As winter descends, people across the country are feeling the squeeze of the cost of living crisis and the rise in energy bills and many are falling into fuel poverty.
On Saturday, December 3, campaign groups will stage a protest against fuel poverty as part of a national day of action organised by the Warm This Winter campaign.
The protest will take the form of a “warm up”, a tactic in which protesters occupy a public building for a short time to both raise awareness of fuel poverty and to help keep warm.
Bristol’s warm up is led by Don’t Pay, the national payment strike against energy bills, Fuel Poverty Action and XR Bristol. It begins on Bond Street, from where protesters will march to the undisclosed site of the warm up.
John Whitcher, of Fuel Poverty Action, said: ‘If we aren’t able to keep warm in our own homes then we’ll enter public spaces as a group to keep warm together.’
John said the action is a community event, family friendly and open to all.
‘I think it is quite Important that we come together as communities even if it is to sit down and play board games in the warm for a little bit and talk together about how extortionate our heating bills are,’ he said.
John has seen the effects of rising energy bills first hand as he helps his father recover from throat cancer, which has left him with a weakened immune system.
‘It’s actually been quite upsetting to see how much they’re struggling. You want to help your parents out but the way this country’s economy is going, younger generations are even worse off than their parents.’
Fuel Poverty Action want the government to introduce a universal basic fuel allowance, whereby every household would receive an amount of free energy and only pay if they use above this amount. Under such a system, customers using small, everyday amounts of energy would be protected from rising energy costs and standing charges.
A petition is available to sign to back the call, which is backed by the New Economics Foundation and has been introduced to Parliament as an Early Day Motion by MP Clive Lewis.
According to the government’s definition, a household is considered to be in fuel poverty if, were they to spend the required amount on fuel costs for the home, they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.
National Energy action estimate that 6.7 million households are currently in fuel poverty in the UK, over one quarter of all households. This represents a sharp rise from the 13.2% of households estimated to have been in fuel poverty by the government in 2020.
Don’t Pay’s nationwide energy bill payment strike began on December 1. The campaign had hoped to achieve one million pledges before starting but settled for 257,000.
The Don’t Pay Bristol group have been organising events across the city since October.
The End Fuel Poverty Coalition is supporting the day of action. Co-ordinator Simon Francis said: ‘People are already seeing for themselves the suffering caused by living in fuel poverty and it will just get worse as we get deeper into winter.
The Day of Action is a final chance for the Government to take notice of the problems caused by living in cold damp homes and pledge to do all it can to end fuel poverty once and for all.’