Guest blog: Lambeth Tenants Heat Campaign

Lambeth Town Hall


As seen on BBC Morning Live, 15th December 2024

This guest blog has been prepared by tenants and residents of several Lambeth housing estates who have come together to form the Lambeth Tenants Heat Campaign, with support from Fuel Poverty Action and London Tenants Federation. More affected residents and other supportive organisations and individuals are now getting in touch.  

The blog includes the residents’ demands, background information, personal testimonies (anonymous and otherwise), statements of support, and their contact address.  They have written to Lambeth Council requesting an urgent meeting. 

Lambeth Tenants Heat Campaign can be contacted at [email protected]

Go here to read it.

Still from Morning Live report

Guest blog: Lambeth Tenants Heat Campaign


Still image of interviewee from the BBC report
Still image of interviewee from the BBC report

Watch the BBC Morning Live report from 24th January 2024.

Is Lambeth council forcing tenants into homelessness by conflating energy costs with “rent”? Since April 2023 Lambeth council has threatened heat network users who can’t afford the 350% rise in their service charges with eviction. Both council tenants and leaseholders are affected by these increases, which can bring costs for heat and hot water alone to over £67 per week… in one case it totalled over £83!

We understand the falling price of gas may mean lower bills from this April, but they will still be too high for many of us to keep up with and we will already be in debt, struggling to catch up with our arrears. On top of this, for many of us, the heating and hot water system is constantly failing, leaving families and pensioners freezing cold. 

For the majority of renters, rent and energy bills are separate. The rising cost of living and the energy crisis have put many into fuel debt but in most cases householders are able to make adjustments like changing providers, using less energy, making homes more energy-efficient or getting a prepayment meter. For Lambeth residents on heat networks, there is no such recourse available. We have no control over the provider, no thermostat in many cases, and no discussion over the way our heat and hot water is paid for. 

The poorest residents who rely on financial assistance like housing benefit to meet increases in rent have found the service charges are not eligible for support, presenting them with no choice other than to sink into debt. Parents, especially single parents, and their children are suffering and going without necessities; vulnerable groups such as those with disabilities are being pressured to use their care allowance or PIP to pay the service charges. Those signposted to apply for discretionary housing and emergency support payments discovered that these payments – if obtained at all – did not cover the spiralling costs. 

Rather than recognise the issue, with an urgency to separate massively hiked energy prices from normal service charges, the council is erroneously and egregiously counting fuel debt as unpaid rent, wilfully setting us on the road to risking our homes. It is service charge abuse to allow this situation to persist. The council even made the callous suggestion to Lambeth residents that we should just leave if unable to pay the hikes. 

Even the disabled, the elderly, people with young children or other caring responsibilities are still receiving threatening letters. The council has not said what should happen if we are evicted. Where are we supposed to go? Will Lambeth rehouse us? And who will move into our vacated flats? Where will Lambeth find people eligible for council housing, who can afford these charges?  

Residents from affected estates like Roupell Park, China Walk, Cotton Gardens, Lambeth Towers and Macintosh Court are joining up and working together to challenge this grave injustice. Lambeth Council should not and will not be allowed to ride roughshod over the mental, physical and financial health and wellbeing of its residents. There has to be an acknowledgment from Lambeth Council that it has been grossly unfair in its approach and its methods, with the cessation of eviction threats as a start.     


  • Stop the threats of eviction

Lambeth Council has been quietly harassing its most vulnerable residents by sending out notices of seeking possession based on tenants inability to keep up with 353% increase in heating & hot water bill. Some tenants have been told that the evictions won’t be pursued. But as the council refuses to confirm or deny this statement in writing, residents have been left in limbo: we cannot count on this and even the threat destroys our mental health. and presses people to pay what they can’t afford by cutting down on other essentials or going into expensive debt. At least one tenant has now had a red letter notice saying “Case in court for possession…”

  • Stop saying ‘rent arrears’

Inability to pay heating bills should not be deemed as rent arrears. Renters not on heat networks don’t have their heating and hot water as part of their rent. When their energy costs increase, they aren’t threatened with eviction due to their gas or electric company charging more. Why should those on heat networks  face eviction? Rent increases are capped, so if heat charges are part of rent how can they shoot up over 350%? And how can heat charges be counted as rent when we can’t receive Housing Benefit for them? 

  • Stop setting heat prices as if Lambeth weren’t going to get a discount on the gas purchased annually to burn for our heating  

Like households with private boilers, heat suppliers are also entitled to government help to deal with the huge increase in gas prices. We understand Lambeth has applied for this discount but hasn’t yet received it. Yet our charges have been set as if the discount doesn’t exist. And then we’re being threatened with eviction if we can’t pay them! 

  • Stop fleecing tenants for your mistakes

In the financial year (FY) 22/23 Lambeth underpaid for communal heating – that is Lambeth officers’ administrative error. In the FY 23/24, Lambeth TRIPLED  bills to cover Lambeth’s mistakes! They decided to recover their losses in ONE YEAR at a time when gas prices are at an all time high!

  • Recover costs over 10 years not one year, or not at all

Lambeth should engage with tenant representatives and discuss how best to recover 22/23 underpayment due to their error and ease the burden on tenants

Reimburse tenants for the costs they have unfairly incurred and compensate for the stress and anxiety heaped onto them

Some  have been forced into debt and others have gone without food and faced other hardships. There should be compensation for the anguish caused to residents by this nightmare.

  • Immediate repairs and optimisation of inefficient heating systems
    There is government money available for this.  Residents are not responsible for dysfunctional and dilapidated infrastructure which often breaks down, and should not be picking up the tab for it.
  • Metering will not fix our heat network problems
    Some estates are set to have meters installed instead of a flat rate charge for all residents. This is not the priority for addressing heat network issues. It could enable us to save a little money if we “choose” to freeze instead of heating our homes, but not much – a large part of the bill will be a standing charge that you can’t avoid even if you go without heat and hot water entirely. 
  • Immediate repairs and refurbishment to draughty, poorly insulated and sometimes damp homes that cost a fortune to heat and can never be kept warm.
  • Expansion of the use of solar panels, wind and other renewable options for reducing the use of expensive fossil-fuelled energy. 
  • Transparent billing information

Our landlord fails to provide us, its tenants, with a complete breakdown of costs. We need to know what we are paying for and why. To that end, external oversight of Lambeth’s heat charges must be sought to ensure calculations are correct and transparent.

  • The council must compensate residents when communal heating/hot water services to a block break down – the rebate should duly be added to resident accounts after interruption to supply is noted. We should not have to scurry and hassle to obtain our just compensation.
  • The council must also keep accurate records regarding the function of heating and hot water supplies. We ask that a transparent and straightforward protocol be adopted to compensate residents when communal heating/hot water services break down
  • The heating systems must urgently be made fit for purpose so this does not happen again and again. It is adding further insult to injury when hot water/heating is not available and the council continues to charge exorbitantly without providing an actual service. There are several words for charging for a service without delivering it, including ‘theft’.


The following testimonies have been kindly and bravely shared by Lambeth residents impacted by the service charge hikes

Testimonial – AH, lone parent Wedgwood House

I am a single mother to a teenage boy as well as a carer for my elderly mother and in receipt of benefits. 

My rent is paid by housing benefit, so my arrears are solely on service charges.

I have spoken to the Lambeth rents team on countless occasions. I even attended a meeting with them to discuss this issue. We were told that Lambeth was trying to recoup two years worth of deficit, which is why there was such an increase in these charges. However if we were to pay what we could and not be negligent then we did not have to worry too much because they understood how these charges impacted on low income households. But so far I have received two threatening letters from Lambeth seeking repossession/action to take me to court.

This has majorly impacted on my physical and psychological well-being. I worry this is going to affect my son’s GCSEs because he worries that I’m not eating/sleeping. I have also sought out medical help from my GP. 

I’m really at a crossroads on what to do next. It’s a spiral of an accumulation of arrears. No matter what I pay, my arrears still go up. 

Living under the umbrella of the threat of homelessness is not easy…

Testimonial – Lone parent, Roupell Park Estate, Lambeth

I am a lone parent of a little boy. I live on Roupell Park estate, living here since 2016. I can’t work that much as I am a sole carer of my son. I can’t make enough money.

When I saw the increase I thought if I update with the housing benefit department they would increase the benefit payment. A few months later in June, I received a letter saying that I was in arrears for my rent, around £600. I didn’t have that kind of money to pay it off. I’ve had to borrow money from friends. I still owe them. 

It’s been a few months of a proper depression. I didn’t even contact Lambeth Talking Therapies (IAPT) because I know if I am not suicidal or anything for them to consider risk of serious harm, then I wasn’t going to get an appointment 

My son suffered seeing me in that state. He is eight years old and he is already realising that we don’t have money because I’ve had to stop buying certain things and can’t afford his after-school clubs anymore. 

I am in receipt of working tax credit, yet we spend everything on bills and food and there is nothing else left. I think those charges are just too much. I live in my flat alone with my son. We are not using that much heating and hot water. In October I stayed at my friend’s house in Brixton, he’s got separate meters just for his flat, and using hot water and heating for ten days nonstop, we only paid about (I checked the meters) £17 for ten days. And we (heating network users) pay £50 weekly, seven days.

I’ve never been in that situation in my life, that I have to really calculate what I’m buying to eat. Before it was things like buying things for my son, going out and eating out. I could forget about that. But even groceries? 

I know that lots of other people are affected as well, that’s what my housing officer told me, that he knows there are many people in the same situation on the estate. Nobody consulted us personally, nobody warned us. It just came like that and nobody conceded that most of us, especially a single parent household, don’t use that much energy and we shouldn’t be charged so much.

Testimonial – Lone parent, Wedgwood House

When I received my rent increase letter from the council I was shocked and very anxious. I couldn’t believe that they were putting up the heating, alone by £300 – which works out 306% in percentages. I couldn’t understand how this has been worked out. 

I get help from universal credit as my wage isn’t enough per month, but universal credit does not help towards your heating bills.   

Looking at my outgoings the only possible place to cut down from is food. I’m no longer able to buy fresh produce. I skip breakfast everyday and on occasions lunch too. I provide my son with all three meals a day, I come after him. The fact that we’re in a cost of living crisis, food has also risen ridiculously. 

I often walk to work, to try and save on travel, which with my varicose veins and an ongoing foot problem, really isn’t ideal for my health. I can no longer buy any new clothes/toys; anything we wear is very much second-hand, from friends or family.  

I spoke with a gentleman (councillor/council officer?) with a few other residents at the beginning of April 2023. He took our details and said he would get our questions answered. He emailed me on 19/04/2023 to inform me that he was still looking into our concerns but sadly I’m still yet to hear anything from him.

I’m now stuck in a cycle of having to regularly use my credit card for food purchases as I simply don’t have enough money to last me a month as my outgoings are more than my income.  

Testimonial – Parent of child with disabilities, Roupell Park Estate, Lambeth.

I have lived in Lambeth at the same address for 20 odd years..

When I first read the letter I did not sleep very well at all because it was so shocking. At the time that I read the £50 increase I thought it was somehow me misreading it. I thought it was £50 extra a month. It wasn’t until I reread the letter that I then found out that it was a weekly charge – an extra £200-£250 a month.

My days, that was like a nail in the coffin for me. I’ve had to reduce how much food shopping I buy and how often I shop. For the first time ever, I had to be watching every penny that I spent. I mean it was very difficult not being able to afford buying clothes for the kids. You know, not being able to – and I work – to do just normal things. Being a Christian, my faith has really helped me through it. I found ways to cut back on every single thing but after paying the bills there’s hardly anything left.

My son has ADHD so I was able to apply for the disability living allowance. It took about five months to come through. It wasn’t until that came through that life got a little bit better and more bearable. Now I’m able to at least buy the children some clothes, buy just a little bit more food…

Testimonial – Lone parent Roupell Park

I am a council tenant and single parent with a primary school age child. We have

been informed at very short notice that our service charge has increased over 300%. It is four times what it was in March and I can’t keep up. 

In some ways it would be preferable if the only thing being threatened is being cut off but if I can’t pay this I think the plan is for me and my child to be evicted.

Overnight, I have gone into severe rent arrears and there seems to be no recourse to

appeal. Low income tenants cannot get help e.g. from housing benefit because service charge is treated differently to rent burden. What on earth can I do? I have cut back to almost nothing but there is a limit to what you can cut back with a child without causing serious neglect of their needs. What help is there for us?

Testimonial – Sarah Bone, lone parent, Wedgwood House 

I have been thinking about asking my GP to refer me to start using food banks, as soon I won’t be able to keep up with these payments… I would really like Lambeth to reconsider how they think what they are charging us for heating alone is acceptable and justifiable. 

The hot water system is shocking, my hot water in the kitchen goes on and off constantly every time I wash up, I have to wait every so often for the hot to become hot again to finish washing a sink’s worth of dishes.  

The bath I have to keep an eye on as this goes from hot to lukewarm constantly and I end up with a cold bath even when just using the hot tap to make one. 

Testimonial – Tamara Lyn-Grant, mother of three, Wedgwood House 

I have always strived to fulfil my responsibility of paying rent on time. However, this latest increase has forced me to reassess my already constrained budget, leaving me with limited resources to cover essential expenses such as utilities, groceries, and other necessities especially with three children to feed and clothe.

The ripple effect of this financial distress has impacted every aspect of my life, causing a considerable amount of emotional dis and uncertainty about the future.


  • Ruth London of Fuel Poverty Action says:  

It’s been a hard year for everyone, with energy bills at an all time high, but Lambeth’s increased charges are even worse. And it is not normal for anyone, even on other heat networks, to be threatened with eviction when they can’t pay heat bills. What are they supposed to do, when the charges are simply unpayable? It’s almost unbelievable that a council like Lambeth could do this to its residents. The tenants and leaseholders can only fight to end this cruel injustice.  

Heat networks can be greener and more affordable than gas boilers. They are not supposed to be a disaster like this. We fully support the Lambeth tenants and we hope everyone who cares about warm, safe, affordable and sustainable housing will support them too, including Lambeth officers and councillors!  

  • London Tenants Federation says: 

Lambeth, like all London councils, finds itself in a position not of its choosing; having to deal with an energy crisis that is crippling. To decide to pass on the iniquitous nature of district heating charges, to the most vulnerable and least able to pay in many instances, is atrocious. Given the fact that the housing Ombudsman has taken special interest in the level of complaints and the service provided by Lambeth, it seems folly for the council to proceed in the callous and high-handed manner they have taken to date.

LTF supports the actions taken by Lambeth tenants and urges the council to meet the demands of the tenants, caught in the crosshairs of an under-regulated part of the energy sector and beholden to the council/industry monopoly for their energy supply. Tenants aren’t able to choose who supplies them with energy, that is a decision Lambeth makes. Mistakes made are not tenants’ mistakes, they are Lambeth council mistakes.

 As a social landlord Lambeth should not be forcing tenants to choose between a warm home, food or homelessness and the mental distress that ensues.

  • A debt adviser for a local independent advice centre says: 

I have seen a vast number of Lambeth tenants affected by the 353% increase in ineligible service charges since April 2023. This is a very serious issue with no obvious remedy; tenants are unable to claim a discretionary housing payment for the increase as a DHP does not cover ‘ineligible service charges’. I and my colleagues work hard to make sure that tenants are getting any benefits they are entitled to, and any discounts/income maximisation. However the rise in service charges is beyond anything I have ever seen before, and it is not realistic for any of the tenants I have seen to be able to pay for the increase, which in some cases is as much as £65 a week. I am concerned that people are being pushed into unmanageable debt and poverty by the enormous increase, and feel powerless to help. It is certainly the most challenging issue I have seen clients face in my six years as a debt adviser here.


For more about Heat Networks see here. For detailed reports about a previous issue over heat networks in Lambeth, see here.

Heat networks – often loosely referred to as “district heating” – are like central heating for a whole block of flats, a whole estate and sometimes a whole area. Heat is produced centrally and distributed as hot water, through pipes. 

Heat networks are promoted by the government as “green” because they can be converted to use heat pumps instead of expensive gas. They can work well. But when they work badly they cost the earth, using even more gas than individual boilers. 

Residents are trapped in a monopoly without legal protections or rights and are suffering a huge injustice compared to people with other kinds of heating provision. 

  • We cannot switch to another heating system or another supplier and cannot even cut down our costs by not using heat or hot water. 
  • Except for metering and billing there are no regulations governing this industry. Though legislation is now pending it is likely to take years to come into force. 
  • There are no price caps for residents. The government’s energy support plan in 2022 covered almost all households except those on communal heating (heat networks), which they deemed to be commercial businesses. In 2023 the government accepted we should also benefit from government discounts like other households. But the discounts have to be applied for and they go to the heat provider. Experience in Lambeth shows that the end user may get no help when it is needed.  


[email protected]

Research reports

Research reports

    Holding feet to the fire:  Peabody tenants confront unaccountable heating and housing management – April 2021

    A home is not affordable if you can't afford to heat it

    In our second major study of crises with district heating, FPA has prepared a Dossier which brings out in the open the sense of impunity, the buck-passing, and the dazzling incompetence that have made “home” a place of nightmares for tenants of a social landlord. It details tenants’ battle for affordable heat and accountability and how they managed to win a reduction of their tariff by one half. It also explores the complexities of district heating  pricing and the position of social housing tenants on a private, mostly leaseholder, estate.

    The dossier has been prepared by Fuel Poverty Action, in close consultation with tenants of Peabody housing association, on Phoenix Works development, Tower Hamlets.

    With district heating (“heat networks”) and housing developments like this one becoming more and more common, the new Dossier serves as a warning, a guide to needed changes, and a handbook for action for the growing number of residents affected by unaccountable heating and housing systems.

    The dossier includes excerpts from emails in which tenants and managers each put their case in their own words.

    The first section gives an overview of the issues and the ongoing battle, and how these relate to the legislation of heat networks expected in 2022.

    You can read the full report below – to view in full screen you might find it easier to download the PDF by clicking here here.

    Peabody tenants confront unaccountable heating and housing management

    ‘Not Fit for Purpose’ – District Heating in Myatts Field – April 2017

    Residents’ Experiences of E.ON’s District Heating System on the Myatts Field North Estate and Oval Quarter development in Lambeth

    While district heating has great potential to cut costs and carbon emissions, for council tenants and private leaseholders on the Myatts Field North estate and Oval Quarter development in Lambeth, it has so far been a very bad experience for many from which there is currently no escape.
    “Not Fit for Purpose” details 50 real-life examples of residents, many vulnerable through age, disability, illness, or financial insecurity, who have experienced a number of failings.
    These residents were connected to a new heat network run by E.ON without proper consultation as part of a controversial regeneration scheme under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) starting from 2012. Lambeth’s district heating contract with E.ON is binding until 2052.
    The report on the scheme, published here by Fuel Poverty Action, was compiled with additional research by Dr Stuart Hodkinson, School of Geography, University of Leeds, and Ruth London, Fuel Poverty Action on behalf of Myatts Field North Residents Association and PFI Monitoring Board, Oval Quarter Residents Association, and Oval Quarter Notting Hill Residents Association.

    Now residents are challenging E.ON to overhaul the whole system, accept a review of its pricing and provide proper compensation for four years of misery.

    Listen to us here discussing the findings on Radio 5 Investigates.

    Read our initial press release here and download the report below:

    ‘Not Fit for Purpose’ – Executive Summary

    ‘Not Fit for Purpose’ – Full Report

    Fuel Poverty Action briefing: Cladding – A national emergency – 5 March 2018

    This research documents the process by which regulation which could have prevented the Grenfell fire was systematically blocked in Parliament and government, despite many pleas from fire authorities and others.  It includes documentation of lobbying on behalf of manufacturers of flammable materials, and a timeline showing the involvement of successive governments of all hues..

    See below for our report on the state of cladding and insulation in the UK. You can also download the PDF file here. We’ve also published other resources on cladding from around the web on our resources page.

    Fuel Poverty Action briefing: Cladding - A national emergency

    Advice for people on heat networks (“District Heating”) having trouble with outages, high prices, or both

    At Fuel Poverty Action we are dealing with many situations of this kind where people are being left in the cold, or without hot water, again and again and sometimes for long periods. FPA are working with residents in several estates, but we are constantly being contacted by more, and we’re currently trying to work out the best way forward. In the meantime, some of the advice below may be useful to you. Please keep us posted!

    It is hard to make progress because you have few legal rights. Legislation is due in 2022 but until then heat networks are unregulated, except for some limited legislation on metering and billing. And even when it comes in, it will not solve everything, especially as both heat providers and landlords often act as if they are simply above the law.  

    There are however some levers, and some success stories. We know of two places where residents have succeeded in getting their tariffs cut in half, one reported here, and for the other — watch this space!  Heat networks CAN provide reliable and relatively sustainable heating, at a fair price, and no one should have to put up with the opposite!

    1. The housing ombudsman can and does take action on heat networks and complaint process failures. See their recent report on this here and the article in Inside Housing. In some situations you want the Energy Ombudsman instead, usually if your estate or development is a “registered participant” with the Heat Trust.

    2. BEIS – the government’s department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is promoting and supporting heat networks. The Heat network team there knows a lot about the problems and are actively engaged in trying to get solutions. Do contact them directly at [email protected] and copy in Fuel Poverty Action at [email protected]. They will help if they can, and will also use what information you provide to try to ensure that the legislation, when it finally comes out, is fit for purpose and takes account of the real problems you are having.

    3. The Heat Trust. You can see if your estate belongs to this here (you need to scroll down).  Not only the heat provider, but the particular heat network site needs to be part of this scheme for the Heat Trust Rules to apply. If your estate IS registered, then there are rules on compensation etc which are often ignored but can be enforced.

    4. Naming and shaming. Some social landlords are concerned about their reputation (although many big housing associations now are just big developers who don’t seem to care about residents at all). Twitter campaigns can be effective as can media exposure (for a recent example see here; many other stories that don’t hit the national press, radio or tv, are regularly exposed by local papers. In London, the Standard is also worth trying. FPA gets requests for people who are ready to speak out about their situation (usually named, but sometimes it can be anonymous). If you’d like to be contacted for this, please let us know.

    5. Some private companies, which includes many heat providers, are sensitive to their reputation for commercial reasons, and can also be approached through their shareholders.

    6. Getting hold of any contracts between your landlord, the freeholder, management agents, heat providers, etc can be crucial — but not always easy to do!  If a public body, like the council, is a party to any contracts they can be subject to Freedom of Information requests. If you’re launching a legal case, you can get hold of contracts. You can also look at what your landlord and heat provider says about themselves and commits to on their websites, and at how they promote your estate or development, and see if they are keeping to their image and their commitments. Compare and contrast!

    7. Campaigning is always much more effective collectively. Do you have a tenants and residents association (TRA)? If not, in London you can contact London Tenants Federation for advice on how to form one. If you are in a Housing Association, you can also get help from SHAC. Many estates have both tenants and leaseholders; it is always useful to unite if you can, and at least work together if you can’t. The terms of heat agreements can be different for both, but you will be much stronger together, and each has some rights (eg to information) that the other doesn’t have. If forming a TRA is not possible at the moment, lots of people do very well with facebook groups – this can be a great beginning and may lead to a TRA which will have legal status and carry more weight.

    8. Some MPs and councillors, and the council’s housing committee, will pick up your issues. They all should. They can sometimes get answers where you cannot, and can give your situation prominence. You can write to them directly and then copy them into all your correspondence with your landlord, estate managers, or heat providers.

    9. There may be other local organisations that would be happy to help you put pressure on, where it is required. When lockdown ends, a little demonstration, for instance, could be effective in raising your profile. In the winter, FPA sometimes help organise “warm-ups” where people who can’t heat their own homes go into a public building or some relevant offices, speak out and keep warm there!

    10. Obviously, if the council is your landlord, there are many other levers you can pull. Let us know and we’ll try to help you access them, and put you in touch with others who have been doing this, eg in Southwark.

    11. The law. It is not an easy undertaking, but the Heat Trust website gives some information on rights for people on sites that are not registered with them, here. This gives useful links to Landlord and Tenant law, consumer law, rights to repair, and the Homes fit for Human Habitation Act. You may be dependent on some residents being eligible for legal aid.  And even then, getting anything enforced is an uphill battle, but you know that! If you are considering taking legal action please let us know.

    12. FPA’s website has a lot of information about high tariffs, standing charges, and frequent and/or prolonged outages of heat and hot water. For a good (terrible) example, see our report Not Fit for Purpose; for more examples and policy recommendations please see our various submissions to BEIS, the GLA, the CMA and others, here.

    13. Please consider joining FPA’s network of active district heating residents — just drop us a line and we’ll put you on the mailing list, first off. You are welcome to use this list to keep us and others in a similar situation to yourself informed of your views and developments. Please also copy us into your correspondence with your landlord, heat provider, or estate management (preferably at the end of a thread, not as it goes along), but we will not necessarily be able to respond because…

    14. FPA has NO FUNDING for this work, and in fact, currently, no funding at all. We are devoted volunteers but you can help make sure the work expands and continues by fundraising for us, joining Friends of FPA here, or just donating, here. You can also subscribe (free) to our newsletter and event notifications here.

    15. Resources permitting, we are hoping to call a meeting of our District Heating users’ network in the spring, probably together with some people from BEIS. Do let us know if you’d like to be part of that, and if you’d be ready to help pull it together. 

    Update Winter 2020-2021

    It’s been a long, hard winter, and we hope you’re all well. Here’s the latest news from FPA:

    Rising Prices

    On 5 February Ofgem announced their price cap increase, meaning a hefty rise in costs for everyone on default energy tariffs (and a likely rise in fixed tariffs as well, when they come due). Ruth London was on BBC TV News all day, with a substantial slot connecting issues from insulation and cladding to universal credit, pensions and homeschooling – and the need for a total reset because what we have now is killing us:

    Check it out on Youtube. We also got a short bit on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, and a statement in Energy Live News. We’re glad to have a chance to comment, with the UK’s already holey safety net just a memory, and now with wages so low and in the middle of a pandemic, any increase in energy prices must come with immediate changes in our resources.

    At the same time however, we’ve been hard at work as usual on heat networks, on insulation and cladding, on pensioners’ health and standard of living, and have pitched in on issues of heat pumps, regeneration, fracking, and more.


    Heat Network Nightmares

    A “heat network” works like central heating for a whole block, estate, or district.

    Phoenix Works

    We’re working with Peabody tenants in a new build Tower Hamlets development, Phoenix Works. They have been battling sky high tariffs – and have won a reduction by one half! We’ll shortly be making this public, so watch this space. They are still fighting to get a full refund of their overpayment, secure a better tariff for the future, get repairs done promptly, get better heat controls, and above all to make the heat provider accountable to them – which at present, they are not.

    Oval Quarter

    Oval Quarter, Lambeth, where FPA was heavily involved in bringing heat provider E.ON to account, is again having serious problems with unreliability. We’re back working with them after a gap of several years, following publication of our report on that heat network, Not Fit for Purpose in 2017.

    New Festival Quarter & St Clements

    We’re also working with two other Tower Hamlets heat networks – at New Festival Quarter and at St Clements, where residents have long been fighting scandalous charges, and other issues including insulation and cladding. We recently organised a meeting for residents from all three developments to meet together with their MP, Apsana Begum. On 4 February Ms Begum committed to taking their issues forward with the council, the GLA, the heat provider and landlords, and in parliament.


    In Southwark, the battle continues to get heat networks in working order – and in the meantime to win compensation so that when they are not working, residents at least can afford to use space heaters to keep warm. Despite all the efforts of residents, Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations, and FPA the council’s assurances that “no one will be out of pocket” have not been fulfilled. We’re told there will finally be a policy of automatic compensation of £3 per day, starting in April this year. In the meantime the suffering – and the health costs – are unbearable. See the account in Inside Housing. People in cold homes are taking to twitter to raise concerns of their council home without heating, or one of a relative. One tweets: “OAPs in block Clifton Estate SE15 fed up with communal heating ALWAYS going off EVERY year during COLDEST spells” . Last week another tweeter asked: “if someone dies from a cold home, is this corporate manslaughter?”

    Broken promises on national Covid protection

    In May 2020, many heat providers signed an Agreement to ensure that heat network customers were protected and supported during the COVID pandemic, to prevent disconnections and cold. The latest monitoring report, by the Heat Trust, finds:

    “rising numbers of disconnections from some suppliers during the coldest part of the year, low reconnection rates and declining levels of support given to pre-payment meter customers. Heat Trust is also concerned at failures of some suppliers to keep to the terms of the Agreement and report on their activities.”

    Between persistent outages and unbearable prices

    Unregulated, unaccountable and uncaring heat providers are likely to have deaths on their accounts this Covid winter, despite widespread and determined efforts. We will never know how many.


    Pendleton, Salford – on the way to court

    Residents of Pendleton Together’s high rise towers in Salford are taking their landlord to court over fire risks, maintenance, ineffective heating through NIBE heat pumps, and the freezing temperatures they are enduring now that their cladding has finally been removed. Read FPA member Graeme Langton’s account here. And see here a write up in Manchester Evening News, exposing the terrible cold that Pendleton residents are facing this winter. A group of Pendleton residents plus a reporter from the Salford Star led a breakout group at our December conference Making Green Come True. So far, Pendlton Together seem to disregard all public disclosure of what they are imposing on their residents.

    In the last few days, and in the same week that the fire risks at Pendleton were highlighted in the Grenfell inquiry, the fire door through which residents would escape the building has been  left broken and unusable. Residents were not even informed or given any alternative evacuation plan.


    Pembroke Park, Hillingdon – light at the end of the tunnel

    There is finally good news from this estate, where FPA has been supporting residents for many years. After years of pressure from residents, and the changing climate post-Grenfell, a new estate management has decided to do something about the fact that the estate was built by Taylor Woodrow in 2010 with its insulation missing. Tenant Tracey Rogers wrote in, in January to tell us:

    “after 10 years of being cold, A2 sent 4 people around today to investigate my moans. The outcome is my house has no insulation, my sons room has to have all the walls and ceiling removed, the insulation in the loft had all fallen down (what little was there) I have to be moved out of my property for at least 6 weeks. So yes I have been literally heating the street. My next battle will be compensation.”

    Tracey later got back in touch to tell us that her home was a building site, the workmen wear no masks, no alternative accommodation was offered and her daughter and grandchildren, who live with her, have had to move out and find somewhere to live for six weeks in the middle of a pandemic.

    There are still many residents in Pembroke Park whose homes are not being insulated at all, and who have no idea when or if they will be.


    Regeneration, embodied carbon, communities and fuel poverty

    In January we worked with others at the Radical Housing Network to formulate questions to mayoral and GLA candidates on embodied carbon and other environmental effects of regeneration, also touching on rent control, and the use of empty homes. This was following taking part in their meeting about Lambeth’s on Central Hill estate, where people have been camping to prevent demolition of a close community as part of a regeneration scheme. Early in the morning of 10 February, demolition workers arrived outside Truslove House, sparking a demolition resistance action. Police initially left the occupation alone, but the Council called a Gold Command meeting and at its request the police returned (20+ police with vans) to clear the occupation and cordon off the site. The resistance saw 25 people attending over 6 hours. The campaign will continue.

    Many of these housing and heating issues will be raised at  Homes for All’s  “Housing and Health Emergency” summit, Saturday 20th of February. Some of us from FPA will be taking part in the SHAC workshop exploring how housing workers and housing association residents have worked together to get results. Other workshops include one focusing on evictions, disrepair, rents, Grenfell, health and poverty. It will all be on Zoom. Do come along and let us know if there’s something you would like discussed. You can register here.


    Government policy

    FPA have been active on a policy level, in January submitting responses to government consultations on improving energy efficiency in the Private Rented Sector, and on their plans for the integration -or rather, the disintegration of the NHS.


    Fracking, plastic, and the building industry

    We are in communication with Plastics Rebellion about running a session on Plastics in Construction at their weekly Tuesday evening Zoom.

    We hope to talk about the widespread and very large-scale use of plastic as a building material, specifically for insulation and cladding. This led directly to the Grenfell fire, as FPA laid out at the time here. The Grenfell connection could add a pointed message to the plastics campaign.


    Keeping the issues in the public eye

    We have consistently raised issues of heating and insulation at meetings and conferences in the housing movement. As Suz Muna of Social Housing Action Campaign (SHAC) told us, regarding their 28 January housing safety conference:

    “we’ll be happy to have you speak at the conference. Your group raises an often hidden and silent health hazard, but one which blights many lives.”

    Similarly, On 19 January we attended and contributed to the launch of The London Tenants’ Manifesto on the right to warm, and affordably warm, safe and healthy housing. We tweeted out the Manifesto here.

    On 27 January we joined forces with South East London Community Energy (SELCE) to speak at Lewisham Pensioners Forum Annual Health Fayre on ‘How to Take Action on Fuel Poverty’.

    We have also put people who want to speak out in touch with the media, and have done extensive briefing of members of the press on fuel poverty (eg. for the Mirror’s current campaign), and on housing issues that leave residents cold (eg. for Inside Housing and the Building Centre). After contact with another journalist last year, we received a copy of her final report on incinerators, which are often a heat source for district heating, but a pollution source for miles around. Josephine Moulds dissects their low carbon credentials and the pricing of these schemes.


    Practical tips on personal energy saving

    With Citizens Advice (UK) and the Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty (STEP) project (H2020), En-Act have produced a series of 11 short videos that show how to save energy at home. While being informative, they are quite short and snappy. Here’s one about fixing draughty doors. Others cover electronics, kitchen, loft, bathroom, floors, laundry, lighting, radiators, windows and chimneys.

    Lambeth Library Warm Up – Full Film!

    On Saturday 19th March 2016, Fuel Poverty Action came together with local residents from Myatt’s Field South, and pensioners from Lambeth’s Pensioners Action Group and Older People’s Alliance to stage a Warm Up in Lambeth library, threatened with closure, to demonstrate how vital a public resource it is, especially for people living in fuel poverty. Warm homes for all!
    Huge thanks to John Lubbock for coming and filming the action. Watch the film and check him out on Twitter!

    PRESS RELEASE: Campaigners against fuel poverty take action in Brixton Library

    At 11am on Saturday local activists gathered at Brixton Reference Library to protest fuel poverty with a “Warm-Up”. After handing out leaflets and chanting slogans like “Warm homes are a right, Here to stay, Here to fight” in Windrush Square, they moved into the library and occupied the foyer for an hour. They sought to highlight that Lambeths’ libraries are a lifeline for many people, providing warmth, community, and access to vital services, and yet they’re threatened with closure. This will only exacerbate deaths from fuel poverty, which hit 43000 in the winter of 14/15, whilst the Big Six rip off the public by £1.7 billion a year. The action was called and organised by Fuel Poverty Action (FPA), Lambeth Pensioners Action Group (LAMPAG), Lambeth Older Peoples Alliance (LOPA) and Myatts Field South Tenants and Residents Association (MFS TRA).
    Continue reading “PRESS RELEASE: Campaigners against fuel poverty take action in Brixton Library”