Protesters from Hackney were among 40 who staged a ‘die-in’ at the EDF energy headquarters in London today in response to the “excess death statistics” released by the Office for National Statistics this morning.
The group claim that the government and the big six energy companies, of which EDF is one, share responsibility for thousands of deaths caused by “fuel poverty” – the inability to afford heating bills.
The protesters carried a makeshift coffin, marked with the number of excess winter deaths, in a funeral procession from Parliament Square to Grosvenor Place. Complete with blue makeup, blankets and hot water bottles, protesters then blocked the entrance to EDF HQ by laying ‘dead’ on the ground, below a banner reading: “Warmth to meet out needs, not for corporate greed”.
Figures reveal that there were 25,700 excess winter deaths in 2010-11, with the majority among the over 75’s. This figure remains virtually unchanged from the previous winter.
George Barda, 35, from Stoke Newington, told EastLondonLines: “Three thousand people died in 9/11 and that was an excuse to launch wars that have killed over a million people. 25,700 vulnerable people die in the UK and no one seems to care, and that’s a devastating reflection of where we’ve come to in our society. You shouldn’t privatise things that people actually need.”
Maddy Jones, 26, from Hackney, explained how high energy prices are affecting her borough directly.
“It’s getting to the beginning of the cold period now so I think we’ll be seeing much more people over the winter getting involved in this issue. It affects people directly in Hackney, as well as the rest of London.
“Hackney is one the poorest boroughs in London so it’s going to be hitting people hard who are having their benefits cut, having libraries closed where maybe they would have gone to keep warm, and now they’re going to be struggling to even keep themselves warm in their own home.”
Members of ‘UK Uncold’, a direct action campaign formed by Fuel Poverty Action, claim that the government are allowing energy companies to profit while leaving society’s most vulnerable to die in the cold. Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK, said the situation was a “disgrace”.
Each of the six major energy suppliers in the UK raised their tariffs during the summer of 2011. In October this year, Ofgem accused these companies, which include EDF, E-on, N-Power, and British Gas, of having “complex tariffs” and a “lack of transparency” in pricing.
Fuel poverty is defined as expenditure of 10 per cent or more of household income on fuel. An April 2011 survey by YouGov, found that 6.3 million, or almost a quarter of all households (24 per cent), were suffering fuel poverty in the UK.
Fuel Poverty Action will be conducting a nationwide ‘warm-in’ on January 27 and 28, 2012. The warm-in will see people occupying warm spaces, such as corporate buildings, across London in order to keep warm and highlight the injustice of energy pricing.
EastLondonLines contacted EDF Energy for a statement:
“We respect the rights of individuals to peaceful protest. EDF Energy is committed to ensuring all of our customers get a fair deal over the winter period. EDF Energy has the cheapest standard dual fuel prices of all the major energy suppliers, meaning a fairer deal for all of our customers.
“In addition, EDF Energy led the industry in providing support for vulnerable customers. We were the first company to introduce a discounted tariff and the first to establish a trust fund to provide support to people who have trouble paying their energy bills.”