The Glasgow Guardian speaks to organisers of the Power to the People protest against rising energy bills as the cost of living crisis ramps up.
‘Power to the People’ (PTTP), a campaign group fighting rising energy costs, have announced a public protest in Glasgow on Friday 26 August. The protest will be held at 4pm outside UK energy regulator Ofgem’s offices on Albion Street in the City Centre.
The campaign was launched in July by activists including Glasgow Labour Councillor Matt Kerr and trade unionist and former Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) MSP Frances Curran. In response to rising energy costs, the group is demanding a freeze in energy prices, an end to prepayment meters, and an end to debt payment fees.
An initial PTTP protest on Friday 12 August outside the Scottish Power headquarters in Glasgow saw hundreds of activists, trade unionists, tenants’ unionists, and student union members gather to protest against energy price hikes. As a result of rising price caps on energy bills, the average UK household annual energy bill is expected to increase to £3,554 in October. This marks a £2,151 increase since October 2021, when the average household annual energy bill was £1,400. The rate has been forecasted to soar as high as £4,650 in January 2023. Meanwhile, energy companies are raking in record profits. British Gas owner, Centrica, are reported to have recorded half-year profits of £1.3bn; 5 times the amount they made over the same period last year.
Speaking with The Glasgow Guardian, PTTP campaign organiser, Frances Curran, said: ‘‘The proposal to set up a PTTP campaign came out of a socialist summit on energy back in May…We decided, given the growing energy crisis, that we should have a session on what we can do to prevent people being hit with extortionate price rises.’’
Following this proposal, representatives from the meeting set up PTTP committees in Glasgow and Dundee. “We met for 8 weeks before the protest at Scottish Power. The purpose of that was to begin building a campaign of opposition to both the energy companies and the government, and force a price freeze by 1 October. For that [to happen], we will need mass protest and mass involvement of people who have never joined anything or ever come on a protest’’, said Curran.
Power to the People’s next protest comes on Friday 26 August, the same day that Ofgem will announce October’s new price cap. The Scottish government has estimated that the price cap announcement will mean 36% of Scottish households are plunged into fuel poverty come October. This figure is expected to rise further after the price cap review in January 2023. A household is defined as being in fuel poverty if more than 10% of household income (after tax and housing costs) is spent on energy bills.
Jack Mauremootoo, Media student at the University of Glasgow told The Glasgow Guardian: “These price rises terrify me, absolutely terrify me…People rightfully feel apathetic with politicians in Holyrood and Westminster, but we need to fight this on the streets.’’
Calling for the nationalisation of energy companies, Mauremootoo said: “I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Glasgow fighting against this rotten system, which is determined to make workers pay for the terrible decisions made by people at the top of society. We’ve had enough.’’
Of Friday’s protest and the one earlier this month, Curran said: ‘‘We are beginning to mobilise people, leading to the setting up of PTTP committees across the country … We are giving the [energy] companies and the government the chance to act. If they don’t act, and refuse to listen by 1 October, we will be ramping up our tactics. We have people involved in the campaign who can give expert debt advice and let people know about several courses of action they can take if they can’t pay their bill.’’
Drawing on the successes of the anti-Poll Tax campaign of 1989-90, Curran said: ‘‘We want people to sign up and join the [Power to the People] campaign … Mass protest works. We need everyone to come out onto the streets on Friday.’’