The coffin was inscribed with 13,400, the number of excess winter deaths in 2021-22 (Picture: NPC on Twitter)

Campaigners staged an angry “death march” to Downing Street on Thursday to protest against excess winter deaths due to fuel poverty and bad housing. They delivered a coffin inscribed with 13,400—the number of additional deaths from December 2021 to March 2022.

The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics on the same day, underline the brutality of the Tories’ rule. Energy bosses are forcing an increasing number of people onto more expensive, prepayment metres. Many people are falling further into debt to stay warm. Others simply can’t afford to turn on the heating, living in freezing conditions.

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action said, “Forcing people onto prepayment metres is turning energy debt into a death sentence for many. Suppliers are doing this in defiance of their licence conditions, while Ofgem, the courts, and the government are colluding.

“Many people rely on energy to power stair lifts, wheelchairs, hearing and respiratory aids as well as the heat, light, refrigeration and connectivity that we all depend on.”

The protest, organised by the National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC), Fuel Poverty Action, Disabled People Against Cuts and others, held a minute’s silence outside parliament in London.

There were also vigils organised in Cardiff, Brighton and Leicester and “warm ups”—short occupations of warm buildings—set for five cities.

In 2020-21 there were 63,000 excess winter deaths, a figure skewed by the Covid pandemic. But that shouldn’t downplay the recent statistics. Excess winter deaths are the difference between winter and the average for the rest of the year.

We can expect the figures for this winter to be a lot worse. In the year leading to August 2022 household gas prices increased 96 percent and electricity by 54 percent. Food prices and essential items have also risen, with the cheapest items rising sharpest. 

NPC general secretary Jan Shortt said, “It is shameful that anyone should die from a cold related illness in this country. But we fear that the rocketing cost of living, rampant energy prices, and the disastrous crisis in the NHS and social care will see tens of thousands more die in this way.  

“It’s time the government took action to end this horrific annual cull of our oldest and most vulnerable.”

Tory chancellor Jeremy Hunt is set to review the government’s already-inadequate support scheme in April, likely slashing financial support. The Tory government and energy fat cats have blood on their hands—escalating and spreading the strikes can make them pay.

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