Nationwide Days of Protest!

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.

Fuel Poverty Action hold vigil outside Parliament to mourn people killed due to fuel poverty last year.

Fuel Poverty Action gathered campaigners and parliamentarians outside the Houses of Parliament on January 19, 2023, to hold a vigil demanding no more deaths from fuel poverty. On this day the Office for National Statistics announced the number of excess winter deaths last year.

On January 19, 2023, The Office for National Statistics announced 13,500 excess winter deaths in the year 2021/2022. In their analysis of the data, End the Fuel Poverty coalition found 2,731 of these were attributable to cold and damp homes with over 1000 lives being lost in December 2022 only.

Fuel Poverty Action, National Pensioner’s Convention, Don’t Pay and other groups, held a minute’s silence in memory of these deaths as Big Ben chimed for midday.  Speakers including Lord Prem Sikka, John MCDonnell MP, and leaders of NPC, FPA, Disabled People Against Cuts and the End Fuel Poverty Coalition addressed the vigil leading up to the one minute’s silence.

Pall-bearers dressed in black then slow-marched with a coffin bearing the latest excess deaths figure to Downing Street to hand in a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calling for immediate action to end this annual scandal.

Several similar events are taking place across the UK this week with campaigners demanding the government ban forced switching of customers to prepayment meters (PPMs) by energy companies.

Since the UK came out of the COVID-19 lockdown, energy companies have secured nearly 500,000 court warrants to install prepayment meters in the homes of people in debt. Research by Warm This Winter produced figures from YouGov revealing that 64% of PPM customers are classed as ‘vulnerable’ with over half having disabilities or health conditions. Prepayment meter customers could pay in excess of £200 more for their energy this winter. 

The government has come under increasing pressure to act since Citizens Advice recently revealed that over 3 million people were disconnected due to running out of credit in 2022, more than in the past 10 years combined. The Business Minister, Grant Shapps, has done nothing to ban the forcible installation of prepayment meters beyond expressing ‘concern’.

We are calling for these meters to be removed from homes where they have already been installed – in defiance of suppliers licence conditions – when they are not safe or practical for the residents.

We also continue to demand that our current energy pricing system be replaced with ‘Energy For All’; a universal, free amount of energy to cover people’s necessities like heating, lighting and cooking. This would be paid for by ending all public money going towards fossil fuel subsidies, windfall taxes on energy company profits and implementing higher tariffs on excessive, luxury energy use.

For more information on Energy For All contact [email protected].