “failed to imagine there could be a long period of volatility in energy prices”. Consumers had borne the brunt of the supplier failures, he said.

Ofgem said it was already working to address the issues raised and admitted to suppliers its financial resilience scheme was “not robust enough.”.

A spokesman for Ofgem said: “Our staff are working relentlessly to protect customers during these very difficult times, whether from home or in an office, and it is an insult to suggest otherwise.

"As mentioned in the FOI response and in line with Government guidelines, the Ofgem offices are open, and employees are working part of the time in the office and part at home."

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