People ‘taking food back to foodbanks’ because they can’t afford gas to heat it

Every so often in politics you hear a quote or a statistic that seems to suck all the air out of your lungs.

Murad Qureshi AM is London Assembly Labour Group environment spokesperson

“We’re actually finding people taking food back to foodbanks because they can’t afford to top up the gas and heat it.”

Peter Smith, National Energy Action.

Every so often in politics you hear a quote or a statistic that seems to suck all the air out of your lungs. Sat around a table at a debate I had organised on rising fuel bills I tried to take in the enormity of what I had just heard. I ran it through my head again.

There are people in London in 2014 who are experiencing Dickensian levels of poverty that not only are they dependent on the support of foodbanks but find the cost of cooking the food so great they have to return it. As a London politician for well over a decade I was well aware of the levels of poverty and deprivation too many Londoners live with.

But when I began our report on the rising cost of living I realised that what we were hearing from Londoners was only a tiny snapshot of the true scale of the Cold Homes Crisis facing London.

There are no shortage of reports on fuel poverty and how we can tackle it. But this report seeks to contribute something new to the debate: the voice of ordinary Londoners. Whether through the statistics from our survey or the comments of one elder who told us “life at our age is becoming frightening”, Londoners have given their voice to the debate.

In response to my London Cost of Living Survey, 85 per cent of respondents identified gas and electricity prices as the price rise that concerns them the most. We often hear people talk in the media about the difficult choices that the cost of living crisis is forcing on families. But when 68 per cent of respondents told me they have to cut back on heating as a result, I knew the consequences could be tragic.

Research has shown that at its worst, between 30 and 50 per cent of excess winter deaths can be linked to cold indoor temperatures. Last winter 2,700 excess winter deaths took place in 2012/13, meaning that between 810 and 1,350 Londoners died because their homes were simply too cold.

In recent months I and my colleagues have campaigned hard to get this issue taken seriously by Mayor Boris Johnson. The fact that we have no executive power hasn’t stopped us from intervening on behalf of Londoners against utility companies that have sought to turn the screw on Londoners’ finances still further.

When Thames Water applied to Ofwat for permission to increase prices for millions of Londoners by £29 per household during 2014-15, I intervened twice with the regulator and made arguments that were quoted in the decision notice to disallow the increase.

The Mayor on the other hand did not lift a finger to stand up for Londoners.

My report sets out how the Mayor is failing Londoners by refusing to take the side of ordinary consumers in the debate over soaring energy bills. It looks at how the Mayor’s insulation programme is failing to deliver and how the Mayor’s obsession with fracking and nuclear energy is not helping deliver the local community owned decentralised energy that will deliver affordable energy to Londoners.

Finally I put forward two recommendations of ways the Mayor could tackle the Cold Homes Crisis. We need much stronger joined up working to identify and support those at risk of fuel poverty and provide targeted interventions that could transform lives.

We also need to look at how small scale community energy co-operatives could deliver much greater diversity of supply and help up skill communities for the green jobs of the future too.

That is what serving Londoners is all about. Identifying the core problems, listening to what effect it has on the lives of ordinary people and formulating radical ideas to deliver change. A job for a Mayor of London you might say. Sadly this one just isn’t interested.

16 Responses to “People ‘taking food back to foodbanks’ because they can’t afford gas to heat it”

  1. Sparky

    “We’re finding…”

    Translation: ‘I’ve heard from someone, who heard from someone else, that someone else once…but I’m unable to provide any evidence whatsoever to back up my story. But I’ll quote it anyway, because it makes an eye-catching headline.”

  2. Merlin

    Friendly advice: before publishing something so incredibly stupid, read it aloud or get a friend to read it to you. Then, and only then, if you still think it’s worth publishing, DON’T.

    IF what you write ever happened, is probably due to some lazy bugger who couldn’t be asked to cook and expected a cooked meal instead.

  3. Ken Livingstone

    I took the cost of living survey 7 times myself. How representative is that!

  4. Tony Blair

    I also filled out the “survey” 19 times. Yah, yah, yahpers

  5. Kim Jong Un

    I formally invite Mr Qureshi to come to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to advise on energy policy and to become joint captain of the state basket ball team with Denis Rodman. In addition we have a place in the Politburo for Commissar for Paper Clips.

  6. Nutmeg

    Many food banks are now making up special cold packs for those who can’t heat their food.

  7. sparkplugs

    Much like your comments then..for example on your friends at the BBC….

  8. guest

    “IF what you write ever happened, is probably due to some lazy bugger who
    couldn’t be asked to cook and expected a cooked meal instead.”

    It’s a pity you didn’t take you own advice.

  9. EDSer

    I am disgusted by the comments so far apart from Nutmeg. If your attitudes towards vulnerable groups such as the elderly, unemployed and low paid workers is typical then I can understand why a lot of English people want to join the Scots in becoming independent! London & the home counties can be a separate nation where you can pretend there is no poverty or people dying due to this Tory led government. What on earth happened to humanity?

  10. clouty

    One of the main staples from foodbanks is pasta – I wouldn’t fancy that uncooked. I hear from people every day who are living without power because of arrears, usually due to loosing a benefit that they are patently entitled to, due to having to appeal a wrong decision (no money now while the DWP rethink) or being sanctioned.

  11. clouty

    One of the main staples from foodbanks is pasta – I wouldn’t fancy that uncooked. I hear from people every day who are living without power because of arrears, usually due to loosing a benefit that they are patently entitled to, due to having to appeal a wrong decision (no money now while the DWP rethink) or being sanctioned.

  12. Azzaam Abdul-Hakeem

    I dont care if some on the left hate me for
    this, I have had it, I have lost ALL patients, David Cameron is
    massacring the disabled and now the poor, those on food aid are so poor
    they cant afford to cook the hand outs they receive, this is
    more brutal and evil than Adof Hitler’s Germany the place where my
    Jewish grandmother suffered under, but I would rather live under
    Hitler’s Germany than Cameron’s Britain. Britain its time for a
    Revolution, why is it always us disabled and students who have to lead
    the way while the rest make up excuses as to NOT act. This is Genocide for the disabled 40,000 dead and now its ethnic and social cleansing for the poor. How long can this go on? Before we are to act to save this nation?

  13. Sparky

    You can’t read, I have never said I have friends at the BBC,

  14. barrydavies

    They watch benefit street and think that is the rue reflection of everyone on benefits, in fact more n=benefits go to the working than the unemployed.

  15. Mike Stallard

    People who question Anthropogenic Global Warming are the underdogs. We are the people who do not receive the money, the University honours, the congratulations of important people. Quite often even our own families attack our “stupid” views.
    The trouble is that we are right. Why doesn’t the left support us?

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