Protest groups take action across London to highlight fuel poverty

Protest groups have taken coordinated action across London on what they have called the Fuel Poverty Day of Action.

Campaigners from the Don’t Pay UK and Fuel Poverty Action groups held what they called a “warm up” at the British Museum and Stratford Westfield on Saturday afternoon.

The groups held the protest against rising energy bills and “sky-rocketing” levels of fuel poverty.

Warm-up protests involve “occupying a location to run an unauthorised warm bank and bring attention to sky-rocketing rates of fuel poverty”, the group said.

Other warm-up protests will take place at a shopping centre in Manchester, and in Liverpool, Brighton and Bristol.

Members of Just Stop Oil held their own protest by occupying beds and sofas in Harrods to demand the Government insulate homes and end the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels.

After displaying signs such as “just stop oil, just start insulation”, “just stop fuel poverty” and “oil equals death”, the group were escorted out by security guards.

A spokesperson for Just Stop Oil said: “This government is allowing ordinary people to starve and freeze this winter as greedy energy companies squeeze every last penny out of us. The health service is in crisis, workers’ wages are being squeezed, and nurses are using food banks. Austerity is a political choice and the cost of living crisis is an unprovoked attack on ordinary people.

“Worse still, rocketing energy prices are funding the companies who are torching the climate. Rishi Sunak’s government plans to allow over 100 new UK fossil fuel projects. They are signing our death warrants. New oil and gas is criminal, an act of genocide against billions of people in the poorest countries on earth, and an act of war against the young.

“If the government really cared about ordinary people, as they keep claiming, we’d see an emergency response to the climate and cost of living crisis. Everyone would have their basic energy needs met and bills would be shrunk through insulation, renewables and free public transport, paid for by the fossil fuel companies and the rich.”

Neil Smith, a spokesperson for the Don’t Pay campaign, said: “No one should go cold in winter, yet what we’re seeing is a mass default on these extortionate energy bills and thousands set to freeze in their homes.

“While the Government stands by, we’re coming together in our communities to fight back and keep each other warm.”

Don’t Pay has drawn attention in the past for encouraging people to cancel direct debits for their energy bills in response to the “mass default” already occurring among those who cannot afford to heat their homes.

The groups are demanding the government immediately tackle the energy and cost-of-living crisis by introducing Energy For All, defined as “a universal, free band of energy to cover people’s necessities”.

This would be paid for by “ending all public money subsidising fossil fuels, a more effective windfall tax on energy companies and higher tariffs on luxury household energy use.”

Stuart Bretherton, Fuel Poverty Action campaign coordinator, said: “Energy For All would achieve what our energy system and economy should ultimately be geared towards, ensuring everyone’s basic needs are met.

“Ordinary people cannot keep footing the bill for crises created by the wealthy, it’s time for the big polluters and profiteers to pay their share.

“Through this we could also incentivise much needed climate action on home insulation and a transition to renewables.”