Due to exploding costs, 60% of Britons have to curtail their heating and one in five can’t even turn it on. So “heat banks” are popping up all over the country: public places open to anyone to come and warm up. Visit one of them in Birmingham, the city hardest hit by energy poverty.
From our correspondent in London,
Every Friday, a dozen of them gather at the community center in Nechells, northeast of Birmingham. Around a table, we discuss, we drink tea… Between her two small jobs, Yunfang comes regularly, instead of staying home alone during the day. ” It is warmer here than at home. It’s too cold in my house. When my husband is working, the kids are at school, I don’t want to turn on the heat for myself… “, she says.
Next to the young woman, Bea nibbles a cookie. This 40-year-old stopped working after a stroke. She comes to enjoy some company here and the warm-up. ” I have a timer on my boiler, it automatically switches off in the morning and only switches on again in the evening. In the same period my bills have doubled! It is hard “, she laments.
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400 listed locations
In the Birmingham area, almost half of the residents cannot afford proper heating. Beth Bailey, manager of Nechell’s Pod, is well aware of the challenges the neighborhood faces. ” The people we welcome here are really very affected by this problem ” says Beth Bailey. “ Those who work work for platforms like Uber or have insecure contracts and do not have stable or high incomes. Here, our social worker is an energy adviser, she can help them in the process of getting help. »
This winter, several platforms were launched to identify 4,000 warm rooms, churches, heated gymnasiums open to the public. This is not the first for Nechels. ” It’s something we’ve always done, the only difference is it has a name this year and we were able to have some money to cover the bills adds Beth Bailey. “ We are always open during the day, anyone can come, have a cup of tea, warm up, charge their phone… Anything that might be a problem at home. »
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Avoid the sustainability of the movement
The grants come from the associations, but the municipal council has not yet participated. Politicians welcome the outpouring of solidarity, but anti-energy poverty movements fear the need for hot banks become permanent, says Alexandra Considine from Fuel Poverty Action.
Heat banks should not exist. We know many people are getting involved, make sure to help their neighbors not get cold. But we don’t think that’s sustainable. We can’t go on like this. We should have invested in renewable energy a long time ago, we should introduce a progressive energy tariff so that you and I do not have to pay the same amount per entity as the owner of a villa or of a swimming pool.
A further increase in energy prices is expected in the spring.