By Martha Shardalow
Yesterday morning on the day winter death statistics were released, hundreds of people took action against the ‘Big Six’ energy companies in central London.
Anti-austerity groups taking direct action against fuel poverty, including UK Uncut, Fuel Poverty Action and Disabled People Against Cuts, held an ‘outrageous, creative and inclusive’ protest at the London office of the German energy giant Npower.
Susan Barett of UK Uncut said: “The fact that people are dying of fuel poverty as npower and other energy companies rake in the money and avoid tax is a scandal.”
“This government is not only unnecessarily cutting our services in the name of austerity but are allowing these energy companies to get away with murder, which is why we are fighting back.”
Additional protests took place in Oxford, Lewes and Bristol as over a thousand people took to the streets across the UK.
UK Uncut, started out as a hashtag in 2010 the night before the groups first protest at Vodaphone’s flagship store a week after George Osbourne announced major government cuts. This hashtag trended around the UK and yesterday the protest also went viral as #justicenotjumpers and #heatoreat were re-tweeted across the internet.
The campaign groups met at 11.30am at Royal Exchange by Bank Tube Station and marched on to npower – the UK’s most complained about energy company. Npower have paid no corporation tax for the for the past 3 years despite reporting a 34% profit rise of £413 million last winter due to price hikes. An estimated 30,000 people were pushed into fuel poverty.
Joseph Murphy of DPAC said: “Another harsh winter will mean more disabled people will find themselves isolated in their homes, unable to heat them, or cook properly. The energy firms continue to sit in government departments writing energy policy, in buildings where the heating is paid for by the very people who will die of cold this winter. This is a disgrace. We ask all disabled people to take action, and to show this government, and these companies, that we wont take this and will fightback.”
On Monday Ofgem released figures of the combined earnings of British Gas, Npower, eOn, EDF, Scottish Power and SSE. These earnings have multiplied five-fold since 2009, to more than £1bn whilst “excess winter deaths” rose by almost a third last winter in England and Wales.
Joseph Blake, a local freelance journalist, joined the protest in defiance yesterday. He said on Twitter: “On way to fuel poverty protest with @UKUncut @FuelPovAction at #bank. Basic necessity of keeping warm should never of been privatized.”
Activists carried a coffin full of energy bills through London’s streets, symbolizing those who died last winter.
They placed blame on politicians and the ‘Big Six’ alike as ‘people power not npower chants rang through the city!’