An inspector calls

Hats off to the team at NCC and Prison Reform Trust as the regulator Ofcom has agreed to press for changes in the exorbitant phone charges paid by prisoners. These can be up to seven times the going rate for the public.


Broadcast media coverage over the weekend about energywatch’s closure. Colleagues describe this to me as ‘valedictory’ work, but one could think of shorter words!


The Saturday morning TV slot on BBC breakfast news is at 

I said no to being featured myself. It is our job to campaign for better outcomes for consumers and I’d prefer to be judged by that.

A little bit of bliss


Took a break from the staffing work for a team celebration for Rob Forsyth, the transition comms lead for Consumer Focus.

Rob and Laura are getting married on Saturday, so today was the chance for cake and cheer in advance.


Thanks v v to Sally who has sent me these photos of the Red Lion pub in Trefeglwys, Wales, which will now offer post office services. The post office terminal lines go in this week and the pool room has been converted to a community shop, as well as housing the post office. Community services will be a key issue for Consumer Focus. So we will keep an eye and best of luck to them – it will give ‘the local’ a new meaning.

Postwatch walks on water

I have just joined the Postwatch Wales committee for an evening to mark their achievements, with Eifion, their Chair.

One of the challenges the team has made successfully on post office closures was the Panally post office, where the community was told that they had an alternative within three miles.

Yes, but only on Caldy island over the water, the team argued – and won the day.


While the staff matching steps up a gear this week, we have kicked off an important research commission which is to look at the experience of micro-enterprises as consumers. Richard from Corona Energy left a comment on this blog in August, suggesting we be open to small business. The answer is yes, we are – our Extra Help Unit will serve enterprises that are vulnerable. But alongside this, we are commissioning what I think will turn out to be ground-breaking research that looks at micro-enterprises as consumers.

I think of micro-enterprises as kitchen table businesses, learning from my time as a patron of the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies. In the media, business is equated with ‘big business’, or small business indeed which can still cover firms with staff of a couple of hundred. The structure of business in the UK is in fact like a feudal structure, with the largest number of firms at the level of least employees. These are consumers of services and often highly dependent on them, like banking, where they don’t traditionally get the best deal, through to post and energy. In a world of eBay and user-generated content, who consumes and who produces is starting to blur anyway, so the answers from this landmark research should be of very wide benefit and will inform our campaigning.

Cold comfort

Richard (Bates) has sent over a copy of energywatch’s hard-hitting report on life in fuel poverty. This is an emergency and the work is excellent in exposing the costs and the trade-offs of life coping with being fuel poor.