It’s two degrees above freezing on a dark Friday night in Lewisham and forty people of all ages huddle round a blazing bin fire outside the Town Hall on Catford High Street. Together they’re burning an impressive backlog of final warnings, overdue bills, and red-topped notices of intent to cancel energy accounts.
January 28 is the first day of the “Winter Warm-up” called by Fuel Poverty Action, and just one of a nationwide series of protests to combat the injustice of the “Big Six” energy companies’ control over energy resources.
Incredibly, one in four households have fallen in to fuel poverty this winter, which means they are forced to dedicate more than 10 per cent of their household incomes to just keeping warm. This means families, the elderly, and vulnerable people across the UK are routinely sacrificing spending money on groceries and other essentials in an effort keep warm. A study by Age UK this month revealed that 50 per cent of British pensioners have been forced to turn down their heating when they were not warm enough, and 2 million elderly people are going to bed when they are not tired, with a similar number moving into a one room to keep energy bills down.
The government has a statutory obligation to eliminate fuel poverty by 2016. With increasing energy prices, soaring rents, and stagnating incomes, the coalition now looks certain to fail to meet its legal duty.