A protest over fuel poverty is set to take place in one of south London’s highest-profile shopping centres, the Glades. It’s of little wonder activists are organising it, though – given Tory-run Bromley borough council has refused point blank to help people this winter.
Warm Ups: taking direct action against fuel poverty
There’s going to be a protest at Bromley’s The Glades shopping centre on Saturday 2 December:
Fuel Poverty Action and its allies will be holding ‘Warm Up’ protests across the country on Friday 1 and 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 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.
However, in one London borough activists will be warming up against a Tory-run council that is refusing to support people.
Bromley: Tories letting people freeze
In Bromley, opposition councillors tried to get the Tory-led council to give support to people this winter. as My London reported:
A motion was raised to create a £400,000 fund to support charities operating “warm banks” in the borough at a Bromley Council meeting on Monday (October 10). If approved, 100 warm centres could have applied for heating bill grants of up to £2,500 each under the plans.
The plans would have seen charities and social enterprises being able to set up four to five warm banks in each of Bromley’s wards. However, the Tories on the council effectively poured scorn on the idea. As My London reported:
Councillor Colin Smith, leader of Bromley Council, said five centres per ward would be a “waste of electricity” and “waste of gas” and one to two hubs would be more preferable…
It was suggested that residents could keep warm in libraries which are within a mile and a half of 95per cent of residents. Cllr Smith said: “The council’s 15-strong fleet of libraries will be acting as warm places over the course of the winter,” before adding that they would be a “good place to start”.
The Tories’ claimed the council didn’t have enough money to fund warm banks, either. However, the £400,000 costs for the warm banks represents just 0.16% of Bromley council’s entire net budget for 2023/24. Moreover, the idea that poor people should go and sit in a library all day to keep warm is insulting. Plus, with libraries specifically staff may be going on strike – because the Tories outsourced the running of them to a separate company that is not paying staff properly.
So, activists will be holding Bromley council to account – as well as the UK government and energy companies, both of whom have overseen spiralling costs to consumers while the corporations rake in huge profits:
‘Cold homes are killing people’
Paula Peters is a disability rights activist and member of both Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Bromley and Croydon Unite Community. She told the Canary:
Ofgem are rising energy prices by 5.1% in January 2024, with millions unable to heat or eat this is corporate greed causing further misery. Older people are using their bus passes to ride the buses all day and keep warm as unable to heat their homes.
48% of disabled people in the UK are in energy debt. Rationing powering of equipment, turning off peg feeding, ventilators and turning off the fridge to keep insulin cold putting their lives at risk.
Our message on Saturday is this cold homes are killing people.
As part of the fuel poverty day of actions on 1 and 2 December 2023 across the UK, Bromley and Croydon Unite Community Branch supported by South East London People’s Assembly and allies are having a public warm up in the Glades shopping centre Bromley from 11am to 1pm on 2 December 2023, to highlight fuel poverty and that millions of people are having to use shopping Centres, libraries, town halls, and public transport to warm up.
Please join us on Saturday in Bromley.
If you live in Bromley, get yourself down to the Glades at 11am on 2 December – and send a message to the Tories in both the council and Westminster.
Featured image via Paula Peters