Multi-millionaire Jake Ulrich offers advice to families feeling the pinch: 'Stick another sweater on'
A gas firm boss faced a heated backlash yesterday after telling families struggling with soaring fuel bills to 'wear two jumpers'.
Jake Ulrich of Centrica - the parent company of British Gas - was attacked for his 'flippant' and 'out of touch' remarks.
The 55-year-old, who earns more than £1million a year, was accused of having no sympathy with his cash-strapped customers. His firm warned yesterday that gas bills could rise to more than £1,000 a year by 2010.
Consumer group Energywatch called Mr Ulrich's comments 'a slap in the face' for British Gas customers.
A spokesman said: ' 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 provoked the storm by referring to U.S. President Jimmy Carter's advice during the 1977 oil crisis - when he told Americans to put on a jumper and turn down their thermostats to save energy.
The Centrica boss said: 'I hate to go back to the Jimmy Carter days in the U.S., but maybe it's "two jumpers instead of one".
'I think that people will change the temperature at which they keep their homes, they will be more cognisant of energy waste and will buy better appliances.'
Commentators noted that what seemed like friendly advice from a national leader had a somewhat different tone coming from a man whose company is profiting handsomely from the fuel price rises.
Over the last five years, British Gas has increased its prices seven times, including inflation-busting rises of up to 19 per cent in the depths of winter.
Mr Ulrich's remarks have also been compared with the comments often attributed to French Queen Marie Antoinette.
She is said to have responded to complaints that the ordinary people were too poor to buy bread by saying loftily: 'Let them eat cake'.
In addition to a £1million salary as managing director of Centrica Energy, Mr Ulrich has a pension pot worth £3.2million.
He earns £20,000 a week - in stark contrast to two-thirds of single pensioners in this country, who according to the Office for National Statistics have just £200 to cover the same period.
Gordon Lishman of the charity Age Concern said: 'An extra jumper is not the solution to pensioner fuel poverty.
'We estimate more than one in three pensioner households could be in fuel poverty by the end of the year, which is a national disgrace.'