We think that fuel bill assemblies have an important role to play in our movement to Stop the Great Fuel Robbery. Here’s why….
1. Fuel bill assemblies can bring people together
People worst affected by fuel poverty tend to be marginalised and isolated by a political system controlled by the privileged, wealthy and powerful.
Some people struggling with fuel poverty don’t want other people to know about their situation. They are made to feel like it is somehow their fault. This is a scandal. Those in fuel poverty are being robbed. For others in fuel poverty, the feeling is not shame but anger.
Fuel bill assemblies give people the chance to speak out about their situations, hear others, leave shame behind and work out what to do together. The status quo is not an option: people are freezing and some are dying. We need to find out how our neighbours and people in other communities are managing and what we can do together so the fuel companies don’t pick us off one by one.
One way to find out about how people are really being affected in a way that makes clear we’re all fighters, not victims, is to ask speakers to spell out how they are surviving – from living in their coats, to getting warm in libraries, to confronting landlords or finding ways to get extra from their meters.
2. Fuel bill assemblies can build support networks
If we want to stop the great fuel robbery, we’re going to have to stand together and support each other. We need to share practical skills and materials for keeping our homes warm. We need community renewable energy schemes, like some communities have already created. We need friends and neighbours ready to block the way when bailiffs, debt collectors or prepayment meters arrive. We need communities ready to join each other in refusing to pay the robbers’ bills.
Fuel bill assemblies can strengthen existing support networks and help build new ones. Assemblies foster solidarity through the process of speaking out, listening and discussing. And they help us to familiarise ourselves with each others’ situations, ideas and tactics, and what kind of support is needed.
3. Fuel bill assemblies can strengthen our movement
Organising a fuel bill assembly in your area could be the first step towards setting up a local group to take further action on fuel poverty. Or it could lead to an effective focus on resisting fuel poverty within existing community groups. If assemblies happen across the country, this could provide the foundations of a national movement.
The struggle around fuel poverty connects to many different issues: corporate power, the cuts, housing, low pay, environmental destruction. Organising around fuel poverty has potential to bring together several different campaigns or groups in an area to take action together.
4) Fuel bill assemblies can turn up the heat on the robbers
Until we start fighting back, the robbers will keep on robbing. You can use your assembly as a chance to plan protests and direct action against the robbers. Or, you can use the assembly itself as a means of direct confrontation by holding your assembly outside or inside the offices of one of the robbers.