• Tue. May 21st, 2024

“Don’t pay” movement is gaining popularity in UK

Hundreds of thousands of Brits are set to stop paying their energy bills next month when prices take another leap.

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / Alamy Stock Photo

More than 1.7 million UK households are planning to strike on payments from 1 October, according to a recent Opinium Research survey, representing 6 per cent of the population.

That was before new PM Liz Truss took office last week with the announcement that energy bills will be frozen at an average of £2,500 (€2,886) a year.

Gas and electricity regulator Ofgem previously said it would lift the price cap – the maximum amount suppliers can charge customers – by 80 per cent, letting the average annual bill soar to £3,549 (€4,198).

While Truss’s plan offers some protection to worried citizens, the roughly 27 per cent hike in the ‘price guarantee rate’ makes average bills 97 per cent higher than they were before April.

Will people still strike on energy bills despite Truss’s freeze?
“The government’s energy price freeze headed off a stratospheric predicted price increase from October, but struggling households remain extremely worried about how they are supposed to fill this gap,” responds Peter Matejic, Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s chief analyst.

7 million households across the UK are still heading into fuel poverty this winter, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition estimates, on track to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on energy.

Against this stark backdrop, more than 188,400 people have so far pledged to stop paying their energy bills in October.

The campaign is aiming to convince one million people that a collective non-payment strike is the best way to force the government and energy giants to rethink.

We spoke to some of the local organisers trying to make that happen.

Who is taking part in Don’t Pay?

When Sheila*, 39, went from door to door on the high street in Sheffield last month, she was struck by the fact that everyone – from charity shop volunteers to librarians, business owners, baristas and walkers-by – at least took a leaflet.

“Even if they didn’t agree with the ‘Don’t Pay’ premise or they had questions about it, every single person was really, really worried about their bills,” she says.

“Many people say that they already can’t afford them… The librarian told us that people are already using the library to stay warm and she’s really afraid of what’s going to happen this winter.”

Each year, around 10,000 people die as a result of living in freezing homes according to the National Energy Action (NEA) charity – from heart attacks, strokes, bronchitis and other serious illnesses that the cold causes or exacerbates.

With UK families set to face gas and electricity bills far higher than anything experienced since the 1970s, the impact on people’s health and wellbeing will be even starker this year.