Osborne warns energy firms over price hikes

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, waves after delivering his keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, central England October 8, 2012. REUTERS/Darren Staples

LONDON (Reuters) - Energy suppliers, hit by rising operating and fuel costs, should think twice before hiking rates for cash-strapped families, Chancellor George Osborne said on Friday.

Two of Britain’s biggest energy suppliers - Centrica-owned British Gas and RWE’s npower - have said they will raise prices just as millions of consumers turn up their heating for the winter.

“I’m concerned when I see electricity bills going up and partly that is because of things beyond our control - what’s happening in the world with oil prices and gas prices,” Osborne told ITV News.

“We’ve also got to do everything we can in Britain to try and keep those bills down. I would urge those energy companies to look again at any increases to see if they are absolutely necessary at a time like this.”

Osborne, serving in a coalition government lagging behind a resurgent Labour opposition in opinion polls, is under pressure to do more to nurture economic growth and help households after Britain fell back into recession this year.

“These energy companies should make sure they’re only adding to their bills the absolute minimum they need to add to continue investing in our energy supply and they’re not going beyond that,” he said.

Another energy supplier, SSE has told customers their rates will rise by nine percent from Monday.

Reporting by Matt Falloon; Editing by Michael Roddy