Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/556/6604
Confined to one room
AROUND FOUR and a half million pensioners in Britain are forced to stay in just one heated room to save on fuel costs, a new report reveals. And it's getting worse - two million more pensioners are heating only one room now, than did last year. Six and a half million turn down their heating to save money.
One in four pensioners keep warm by wrapping up in a blanket and staying in bed compared to one in seven last year. The survey quite rightly calls for the government to ensure automatic pensions payments to pensioners - up to £5 billion goes unclaimed - a tiny sum compared to the fortunes paid in bailouts to big bankers.
Who produced the report? It was mainly the Help the Aged charity/action group. But it was partly subsidised by British Gas, which has been increasing energy charges to high levels despite its owner Centrica making £1.2 billion profit before tax last year. Centrica's millionaire managing director Jake Ulrich even suggested that people save on bills by putting on two sweaters instead of one!
Fuel poverty is growing all the time; more and more people on low wages, and on even lower pensions and benefits, are feeling the cold. The government should increase pensions by at least 50% as a step towards a living pension. And improve benefits for unemployed, sick and disabled people so they don't have to choose between heating and eating.
Socialists also propose one remedy that, for some mysterious reason, this report ignores. We say the government should take the fuel companies, including British Gas, into public ownership under democratic workers' control and management, so people's fuel and heating needs are made top priority, not the excessive salaries and perks of the companies' directors or the huge profits of their shareholders.
In The Socialist 12 November 2008:
Socialist Party campaigns
War and occupation
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Socialist Party review