On January 21 and 22, 2023, Fuel Poverty Action and its supporters held Warm-Ups and vigils in towns and cities across the UK. The days were part of a week of action by Fuel Poverty Action and allied groups calling on the government to ban the forced installation of prepayment meters, #BanForcedPPMs, assist people in vulnerable situations to be returned to credit meters and demand #EnergyForAll. Warm-ups, vigils and demonstrations were held in Edinburgh, Liverpool, Exeter, London, Leicester, Cambridge and Birmingham. On Sunday January 22, under significant pressure, Grant Shapps issued a letter to energy providers demanding they voluntarily stop the forcible installation of prepayment meters. While we celebrate this significant win on our demand to #BanForcedPPMs, we continue to campaign for the government to do more. This weekend of actions followed numerous vigils demanding no more deaths from fuel poverty, when, on January 19, the Office for National Statistics announced 13,500 excess winter deaths last year.
Kicking off actions on January 21, protestors in Edinburgh entered and warmed up in the foyer of the Scottish Parliament building at around 10.30am, demanding the Scottish Government join the Labour Party and other notable institutions in pressuring the UK Government to implement a ban on forced switching to prepayment meters. This came after protestors interrupted First Minister’s Questions at the Scottish Parliament earlier this week, calling on Nicola Sturgeon to take this stance.
Moving south of the country, around 12pm, campaigners in Liverpool staged a warm-up at the Museum of Liverpool wrapped up warm and singing their original campaign song “Your Heating Chart” to the tune of “Your Cheating Heart”. At the same time, locals in Exeter stood outside an EDF call centre, one of the big six energy suppliers in the UK, with placards saying ‘Ban Forced Prepayment Meters’, ‘Energy For All’ and ‘Cold Homes Kill’.
Two warm-ups also took place in London. In central London, protestors and locals warmed up at the John Lewis department store on Oxford Street in the department store’s luxury sofas and armchairs and holding up a very large Energy For All banner. They then moved to warm-up in the iconic building of Liberty London which they peacefully left after being confronted by the store’s security.
Meanwhile, in Croydon, south London, members and supporters of the campaign group Fossil Free London warmed-up in a branch of Barclays Bank to protest against their continued funding of oil and gas, which is pushing up bills and driving climate breakdown, in solidarity with people who can’t heat their homes as a result of soaring bills.
Other demonstrations and vigils were also held in Leicester, Cambridge and Birmingham. In Leicester, a small group of locals held a vigil outside Leicester Town Hall, standing in the freezing cold to commemorate the lives lost to cold homes. In Cambridge, a demonstration was held at a Shell garage on Newnham Road with demonstrators highlighting fuel poverty and the role that energy companies play in rising energy bills. The next day, protestors and locals staged a warm-up in Birmingham.
Warm-ups, vigils and other actions gained traction in national news outlets with Fuel Poverty Action campaigners and supporters speaking multiple times on BBC news, Sky news and LBC radio to name a few.
This tide of pressure had clear results. On Sunday, we were greeted with a significant win demonstrating the power of collective action, when Grant Shapps demanded a voluntary ban on the forced installation of prepayment meters from energy companies. While we welcome and celebrate our achievement leading the government’s response, we also believe further action needs to be taken on prepayment meters and to ensure that everyone has access to the basic necessities of heating, cooking and lighting.
As energy companies have demonstrated they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves after unscrupulously requesting over 500,000 warrants to install prepayment meters, we demand the government #BanForcedPPMs for good and assists customers to be returned to credit mode. Moreover, we continue to demand Energy For All, a universal, free amount of energy to cover people’s necessities like heating, lighting and cooking – paid for by an end to all public money subsidising fossil fuels, a more effective windfall tax on energy companies and higher tariffs on luxury household energy use, as well as a national retrofitting scheme to bring housing up to adequate energy efficiency standards.
At this critical juncture, please keep up the pressure by calling or emailing Grant Shapps’s office using our template guide and sign-up to the #EnergyForAll campaign to demand an energy system that meets everyone’s basic needs.
The fight continues.