Action to Target NPower over Fuel Poverty Deaths

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Direct action groups to target NPower over fuel poverty deaths

UK-UnCut, DPAC UK, Fuel Poverty Action

Over a thousand people will take action against Npower and other Big Six energy companies on day that Winter Death statistics are released. Anti-austerity groups including Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, Disabled People Against Cuts, and the Greater London Pensioners Association reveal Npower as key target (Npower Supply and Trading Offices, 60 Threadneedle Street, EC2R 8HP).
Further protests to take place in Oxford, Lewes, and Bristol

Acting together under the banner of ‘Bring down the Big Six – Fuel Poverty Kills!’ direct action groups will hold ‘an outrageous, creative and inclusive’ protest at the London office of the German energy giant Npower on Tuesday November 26th midday.

1, 2, 3. Meeting at 11.30am at Royal Exchange by Bank tube station, hundreds will march on Npower to protest against winter deaths, price hikes and their devastation on the planet. Simultaneously, Oxford-based protesters will target British Gas at their new Oxford HQ . So far over 1000 people have pledged to take part in the protests so far.

At least 7,200 people died last year in the UK due to cold homes.

Npower is the UK’s most complained about energy company. It received 202.5 complaints per 100,000 customers between April and June – double that of its nearest rival EDF as well as increasing its prices higher than any of the other Big Six this year (9.3% electricity and 11.1% for Gas) (4), (5) The company has also defended seeking a 5% profit margin which is widely regarded as excessive (6) Npower have also paid zero corporation tax for the past 3 years despite reporting a 34% profit rise of £413million last winter due to price hikes as an estimated 300,000 people were pushed into fuel poverty.  

7,8, 9. Sarah Price of UK Uncut said: ‘The Big Six are an example of incredible corporate greed. Huge profits are extracted from the public whilst they suffer at the hands of austerity. David Cameron and his cabinet of millionaires are only too happy to stuff the pockets of big business while ordinary people are left out in the cold. The combined wealth of cabinet ministers is £70 million and they will never feel the pain of those who can’t afford their energy bills this winter. People must be put before profit, and with creative direct action, we will stand with the elderly, the poor and vulnerable to fight for OUR power. Fuel Poverty must end.’

Joseph Murphy of Disabled People Against Cuts said, ‘Another harsh winter will mean more disabled people will find themselves isolated in their homes, unable to heat them, or cook properly. Many don’t make it through. Politicians and energy firms talk about ‘measures’ and ‘support’, which are only available to a very few. The energy firms continue to sit in government departments writing energy policy, in buildings where the heating is paid for by the very people who will die of cold this winter. This is a disgrace. We ask all disabled people to take action, and to show this government, and these companies, that we wont take this and will fightback’.

  1. Fight Big Six FaceBook Group -  www.facebook.com/events/1415841395313806
  2. Fight Big Six FaceBook groups -  facebook.com/events/364663353679232 (does not include those who have pledged to come but do not use social media)
  3. Last year there were 24,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales. According to the World Health Organisation around 30% of excess winter deaths can be attributed to cold indoor temperatures – which based on current figures means around 7,200 people died last year due to cold housing in the winter months. (WHO:  Environmental Burden of Disease  Associated with Inadequate Housing )
  4. Metro.co.ukN-Power most complained about, of the Big Six energy companies
  5. Mirror.co.uk – N Power Complaints spike before anger at price-hike
  6. Telegraph: NPower defends profits
  7. Metro.co.uk/2013/10/21 N-Power-Boss tells customers,” Use less to lower bills
  8. Telegraph: Npower chief refuses to give up bonus
  9. Guardian: NPower reveals 11.3% surge in UK Gas Revenues
  10. Telegraph: “Put up or shut up!” over cartel claims, says NPower Boss
  11. Fuel Poverty Action: N Power is target! 
  12. UK UnCut: – Fuel Poverty Action
  13. DPAC.uk.net  -Fuel Poverty
  14. Dorset-Eye

Welcome to Breadline Britain

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Welcome to Breadline Britain
from Gracie Samuels

With all the furore over energy prices and now water bills, it’s about time someone mentioned those who are forced to buy their energy through prepayment metering by the energy companies.

Often it is the weakest, the poorest and the most vulnerable in our society who are forced to purchase their energy like this. For example: The low-waged; the disabled; the elderly; the unemployed and single parents, those forced to live on benefits and also those “hardworking people” the prime minister talks so glibly about who are struggling with the soaring cost of living. These are the people who are existentially being hit by these price hikes much harder than people who pay directly by direct debit.

As these people have been placed on prepayment plans by their energy providers they will end paying more than the price hike for their domestic fuel bills. Prepayment means they will be asked to pay for their gas and electricity before they actually use it.

Those consumers who have been placed on prepayment metering have usually been placed on them because they cannot afford their energy bills or may have been late paying their bills on a few occasions. These consumers often have no choice and and the metre[s] will be installed by their energy providers whether the consumer wants them or not.

The energy companies take the view that they will not terminate supply for non-payment but will install a prepayment metre. Often the rate of gas or electricity consumption is set on an estimation of how much the consumer is likely to use, plus the metre is also set to recoup any debt owed to the company. So if the consumer buys £15 of electricity or gas on their card/key to top up their prepayment metre and they owe the energy company for a previous bill, the energy company will automatically take half of that payment to recover any arrears and for standing charges. The consumer may be left with as little as £7.50 for gas or electricity out of their original £15.00. This process will continue until the debt is cleared. So if the debt is around £100  it may take at least around 16 weeks to clear. That is 16 weeks of often the poorest, the disabled, the low waged, the unemployed and often some of our most vulnerable consumers of gas and electricity who are already experiencing fuel poverty being forced into even more fuel poverty while the debt is collected. Unfortunately the energy companies do not usually make adjustments for seasonal collections of debt, so the arrears could be being collected through the deepest of our winter months, exposing people to the risk of hypothermia!

Many of these metres are placed outside in awkward to reach places or inside in awkward to reach places making it very difficult for the elderly or disabled to reach. This also has hidden problems and dangers if the consumers does run out of gas for any reason it will mean relighting pilot lights on gas boilers before normal supply can be fed through to their heating systems, often people, especially the elderly and the disabled have great problems reigniting these pilot lights especially if they have back boilers as this means laying on the floor to reach the pilot light and this means they will be forced to sit in freezing cold conditions until someone can come and help them. (if indeed they have anyone that can help!)

This is not all, because these vulnerable people are on prepayment plans and metres, the energy companies say it costs more to collect their bills so people will usually pay more for their energy. if they cannot afford to buy tokens or re charge their card or keys then they will not have any energy. Also during the coldest months when people need to buy more gas and electricity to keep warm, then the more energy they purchase, the more of their money will be taken off of them to pay off their arrears.

There are also hidden costs, the nearest charging point may not be near and consumers will be faced with the additional cost of getting to their nearest charging point. If people are on both gas and electricity prepayment plans then the charging points for gas and electricity may even be located in separate locations adding to the problems.

What is the government doing about this very serious problem? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! As usual David Cameron is standing by and allowing his friends the in the energy companies to make even more money out of our most vulnerable people.

Not only is Cameron and this hideous government doing nothing to help these people, they are actually making their situations worse by cutting their benefits, even though many of these people will actually be IN WORK!

Iain Duncan Smith at the Department for Work and Pensions has made these peoples lives intolerable in many different ways will be making it impossible for these struggling people not only to feed and clothe their families and themselves this winter, but to pay something as basic as their fuel bills will also prove impossible.The hidden costs of the Tories and Liberal Democrats welfare reforms are many and varied.

Bedroom Tax - thousands of people are now being forced to pay between £14 and £24 per week or between £56 and £96 extra per month out of their low wages or benefits for extra bedrooms if they are deemed not to be needed by the DWP. Many of these people are working on low pay or are disabled and need their bedrooms and thus far it has not created one single situation where it has actually helped anyone, there are no smaller properties for people to move into. It is one of the nastiest ill thought out, ill conceived pieces of legislation in the entire history of the British parliament. Yet still this government will not admit they have got it wrong and get rid of this ludicrous policy. (If the Labour party win the next election they have promised to repeal the bedroom tax) 96% of people affected by the Tories bedroom tax have nowhere to go, in effect they are trapped and are now falling into arrears with council for non payment of bedroom tax as well as falling into arrears with domestic fuel bills.

Housing Benefit Caps - Starting in July 2013 and earlier in some pilot areas, the government introduced a cap on the amount of housing benefit you can receive. At first, the benefit Cap will only affect those in receipt of Housing Benefit, however later, it could also affect those who are in receipt of Universal Credit. if the cap affects  you then your benefit will go down. Again this not only affects those who are entirely in receipt of benefits, it also affects those on low wages who receive help with their rent and council tax.

Working Families Tax Credit Cuts - Due to government changes the new rules on working tax credits from April 2013 will hit around 212,000 low income families according to information published in the House of Commons Library. This will reduce income on average by around £2,600 per year. This affects ALL those “hard working people” that David Cameron keeps talking about. Up until now providing one partner works at least 16 hours per week, they would be eligible for tax credits, but now couples will need to work at least 24 hours between them to apply, with one partner working at least 16 hours. It means that “hardworking families” will see their incomes fall by around 30%.

Council Tax benefit cuts - Are forcing people to stay on the side of the law or to break it in order to feed, liable for charges between 10% and 30% of the full bill.  Again many of these people are IN work earning low pay and have been forced into this position by this government. How much money are councils losing in non payment and in chasing people for payment? how much money is taking all of these people to country costing the country? How are people already struggling to live going to manage having to pay higher fuel bills and some are paying the bedroom tax and some are also now being charge council tax on top of everything else.

People Queuing outside Peterborough Magistrates Court
Answering Summonses for non payment of council tax.
It’s not they won’t pay it is because they CAN’T pay!

How will they manage to clothe their families and heat and light their homes? More than a 100,000 people have been issued with court summonses for non payment of council tax. Many people whom have never been in council tax arrears in their lives before now suddenly find themselves in debt owing large amounts and hundreds are turning up on council office doorsteps to protest, or are being forced to form queues outside Magistrates courts where they will be tried and fined EXTRA money for non payment of council tax bills. Most of the people who are being fined do NOT have the money to pay the bill in the first place which is why they are now being forced to court. An estimated 1.9 million who did not have to pay council tax before the changes now find themselves deeply in debt with their incomes cut and no way of paying for soaring food prices and soaring energy prices.

As you can see some of David Cameron’s and the Tories and Liberal Democrat government’s “hardworking families” can be clobbered at least 4 times each and the total effect on their weekly incomes will be absolutely devastating, can anyone in this absolutely ludicrous insane narcissistic government please explain how on top of all these cust, people are going to be able to pay to keep their homes warm and lit? How will all those on prepayment metres cope with the soaring costs of energy on top of all of these cuts?

Why isn’t someone doing something about the energy companies charging vulnerable people MORE per unit of energy ABOVE the price everyone else pays?

The devastating verdict is in just one year this Tory led Coalition Government has pushed a million people into absolute poverty and all the progress the previous Labour government made in tackling relative child poverty has ground to a halt. In their first year this Government have pushed a million people into poverty and it is getting worse.
Now more than 5 million people in Britain are being paid less than the minimum wage, thanks to the Tory and Lib Dem Coalition Government’s naked attack on peoples living standards and their deliberate driving down of wages.

How are these people going to afford to heat and light their homes?

A recent Oxfam report says that austerity will drive more than one million children into poverty. The Oxfam report says George Osborne’s cuts and tax rises are “massively increasing” inequality in the UK and the Government’s austerity policies will push a further 800,000 children into poverty. Oxfam warns that by 2020  there will be an additional 800,000 children – up from 2.3 million at present – and 1.9m more adults living below the breadline.

How are these people going to afford to heat and light their homes?

Food Banks – Over 350,000 people received emergency help from the Trussell Trust food banks between April and September 2013. Inquiries  for help at foodbanks has tripled this past year. The level of poverty and deprivation in the country is not acceptable, it is scandalous. Michael Gove should hang his head in shame for accusing people of not managing their money properly, they have no money to manage he and his government have seen to that! And his wife filling her fridge and cupboards with junk foods throughout the summer and writing about it is just callous and shows how out of touch this hideous government is.

The Trussell Trust has also reported that people have been giving back items that need cooking because they cannot afford the gas or electricity to cook them, this is an absolute abomination, we are the 7th richest country in the world and we are forcing the poor, unemployed, the elderly, the disabled and the vulnerable to pay for the greed of the bankers.

And what is George Osborne’s answer to this while Ed Miliband is fighting the Government and the energy conglomerates to try and get a better deal for people? George Osborne is away with the fucking fairies in the EU taking them to court to safeguard bankers mega bonuses and just to add insult to injury, Osborne is forcing the taxpayer to pay over a million pounds in bankers legal fees!

The government is grabbing money from poor people hand over fist at the same time as they have given a huge tax concessions to millionaires handing them at least a £100,000 cheque tax cut. I bet they do not have to worry about turning the heating on, or worry about having enough power to cook the food a food bank gave them!

Today it is reported that cabinet ministers have been claiming thousands of pounds for energy costs, while Tories are all in it together!

Nadhim Zahawi laughing with the PM
after the millionaire claimed £5882
back in energy costs

 Our poor and vulnerable are freezing cold and cannot cook their food, and one millionaire Tory Nadhim Zahawi claimed  £5882 off of the taxpayer in just 12 months, more than four times the average household bill! Yep those -

I am so glad they think the situation they have caused in this country to be so funny, they laugh while millions struggle in despair and the winter hasn’t even started properly yet!

Someone needs to do something and do it fast, if they do not then people are going to die of starvation and hypothermia this winter.

And why are the energy conglomerates charging people with prepayments metres MORE for their energy? It is a bloody disgrace!

Regaining Real Power: An Energy Price Cap and Green Investment

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The Way Forward – An Energy Cap as well as Green Investment 

ENERGY 1324238293i2Fnxr

Ed Miliband’s welcome announcement at the Labour Party Conference to cap energy prices was a popular one with the electorate. Realisation of that caused alarm with Tories and energy companies -scare tactics threatening power shortages. Indeed, it is not just energy power they hold, and fear of losing control unnerves them. Ed has emphasised his belief in the green economy, and introducing the feed back tariff for solar power and micro-generation demonstrated that. 

This was rapidly cut back by the Coalition government, and their investment in fracking, and gas makes their self-interest very clear.

An energy cap and green investment policies could go a very long way to shifting that power back to the people. If this is followed by control of other utilities, transports, money and banking, we would be looking at a real recovery – that of Society. 

Our dependence on energy for our very survival is clear. What can be avoided is a perpetual dependence on privatized energy companies. We are imprisoned by fear of the collapse of society and the consequence has been wars in the Middle East. Ominously, British oil companies have unprecedented influence  of British military policies.

British oil companies are promoting a ‘fight against piracy’ to get a vast hidden military subsidy. In the process they have got an unprecedented amount of influence over UK military policies. Oil companies have talked up the risk from piracy to justify the use of Navy frigates, drones and helicopters to protect corporate oil assets in the seas. They have demanded increased spending on military hardware at a time of major public cutbacks. 

The media’s insistence that renewable energy would not satisfy our needs literally fuels the thirst for fossil fuels, and nuclear, while denying the dangers of climate change and nuclear contamination. The financial argument in favour of fossil and nuclear fuels is heavily biased, distorting political and public confidence in renewable energy. Why is George Osborne insisting on commitment to dirty, carbon producing gas-fuel for years to come? Ed Davey has been pressured by George Osborne to adopt gas or face deep cuts to any renewable subsidy. (Friends of the Earth, ) While cutting feed-in-tarriffs, the government prepared to invest in fracking and shale gas, with known dangers, and Lynton Crosby clearly has self-interest, yet Cameron refuses to address questions on this issue.

Evidence shows how energy companies manipulate markets, Libor style by fixing prices. (Guardian)

Michael Burke‘s recent article, was published by Socialist Economic Bulletin, and emphasises the need for green investment if there is to be a real change for British politics.

Capping Energy Prices and Green Investment are BOTH Required

“The announcement by Ed Miliband that Labour would temporarily cap energy prices is a welcome one. But the reaction to it reveals to deep-seated problems of the British economy and British politics.

  • According to Labour’s own (uncontested) research household energy bills have risen by 29% in 3 years. Therefore the pledge to cap prices rises for 20 months is really a very modest reform.
  • According to a campaign tool ‘Freezethatbill’ the average household has seen bills rise by £300 under the Tories and will save £112 a year from this policy. That would be an estimated saving of £160 in total.
  • The reaction to this moderate plan has been vociferous and extreme. Lurid headlines about the lights going out in Britain have been accompanied by open threats from the large energy companies to discontinue investment. SEB has long argued that the cause of the slump is an investment strike by private firms.
  • The energy companies threatened to make that an all-out strike in their sector.
  • The Tory energy secretary and a host of MPs immediately relayed the threats of the energy companies. This is hardly surprising given the very large donations those companies make to the Tory Party. The Tory Press did likewise.
  • However it cannot be argued that this was simply scaremongering, based on empty threats. It is already the case that the energy companies do not invest sufficiently, either in storage capacity or in renewables. The energy companies, especially those controlling energy reserves, have previously withheld supplies in order to push up prices. It was previously reported that in March this year the British economy was just half a day away from running out of gas. But the reality was that energy companies withheld available supplies, which drove up liquefied natural gas prices to 150p a therm, from 57p earlier in the year.

In pursuit of profits, the energy companies have been willing to collude in driving up prices, and endangering supply. They are able to do this, in part, because existing capacity is extremely limited and they are an oligopoly.

This is the real threat to Ed Miliband’s policy.

Clearly the price pledge is only relevant if wholesale energy prices are rising. Capping retail prices for business and household consumers while wholesale prices are rising can only lead to a profits squeeze. As a result the energy companies threaten that they will reduce their already inadequate level of investment, even while some of them have caved in on the temporary price freeze. This could lead to energy shortages and would end Ed Miliband’s much more ambitious goal of de-carbonising energy production by 2030.

The financial position is clear. Taking the shareholder payout from just British Gas, Centrica, Scottish & Southern Electricity and National Grid alone the current annual dividend is £3.4bn. Yet despite the imperative for investment in renewables, the level  of  investment has halved from already low levels over 3 years.

This private investment slump has been exacerbated by the withdrawal of state investment in the energy sector under this government. Private companies have proved incapable of providing the necessary investment for long-term projects over a prolonged period. They are simply unwilling to take the risk. Yet the current government has reduced its own investment in subsidies for renewables which reflects its commitment to the oil companies and in pursuit of the illusory benefits of fracking.

Ed Miliband’s policy of capping energy prices is very welcome. It makes a small contribution to softening the fall in living standards. But the extreme response to it highlights the complete unwillingness of the energy companies to provide the necessary investment in renewables and storage capacity. De-carbonisation and energy security require large-scale state-led investment. Instead dividend payouts to shareholders are at record levels. Faced with sabotage and threats from the energy companies, nationalisation is a necessary step that can lead to the investment that is imperatively required.”

Welcome to the 21st Century – The Crisis of Civilization

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Nafeez Ahmed’s 2011 “Crisis of civilization” film  (80 minutes) brings together the emerging economical, political and environmental trends that are likely to shape our common future over the next few decades.  The main thrust of Nafeez Ahmed’s argument is that energy, environment, economic instability, food production, international militarisation, and terrorism cannot be viewed as separate issues.  They are implicitly interlinked and codependent.  An approach which provides the global context, demonstrated by David Malone’s illuminating analysis of the different interests behind the Syria conflict (see links listed below).

Ultimately, the global situation cannot be sustained using the current neoliberal model and we need a radically different approach.

Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute said of the film, “a really fantastic overview of the global situation. I don’t think I’ve seen a more comprehensive ‘welcome to the 21st century’.”

The Crisis of Civilization – Full Length Documentary Movie HD

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Development in London. He has taught international relations, contemporary history, empire and globalisation at the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex and the Politics & History Unit, Brunel University. His previous books include The War on Truth: Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism (2005) and Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq (2003).  This documentary is based on his book ‘A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It’

Links on Syria:

http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2013/09/syria-cui-bono/

http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2013/09/syria-cui-bono-part-2-a-partial-analysis/

http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2013/09/syria-cui-bono-part-three-europe-and-the-usa/

Podcast:

http://ccragg123.libsyn.com/it-s-all-gas-gas-gas-not-an-oil-pipedream-david-malone-on-syria