Socialist Worker

We can't afford energy profits: Big Six bosses make a killing while pensioners freeze

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2381

 

Protesting against fuel poverty in London on Tuesday

Protesting against fuel poverty in London on Tuesday (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Energy bosses are making a killing from fuel poverty. The profits of the Big Six companies rocketed by 75 percent last year, as the average gas and electricity bill went up 17 percent.

This is money straight out of the pockets of ordinary people. It’s forcing the poorest to choose between heating and eating—and will lead to thousands of deaths.

The number of excess winter deaths in England and Wales went up 29 percent last year. More than 9,000 of those are believed to have died because their homes weren’t warm enough.

That was before the Tories’ benefit cuts came in on April of this year, and before the energy companies hike their prices up again in December.

The biggest increase comes from Npower, at 10.4 percent. The company paid no corporation tax in the last three years.

Hundreds of protesters marched on its headquarters on Tuesday of this week. 

The protest was called by groups including Fuel Poverty Action, Greater London Pensioners’ Association, Disabled People Against Cuts, Campaign Against Climate Change and UK Uncut.

“The profits they are making are absolutely immoral,” said pensioner Carol Foster from Brent, north west London. “They probably throw away more on their drinks parties than I have to live on.

“I’ve had hypothermia twice. I called one of the energy firms for advice, and they told me to go to bed an hour earlier or to find a hobby to get me out of the house.

“I was appalled. Some people used to go to the library to keep warm, but now the libraries are closing.”

The winter death toll in Britain is significantly worse than in some colder countries such as Sweden, because of poor housing and growing poverty.

“It’s really worrying on my estate,” said Carol. “A few weeks ago a young woman collapsed on the stairs who hadn’t eaten in three days. She had sacrificed her own food to keep her children warm.

“I met another man who hadn’t eaten and I offered to go into  Poundland and get him some food. He asked me ‘how would I afford to heat it?’ It just hadn’t occurred to me that it had come to that.”

Marchers blamed the government for allowing the energy companies a free hand.

“People are suffering because these companies are out of control,” said Raj Gill, a disabled person from Ealing, west London. “It’s about time we put restrictions on them. We need to go beyond Labour’s plan to freeze prices, and renationalise the energy companies.”

Carol said, “The Tories want to humiliate the working class, to drive us into despair. I say to this evil government, soon you’ll have blood on your hands.”


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