Fuel poverty will be the subject of nationwide occupations this December as a campaign group ‘warms up’ its actions

Fuel Poverty Action Warm Up protest
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Fuel Poverty Action is planning ‘Warm Up’ protests across the country on Friday 1 and Saturday 2 December, working with trade unions, tenants groups, and the climate movement. The actions are in support of the campaign group’s ‘Energy For All’ campaign. It’s demanding that every UK household is guaranteed the essential energy needed for life and dignity – with the hope of eradicating fuel poverty in the process.

Warm Ups: taking direct action against fuel poverty

Fuel Poverty Action has carried out warm ups for over a decade but is calling for its biggest mobilisation yet, as households are crippled by energy debt this winter.

In Autumn 2023, Fuel Poverty Action announced plans for allies and supporters to ‘#WarmUp This Winter’. The grassroots group is calling for nationwide Warm Up protests on 1 and 2 December to demand energy bills are brought down for good.

Warm Ups involve entering and occupying spaces to keep warm together due to unaffordable bills at home. Last winter, the group coordinated two-days of national warm ups in December and January. These helped to win the temporary ban on forced prepayment meters.

Past warm ups have been carried out in Westminster, Holyrood, energy company HQs, banks, libraries, and department stores. Training and guides to organising warm ups can be found on the group’s website.

Energy bills have still doubled

Stuart Bretherton, Fuel Poverty Action’s Energy For All campaign coordinator said:

Last winter, energy bills were at the forefront of headlines and people’s minds. But while the news cycle has moved on, energy bills are still double what we paid two years ago and over 5 million households were in energy debt before this winter even began. We’re not accepting mass poverty as the new norm. The UK Government is passing the buck when there’s concrete policies they can adopt today to reduce poverty and save lives, so direct action is the obvious step for us to push them to do so.

Read on...

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The protests will put immediate demands to the government to protect lives this winter by making the ban on forced prepayment meters permanent and ditching regressive standing charges, which bear the largest costs for poorer households. It follows Fuel Poverty Action’s protest outside the Department for Energy Security over the return of energy companies being able to force people to have prepayment meters. You can read the Canary‘s report on that protest here:

Protesters holding a banner that says "energy for all" and a placard that says the same outside a big wooden door

Along with longer term measures like upgrading poor quality housing and heating systems, and ultimately guaranteeing every household enough energy to ensure essentials needs are covered, as outlined by the Energy For All campaign.

An ‘unjust’ system

Holly Donovan, a Unite Community member and spokesperson for the national Unite For Energy For All campaign said:

Energy For All is a much needed reform to our energy pricing system. Under our current system those who use more energy pay less per unit than those of us who are tightening our belts and cutting down on energy use. This is clearly upside down, unjust and a very simple thing the government could address to help households in the greatest need.

The Energy For All campaign launched in 2022 with a petition signed by over 660,000 members of the public. Fuel Poverty Action followed this up with a manifesto endorsed so far by almost 250 organisations, community groups, businesses, and elected officials.

The proposal for energy company profits and subsidies to be redirected, and higher tariffs on luxury household energy use, in order to supply every home with enough energy for adequate levels of heating, lighting, cooking, and so on goes far beyond what other campaigns and parties called for last winter.

Uniting against fuel poverty

But in less than two years, the idea pioneered by a small movement is being actively campaigned for by groups ranging from Unite Community to 350.org. Through this mobilisation, Fuel Poverty Action hopes to unite allies of all different backgrounds, experiences and causes.

Lucia Harrington, Fuel Poverty Action’s lead organiser said:

Energy For All encompasses so many of the issues we face today and that’s why we’ve received such wide-ranging support from trade unions, tenants groups, the climate movement and MPs. It’s not a choice between meeting people’s needs and saving the planet, we can do both by reversing a system that puts profit first and punishes people for being poor. We need actions across the country this winter to drag this government into fulfilling its duties to prevent deaths from cold and damp this winter.

If you’d like to organise a local Warm Up, email e4a(at)fuelpovertyaction.org.uk or visit the dedicated website here.

Featured image via Fuel Poverty Action and additional image via the Canary

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