International

Fuel Poverty Demonstration

Demonstrators accused fuel companies last Tuesday, 26 November 2013, of manipulating the poor as a new report released the figures of winter-related deaths rose to 31,000.

The Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) report saw an overall increase of 29 per cent and of the 31,000 deaths 25,000 accounted for the elderly.

The figures come among fears that the NHS could face its worst winter yet, with long-term weather forecasts cautioning that conditions could be dreary, and concerns from senior doctors that hospitals could be overwhelmed by patients.

The demonstration, “Bring Down the Big Six: Fuel Poverty Kills”, including the campaign groups: Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association and Disabled People Against Cuts; started from Bank station where a march comprising of less than 100 people, some in wheelchairs, took to the Npower head office on Threadneedle Street.

Sarah Price of UK Uncut explained, “The big six are an example of incredible corporate greed. Huge profits are extracted from the public whilst they suffer at the hands of austerity. David Cameron and his cabinet of millionaires are only too happy to stuff the pockets of big business while ordinary people are left out in the cold.”

The ‘Big 6’ companies are Npower, E.ON, EDF, Scottish Power, SSE, and British Gas. According to an analysis of last year’s company accounts, Ofgem reported that the latest figure for profit per household had doubled again this year to an estimated £105. Back in 2009 the figure was just £8.

“We won’t stand for any more unnecessary deaths caused by price-hiking, polluting, profiteering, tax avoiding energy companies,” said Diane, a demonstrator who is both a retiree and pensioner.

“As the fuel companies hike up prices we are told the only answer is to put on a jumper, leaving millions of us to choose between heating and eating,” Diane said. “We know that the real problem is the privatisation of our energy for profit and the skyrocketing cost of dirty fossil fuels.”

Wayne Mitchell, Npower’s Industrial & Commercial sales and marketing director, explains: “Recent harsh winters, combined with uncertainty around future energy policy, means it is becoming less easy for businesses to predict energy costs. To control these costs as much as possible, it’s vital organization’s focus on the one thing they can influence – their own energy usage.”

A recent report found that the UK is second from bottom in ranking comparing levels of fuel poverty in European countries, bettering only Estonia.

There are currently over 5 million UK households living in fuel poverty, meaning they need to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on energy to keep warm.

Due to the cold, and the attendance of some elderly and other groups, organisers suggested the protest should end voluntarily and in solidarity.

The London protest was part of a nationwide action, which also saw demonstrations taking place in Bristol and Oxford.

Video produced by Katherine Iorio

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