Enough is Enough: This Winter I Will Refuse to Pay My Energy Bills | Christopher

II have never been involved in any kind of civil disobedience before. I’ve always been a good boy, I’m not the type to stick to the M25. But I have come to realize that it is only through collective action that we can persuade the government and the energy companies to make very drastic changes. That’s why I joined the Don’t Pay campaign. On October 1, when the next price cap comes into effect, I will phone EDF to tell them that, in solidarity with millions of others, I will not be paying again until they reduce their prices.

Before the price cap went up on April 1st, I was already worried about not being able to afford dramatic price increases. I am a retiree with a chronic illness and therefore disabled. I was managing to pay £106 a month for dual fuel. Then it went down to around £170 – that’s quite high for me, but I can pretty much afford it. We now learn that there will likely be a 60-70% price cap increase this winter. Well, I’m afraid I can’t afford that. I would find it unaffordable. And there will be millions more like me.

Keep in mind that I live alone. During the winter, I have no heating at all on the ground floor; I only use a radiator in my room (because of my health condition I have to spend a lot of time lying down) and a towel dryer in the bathroom. But I will still be in a situation of energy poverty: I have calculated that I will pay more than 10% of the money I receive in energy costs. I read that from October, one in three households is at risk of fuel poverty. That’s what’s behind the Don’t Pay campaign – it’s just a community of ordinary people who have been pushed into an intolerable situation.

There may be critics who say refusing to pay bills is irresponsible or too risky. I would answer that it is a risk to which the energy companies and the government push us. Moreover, corporations make huge profits at the expense of ordinary people. Shell made £9.5bn, a 26% increase on its previous profit. Don’t Pay hopes it doesn’t get to the point where energy companies penalize anyone for taking action: it clearly should never come to that, because we should have a responsible government that steps in and averts this disaster before October.

I’ve convinced about half a dozen people I communicate with on social media to get involved as well. Don’t Pay aims to get 1 million people to pledge to strike. This is a large number, but it corresponds to the magnitude of this crisis. I understand that 70,000 have already signed up and as people talk to each other non-payment will become more and more socially acceptable. The other day, someone on Facebook asked, “Well, why don’t you do it now?” But we need to have the impact of collective action happening at the same time.

I’m not a party person at all – I have no problem with left or right. However, the government seems to be failing the poorest. There have been several years when wages, especially in the public sector, have been cut; hence all the talk about strikes. By removing these wages, the government is pushing people into poverty. Decisions it has made in recent years – including the failure to sufficiently insulate the large number of homes leaking thermal energy – have made the situation worse, especially for the poorest people. As for the opposition: I don’t know what Labour’s policies are on rising energy prices.

Having a well-heated home is a human right. There is a huge amount of excess winter deaths every year – I fear there will be many, many cold-related tragedies among the elderly and disabled this winter, as people dare not turn on their heating. So the government has to do something about the price cap. It has to be reduced.

  • Christopher (a pseudonym) is part of the Don’t Pay campaign. He is 75 and lives in South Yorkshire

  • As said to Yohann Koshy

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