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We target the Treasury on the day the government announces 24,000 excess winter deaths

30 pensioners, disabled people and supporters today targeted the
Treasury in protest against fuel poverty deaths.

The protest came as Ed Davey introduced the controversial new Energy Bill to parliament.
It also came in the wake of this morning’s announcement from the
Office for National Statistics that there were 24,000 excess winter
deaths in England and Wales in 2011-2012. [1] The World Health
Organisation estimates that 30 per cent of these deaths can be
attributed to cold indoor temperatures. [2]

Protesters, including many pensioners and disabled people, occupied
space outside the Treasury and laid giant tombstones on the Treasury’s
doorstep to symbolise George Osborne and the Treasury’s responsibility
for fuel poverty deaths. One tombstone said: ‘George Osborne, your
cuts kill’, one tombstone said: ‘Gas power = killer bills’ and another
slogan said: ’24,000 winter deaths. Big Six profits up 700%’. They
held banners that said: ‘Stop the great fuel robbery’, ‘Energy to meet
our needs, not for corporate greed’ and ‘Justice for Pensioners’.

The protesters demanded George Osborne let them ‘warm up’ inside the
Treasury, chanting ‘Let us in!’ and saying that people who cannot
afford to heat their homes should be allowed inside to keep warm.
However, protesters were refused entry inside the building. They
accused George Osborne of leaving vulnerable people outside in the
cold. Those present then held a ‘speak out’ session where people
talked about their personal experiences of living in fuel poverty and
pinned the blame on George Osborne and the Big Six energy companies.
The protest ended with a march to parliament, with protesters
chanting: ‘George Osborne, shame on you!’ and ‘Cold homes are a
killer’.

The protest was organised by Fuel Poverty Action, Disabled People
Against Cuts and the Greater London Pensioners’ Association. Other
groups who took part included Southwark Pensioners’ Action Group,
Lambeth Pensioners’ Action Group, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence and
WinVisible (women with invisible and visible disabilities). The
protest was also publicly supported by Friends of the Earth. [3]

Joan Grant from the Greater London Pensioners’ Association said:

‘I try not to put my heating on until 6.30 in the evening but
sometimes I have to give in before and when I do I worry about the
bills. It’s disgraceful that we should even have to think about
keeping warm, but people like me are really frightened. Cuts of 26 per
cent to the money available to help those in fuel poverty are an
affront and an insult to the elderly, who should be a priority. We
should have warmth and basics provided, we’re not asking for luxuries,
just a decent standard of living.’

George Osborne has recently been accused of being at the heart of a
secret Tory plot to sabotage the future of renewable energy and
accelerate the ‘dash for gas’. [4] The Energy Bill, in failing to set
a de-carbonisation target until the next election, paves the way for
the further expansion of gas power. While investment in renewables has
been presented as being responsible for rising energy bills, in fact,
the rising cost of gas is the main factor pushing up bills. According
to Ofgem, energy bills went up by £150 last winter. £100 of this rise
was due to the increased cost of gas. [5] Meanwhile, recent research
shows that the money received by those in fuel poverty has been cut by
26 per cent, with energy efficiency measures to help the fuel poor
slashed by 44 per cent. [6]

Paddy Murphy from Disabled People Against Cuts said:

‘Again we see disabled and older people sacrificed on the altar of
privatisation, market forces and Tory ideology. People are dying from
the cold in a country which is still one of the world’s largest
economies. This is a national disgrace and those responsible -
providers, policy makers and those who represent them – should be made
to answer for their actions.’

Elizabeth Ziga from Fuel Poverty Action said:

‘On the day that the Energy Bill is introduced to parliament, we have
learnt the human cost of the government’s deadly energy policy:
thousands in the UK died last winter, trapped in a fatal choice
between heating and eating. George Osborne and the Treasury are
directly responsible for these deaths because of their unnecessary
cuts and their obsession with generating energy from gas, which is
causing fuel bills to rocket, as well as pushing up the price of food
due to climate change. Osborne and the Treasury are in the pockets of
the Big Six energy companies who are making a killing from an energy
system that prioritises their profits over our lives. We need clean,
cheap energy produced from renewables for the benefit of communities,
not for the benefit of corrupt politicians and their energy executive
allies.’

[1] http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/subnational-health2/excess-winter-mortality-in-england-and-wales/2011-12–provisional–and-2010-11–final-/index.html

[2] http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/142077/e95004.pdf

[3] Statement from Dave Timms, Friends of the Earth:
It is a national disgrace that millions of our homes are so poorly
insulated that they mean unaffordable energy bills for the people
living in them. We know that living in a cold home has a dreadful
impact on the health of both the young and old. Every winter far too
many older people die as a result.

This tragedy is entirely unnecessary. Ensuring we all have a well
insulated home which is warm and cheaper to heat will save lives and,
by cutting the amount of energy we waste, help tackle climate change.
It will also create jobs and reduce the burden on the NHS.

It is absolutely right that the Treasury is the focus of people’s
anger on this occasion. George Osborne is determined to keep the
country hooked on gas, yet it is rising gas prices that have driven up
energy bills so dramatically in recent years. The Government has also
slashed spending on energy efficiency measures for the fuel poor – the
most effective way to cut bills. It’s a double whammy attack from the
fossil-fuelled Chancellor, against some of the most vulnerable in
society.

[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/9678627/George-Osborne-is-driving-force-behind-anti-wind-farm-agenda-says-his-father-in-law-Lord-Howell.html

[5] http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Markets/RetMkts/rmr/smr/Documents1/SMR%20update%2028-03-12.pdf

[6] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/help-slashed-for-fuel-poverty-victims-8360179.html

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