Campaigners are set to take to the streets on Saturday. Image: Warm this Winter
People across the country will take to the streets and occupy buildings on Saturday to demand government action to keep people warm this winter.
The Warm This Winter national day of action could be one of the largest shows of public anger since households were hit with huge bill increases and people will be demanding urgent government action on fuel poverty.
There will be a series of “warm ups” where people who cannot afford to heat their own homes, and those who want to support them, will take over public buildings and keep warm collectively there.
In Stoke-on-Trent, an area with some of the highest levels of fuel poverty in the country, there will be a public meeting at the historic Fenton Town Hall where people will tell their real-life stories of fuel poverty.
The largest event in London will be the rally in Parliament Square. In Cardiff, Climate Cymru will bring people together in solidarity with those in fuel poverty outside the Senedd all wearing yellow for warmth.
Tessa Khan, one of the organisers of the Warm this Winter campaign, said: “The UK’s energy system is broken. This day of action is to give a voice to those who want change from this government.
“Instead of spending billions of our money subsidising gas fields and expensive gas imports, which will guarantee bills stay high for years, people want sensible, practical solutions to permanently lower our energy costs.”
The day of action will bring together people from across the poverty movement including health and disability campaigners, housing activists, environmental campaigners and people who are struggling to pay their energy bills.
It will be a family-friendly event, with events organised by Parents for Future UK local groups. Children will write Christmas cards to Rishi Sunak and their local MPs, and they will create pop-up wind farms to show support for wind energy.
Simon Francis, the coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented: “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 UK 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.”
It comes after National Energy Action (NEA) revealed 8.4 million people will be in fuel poverty from April. New national polling figures show 81 per cent say they will ration energy this winter, while 55 per cent are already rationing hot water, and 13 per cent are reducing use of medical equipment.
Adam Scorer, chief executive of NEA, said: “In April, one in three households will be in fuel poverty. That means many of them will be forced to bed wearing coats, rationing showers and hot water, it means running up huge debts or self-disconnecting and going cold.”
The day of action is a chance for people to take a stance and call for further government action to stop people going cold this winter.
Khan added: “People want those in fuel poverty given the support they need to stay warm this winter; they want help to insulate their homes; and they want this government to unblock onshore renewable energy, which will provide our homes with cheaper energy for years to come.”
Campaign group Fuel Poverty Action is leading on the warm ups, alongside Don’t Pay UK. The groups ask people to bring blankets, hot drinks, board games and snacks.
Ruth London, from Fuel Poverty Action, said: “The warm ups will enable people to demand energy for all, an end to the imposition of prepayment meters when people get behind on their bills, or whatever other demands local organisers choose to highlight. The tactic has been used many times by pensioners and others to speak out about the cold, damp conditions that threaten health and lives. ”
Sana Yusuf, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said the government’s financial support scheme is “not nearly enough to stop millions going cold”. She called for a plan to insulate UK homes and boost the production of renewable energy.
“If government inaction has done anything,” she said, “it’s galvanised local communities who are turning out today because they know a better way forward exists.”
The Big Issue’s #BigFutures campaign is calling for investment in decent and affordable housing, ending the low wage economy, and millions of green jobs. The last 10 years of austerity and cuts to public services have failed to deliver better living standards for people in this country. Sign the open letter and demand a better future