Yesterday, Fuel Poverty Action held a vigil and funeral procession in Westminster, supported by various groups including Disabled People Against Cuts, the National Pensioners Convention, Extinction Rebellion and Don’t Pay UK.
The vigil marked the announcement by the Office for National Statistics that last winter there were 13,400 excess deaths in the UK, with more than 4,000 due to cold and damp homes. The figures are calculated by comparing the number of deaths between December and March with the average for the non-winter months before and after.
One of the speakers at the event was Prem Sikka, an emeritus professor of accounting and auditing who was given a life peerage in 2020. He reminded the crowd that there were 70,000 civilian deaths in the UK in World War 2, but that the current government has overseen so-called “excess deaths” amounting to ten times that number with no public or media outcry.
He called it a political choice, suggesting that if Capital Gains (from selling second homes, market speculation, stocks and shares etc.) were taxed at the same rate as earned income, it would raise £25 billion a year. After telling us that British Gas profits have increased eightfold, he called for a windfall tax to stop them profiteering from the deaths of thousands.
Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action wants to see the banning of pre-payment meters. If you are sick, disabled, old or in poverty, the lights go off, you can’t cook and you can’t stay warm. She described this brutal situation as:
Going into debt with your energy company has become a crime punishable by death.
Paula Peters, representing Disabled People Against Cuts, spoke about the 4 million disabled people living in abject poverty in the UK (one of the supposedly richest nations in the world), with 48% unable to heat their homes.
Former Chancellor John McDonnell called the excess deaths a form of ‘social murder’, and emphasised that it is political choices that are leading more and more people to hunger and cold as energy and food prices soar, while tiny sectors of society reap ever-increasing wealth.
YouGov research commissioned by Warm This Winter shows that 64% of pre-payment meter users are classed as ‘vulnerable’ with more than half having disabilities or health conditions. Citizens Advice have announced that more than 3 million people were disconnected by not being able to top up their pre-payment meters in 2022. This is more than the previous ten years combined.
Fuel Poverty Action and others are calling for #EnergyForAll. This is a fully-costed scheme that would provide completely free basic energy to all, based on need and funded in part by increasing tariffs for higher usage plus a windfall tax on energy companies and a halt to the millions of pounds of public money being given every day to fossil fuel companies as subsidies. Along with a move to much cheaper renewables, this would have many additional benefits in terms of pollution, and climate.
The campaign is calling on people to ask their MPs to support an Early Day Motion on Energy For All, as well as pressure them to remove pre-payment meters by signing this petition and trying to involve local and national press.
Find out more and support Fuel Poverty Action here.