Day 2 of the Winter Warm-up Weekend saw a theatrical Warm-up in Cambridge that featured the Big 6 ‘beating up’ the Earth and its frozen inhabitants. Meanwhile, 200 protesters from Disabled People Against Cuts, Disabled People’s Direct Action Network and UK Uncut came together to block Oxford Circus in protest against the government’s Welfare Reform Bill.
Anti-poverty campaigners from Cambridge performed a street theatre protest to call attention to the 5000 Cambridge households suffering from fuel poverty.
The campaigners performed a short improvised sketch in Market Square and outside the Lion Yard shopping centre, in which those dressed as large energy companies ‘beat up’ other campaigners dressed as the Earth and as local Cambridge residents. They highlighted the predicted deaths of 2700 people in the UK due to fuel poverty this winter, as well as the five-year record profit of over 700% per customer of the Big Six energy companies.
Ted White, who dressed as British Gas, explained: “It’s bad enough that the government has cut the Winter Fuel allowance while our bills are soaring – but energy companies invest their massive profits into climate destruction across the world. There are cheaper and much less destructive alternatives to fossil fuels which Cambridge County Council is failing to exploit, particularly for those who can least afford their bills”
The protesters gave out leaflets on fuel debt from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, and their own leaflets offering alternative solutionsto the fuel poverty crisis. Ellie McIntyre explained that ‘Islington Council is fitting its council houses with solar panels – we think that residents of Cambridge should be given the capability to democratically discuss and decide how they want to keep their houses warm – with long term sustainabiltiy in mind, both for us residents and for people across the world”
At one point, Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge, came upon the protesters outside Lion Yard. He took a leaflet and claimed “We’re doing all we can”, but failed to stop when protesters asked him how he planned to take on the Big Six companies.
Meanwhile, whilst people were Warming-up in Cambridge, in London, Oxford Circus was completely blocked today as a group of people from Disabled People Against Cuts, Disabled People’s Direct Action Network and UK Uncut came together to protest against the government’s Welfare Reform Bill. 20 wheelchair users chained themselves together to block Regent Street, and were joined by 200 supporters, resulting in Oxford Circus and the surrounding area being brought to a standstill.
Recent reports have shown that as a result of the bill 500,000 families stand to lose their homes while others will become ‘imprisoned in them’. Nearly half a million people would lose their Disability Living Allowance, including disabled children. People with terminal illnesses would be forced into work, and 3.2 million will be put through demanding tests that have already pushed some to take their own lives. The government’s own research admits that this flagship reform will push 100,000 children into poverty.
Fuel poverty already disproportionately affects disabled people as the cold worsens many impairments, meaning that high energy bills have serious health consequences. The government’s proposed Welfare Reform Bill will worsen this situation – the combination of rocketing fuel bills and savage benefit cuts would prove deadly.
DPAC supporter Cerys Williams said “Bankers are continuing to reap massive bonuses and over £25 billion is uncollected in taxes. We say that disabled people should not be forced to pay the price of these austerity cuts”
That the government is attempting to push through this unfair and unnecessary legislation whilst it refuses to get tough on the profiteering energy companies or tax-dodging banks and corporations, demonstrates its commitment to private profit over people’s basic needs.