nationwide protests in the UK over Tories’ failures

  • Post last modified:March 7, 2024
  • Reading time:22 mins read

Campaigners across the UK have been demanding that the Tories sort out rip-off energy bills. This saw protests from Newcastle to Bristol – with one directly outside parliament featuring Labour MP Zarah Sultana, just as the chancellor was delivering his Budget.

Energy bills: nothing in the budget

On Wednesday 6 March, the day of the final Budget announcement before a general election, groups joined together across the UK to protest after years of government policy leaving families struggling to make ends meet and costing lives.

Participants expressed anger at another feeble budget which offered few crumbs of comfort to those suffering most from high energy bills. The chancellor failed to close the 91% loophole in windfall taxes, and failed to invest in the green jobs that would deliver cheaper home-grown energy for us all, and healthier homes.

Stu Bretherton, Energy For All campaign coordinator at Fuel Poverty Action said:

Hopefully today will be the last budget of a government that has driven mass poverty, broken public services, illness and death. But none of the parties are offering the bold changes that we desperately need so today we’re seeing trade unions, pensioners, tenants and health workers Unite for Energy For All.

The next government’s energy policy should set their goal at ending fuel poverty, not managing it, and the money is there in energy company profits to guarantee a basic supply of energy for all.

Cold homes kill

The participants pointed to 4,950 excess deaths during the winter of 2022/23, demanding the next government take action to prevent further loss of life through an Energy For All guarantee, along with a national retrofitting scheme and public ownership of the energy sector. All this would reduce energy bills.

Dr Isobel Braithwaite, a housing and health researcher at University College London, said:

So much preventable illness is caused or worsened by living in cold damp homes, and healthcare workers see the impacts of poor housing conditions in clinics and hospitals every day. This government should be doing everything it can to bring down energy costs and upgrade housing.

But right now, Government subsidies for oil and gas extraction, together with expensive energy bills, are enabling fossil fuel companies to make record profits whilst people struggle to heat their homes.

A transition to cheap, clean, renewable energy that looks after our health and that of our planet, and retrofitting our homes so they waste less energy and stay warmer in winter, are urgently needed public health interventions that could save thousands of lives each year.

Events highlighted deaths from cold and damp homes in support of the Unite 4 Energy For All campaign. The campaign was launched by Unite Community in 2023 in support of Fuel Poverty Action’s Energy For All demand.

Protests across the UK over energy bills

Unite National Officer for Energy, Simon Coop, said:

Greedy governments and callous corporations are blighting the lives of millions. Every household must be guaranteed enough energy to cover essential needs. No one should be forced to choose between heating or eating. Last year alone, private firms reported profits of £45 billion from our country’s domestic energy system. It must stop.

The day kicked off with a ‘Cold Homes Kill’ banner drop during the morning rush hour in Chesterfield:

Protestors caught the attention of passengers at Birmingham New Street Station, where a die-in was held symbolising those killed by the conditions of their homes and extortionate energy bills:

Mock funeral processions passed through the Arndale Centre in Manchester:

One also happened in Leeds, from the bus station to the BBC studios:

funeral procession in Leeds over energy bills

Events involved among others members of Fuel Poverty Action, Unite Community, the National Pensioners Convention, Disabled People Against Cuts, Friends of the Earth, and health workers from Medact.

Meanwhile, locals held outreach and information stalls on energy bills in around 15 towns across England, Wales, and Scotland – including Newcastle:


energy bills stall ipswich

And Swansea:

Matthew Knight, a coctor in Bradford who joined the day said:

As doctors, all through winter we are seeing patients coming into hospital with illnesses that have been caused or worsened by living in cold and damp homes. If this government wants to reduce the burden on the NHS, it should be tackling the determinants of health, in case this by bringing down energy costs and insulating homes.

We need to transition to cheap, clean, renewable energy that looks after the health of people and our planet, instead of lining the pockets of shareholders.

Drowning out the Hunt in parliament

One of the largest demonstrations took place in Westminster itself, where people chanted as the Budget was being read by the chancellor. The crowd were addressed by individuals with direct experience of fuel poverty, rip-off energy bills, and cold homes, as well as organisers and members of parliament including Labour MPs Zahra Sultana and Kim Johnson:

National Pensioners Convention general secretary Jan Shortt said:

With a staggering 5.3 million now in debt to their providers due to years of rocketing costs, even a lower price cap on energy bills in April is unlikely to help them pay off what they owe. Worse still, those who have been forced onto pre-payment energy meters (PPMs) will simply be cut off and left in the cold because they cannot afford to top them up. This can only serve to endanger more lives.

Featured image and additional images via the Canary and Fuel Poverty Action

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