In advance of the UK government's pre-budget report, Energywatch has called for urgent action to help three million vulnerable households struggling with soaring gas and electricity bills.

Energywatch director of campaigns Adam Scorer said: There’s a desperate need for the government, competition and regulatory authorities and the suppliers to do more to help the three million households in fuel poverty.

The energy watchdog is calling for Westminster to extend winter fuel payments to people with disabilities and children in low-income families, encourage suppliers to provide affordable energy for low-income families, while also urging them to stop charging the poor more for pre-payment meters.

To support its endeavors to expand the application of social tariffs, Energywatch has launched a consultation on the nature of social tariffs in the energy market. The watchdog has also renewed its calls for a Competition Commission enquiry to investigate whether the structure of competition is working for consumers.

Mr Scorer concluded: Energy is an essential market. We’re not talking about luxury goods. There are clear indications that the structure of the GB (British) energy market with six big vertically integrated companies does not provide the spark of competition needed to keep prices as affordable as possible. If consumers are going to feel the full benefit of lower wholesale prices we need to get the market working for everyone, not just for shareholders.