Lewisham Council was faced with angry residents, community activists and a fuel poverty action group, who came together on Friday evening to protest against high energy bills.
People gathered in front of Lewisham Town Hall in Catford for a briefing on the issue, before entering the reception, not just to warm up but to stay in. They then held a forum to discuss the wider issues around high bills.
Ewa Jasiewicz, 33, an activist and campaign organiser told the Council’s security guard: “We are locals and this is a taxpayer-heated building so we will be ‘warming up’ here.”
She added: “One in four UK homes are in fuel poverty; many have to choose between heating and eating this winter, while an estimated 2,700 people will die unable to heat their homes this year.”
The activists say the ‘big six’ energy companies – British Gas, EDF, npower, Southern Electric, E.ON and Scottish Power – have a 99 per cent monopoly on UK energy and are making record profits.
Three police cars later arrived at the Town Hall, and an officer told the group they would have to leave before the council closed for the evening.
Activist James Holland, 39, spoke to EastLondonLines just before being arrested for trying to break into a closed office. He said: “It is a disaster that people are dying of cold while the big six and housing providers are making profits over the right to a warm and safe home.” Holland was released a short time later.
Dave Croft, 32, said: “We are all here to demand democratically controlled and accountable energy, decent, fuel-efficient housing, and an end to deaths caused by fuel poverty.”
Local resident Julie E, 73, said she believes energy monopolies are an example of “the worst kind of capitalism”, which widens the gap between the poor and the rich.
“I feel terribly sorry for young people. I was not surprised by the riots and it is going to happen again,” she said.
Eventually the group decided to cooperate with the police and took their protest back outside the Town Hall, where they symbolically burnt bills to stay warm.
Video by Tabby Kinder