News and views on local politics, the environment, climate change, culture and local history
Thursday 19 January 2023
Nation-wide protests against forced prepayment meters - outright ban and removal demanded
From Fuel Poverty Action
Today, Fuel Poverty Action
and allied groups begin several days of protest against fuel poverty in the
UK. An announcement from
the group stated that:
‘From Edinburgh to Exeter, we will join together
with the National Pensioner’s Convention, Don’t Pay, Disabled People
Against Cuts and Extinction Rebellion for vigils, warm-ups and digital
The date coincides with the Office for National Statistics
announcing the excess winter death figures for
2021/22. Fuel Poverty Action and the National Pensioner’s Convention have
historically protested around this annual event and will mark the day with
events in London and Cardiff.
The groups are collectively
demanding the UK government ban forced prepayment meters. The government
has come under increasing pressure to take this measure since an
investigation by the i paper revealed
that energy companies have secured half a million warrants to enter
people’s homes and install meters since July 2021. Further reports have
uncovered that only 72 warrant applications in total were refused by
magistrates. Citizens Advice also announced that
3.2 million people were disconnected due to being unable to top up
prepayment meters in 2022, more than the previous 10 years combined. Grant
Shapps has stated officials are ‘actively working’
on the issue but is yet to announce a concrete ban or moratorium.
We need an outright ban,
and urgent removal of the hundreds of thousands of meters that have been
installed where they are not safe or practical in defiance of suppliers'
licence conditions. The energy suppliers were quick to find men to drill
out locks and break into homes to install these meters, now they must act
quickly to take them out. People are being left in the cold and dark
even when they are dependent on heat or on power for disability aids,
medical equipment, for light and for charging phones. Every delay
will lead to deaths.
In Westminster, attendees will gather at 11.30am to hear speeches before a
minute's silence as Big Ben strikes 12 to commemorate those who have been
killed by living in cold and damp homes. Speakers will include Lord Prem Sikka,
Ruth London, Jan Shortt the NPC General Secretary, Paula Peters of DPAC and
Simon Francis, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition Coordinator. The event will
conclude with a short march and rally outside Downing Street.
A similar event, organised
by NPC Wales, will begin at 11am on the same date in Cardiff Central
Jan Shortt, General
Secretary, the National Pensioners’ Convention said:
It’s shameful that anyone
in this country should die as a result of the cold. Yet tens of thousands
more will do so if the government does not act as a matter of urgency. We
would cautiously welcome Business Secretary Grant Shapps’ announced
intention to stop forced transfers to pre-payment meters, which is a step
in the right direction. But we will monitor just how successful that
is and what his intentions would be for energy providers who ignore it.
Further vigils will follow
on Friday 20th January, as locals meet at Brighton War Memorial, Old
Steine, at 10.30am. As well as on Saturday 21st, when gatherings will take
place at Leicester Town Hall at 11am and a Shell garage on Newnham Road,
Cambridge, at 12pm.
Saturday 21st January will also mark the date for a next round of ‘Warm-Up’
protests, a form of direct action used by Fuel Poverty Action throughout
its nearly 12 year history. Participants will enter public spaces or
buildings to keep warm together due to unaffordable fuel bills and poor
housing conditions at home. A similar day of action in
December involved Warm-Ups in locations including Scottish Power HQ, the
British Museum, Harrods and a Barclays Bank. Fuel Poverty Action have
released a number of meeting points and
say to expect more of the same.
Actions will conclude on
Sunday 22nd January with a demonstration taking place outside Octopus
Energy Sales Hub in Birmingham. The groups are also calling on individuals
to sign a petition calling
for an end to forced prepayment meters and encouraging them to either phone
or email Grant Shapps’ office demanding he implement a ban.
The week of action forms part of Fuel Poverty Action’s Energy For All campaign;
the demand for a universal, free amount of energy to cover people’s
necessities like heating, lighting and cooking - paid for by an end to all
public money subsidising fossil fuels, a more effective windfall tax on
energy companies and higher tariffs on luxury household energy use. The
campaign also encompasses an end to prepayment meters and a national
retrofitting scheme to bring housing up to standard.
Stuart Bretherton, Fuel
Poverty Action, Energy For All Campaign Coordinator, said:
In the world’s sixth
richest economy and one of Europe’s largest producers of oil and gas,
failing to meet people’s basic energy needs is a political choice. Energy
For All is a proposal for a system that works for people and the planet,
not profiteers or polluters. The polar opposite of this is struggling
people having their homes broken into, or meters switched remotely without
warning, to a method of payment that could prevent them from heating their
home this winter.