Sadiq Khan’s partnership with renewable energy supplier Octopus Energy has been criticised by a senior Conservative AM as representing “extremely poor value for money for Londoners”, with City Hall money spent on marketing the scheme amounting to a good deal only for Octopus.
Challenging the Mayor at the final Mayor’s Question Time session of the extended mayoral term today, London Assembly Member Tony Arbour said the most recent accounts show that “around £3 million” has been spent on the so-called “white label” product London Power, yet only just over 5,000 London households had become customers so far.
Khan, a London Power customer, defended the arrangement with Octopus, saying the marketing campaign for London Power had had to be paused last March when the pandemic took told and was re-started in only “a limited way” in September. He expressed hopes that more customers would be attracted as Covid-19 fades, enabling the marketing effort to be increased.
Bur Arbour said Octopus, which he described as “the parent company of London Power”, had continued to benefited from its association with London Power, which was effectively serving as “a marketing ploy for them, rather than for us”.
The Mayor announced plans for the creation of London Power, which only Londoners can be customers of, in September 2019, and launched it on to the energy market in January last year. Last month Octopus was named a recommended provider by consumer magazine Which? for the fourth year in a row. A “white label” product is one that is produced by one company, in this case Octopus, but branded and marketed under the name of another, in this case London Power.
Khan said London Power provides a service that supports green and renewable energy supply in the capital and saves customers on average of £200 a year, helping to combat fuel poverty. He stressed that Octopus, unlike competitors, automatically moves customers who reach the end of a tariff arrangement on to “the cheapest one under the Octopus umbrella” which, combined with the energy they use being “100 per cent renewable” should be regarded as “a win-win”.
Arbour, however, appeared to question how green Octopus’s output is and suggested it is “no business of the mayoralty” to “subsidise a company like Octopus with the pretence that it’s somehow green and helpful to Londoners”.
Before crossing swords with Arbour (pictured), Khan paid tribute to the Tory AM, 75, who will not seek re-electing as AM for the South West constituency – which covers Hounslow, Kingston and Richmond – on 6 May, saying he will miss him, despite often being on the end of his “wit and sarcasm”, and wishing him the best of luck in the future. Arbour has been a member of a range of Assembly committees and twice been Assembly chair.
Arbour’s career as an elected London politician began when he won a seat on Richmond Council, which he later led, as a 22-year-old in 1968. He served as councillor for Surbiton on the Greater London Council from 1983 until its abolition in 1986 and was one of the original Assembly intake at the elections of 2000, along with Labour’s Nicky Gavron, who is also standing down in 2021.
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