Cost of living: Don't Pay UK protesters ramp up call for ‘payment strike’ on soaring energy bills

People protest outside the Ofgem HQ in Canary Wharf on Friday evening. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Protesters have warned they will refuse to pay soaring energy bills as they chanted "enough is enough."

Around 100 protesters gathered outside Ofgem headquarters in London on Friday promoting a campaign for households to withhold payment for “astronomical” energy price hikes they could not afford.

Members of the crowd held banners reading “Freeze profits, not people” on the street outside the energy regulator's offices in Canary Wharf in London.

The protest came after Ofgem confirmed an 80% rise in the energy price cap on Friday, sending the average household’s yearly bill from £1,971 to £3,549 from October.

The demonstration was promoted by Don’t Pay UK, a grassroots movement describing its aim as “building a mass non-payment strike of energy bills starting on October 1”.

Protester Tracy Baldwin, 52, said deaths caused in part by the price hike were inevitable and would be “nothing short of corporate manslaughter”.

Ms Baldwin, a carer from Yorkshire, said: “The price hikes are astronomical. There’s going to be deaths from the vulnerable, the disabled, the elderly.

“Ofgem are not doing anything to tackle the problem. When people start to die it’s going to be nothing short of corporate manslaughter.”

The Don't Pay UK campaign is urging people to boycott their bills as they soar ahead of winter. Credit: James Manning/PA

Teacher Jamie Grey called for “hitting them where it hurts, withdrawing our financial support for a barbaric regime of energy companies that have put profit before people”.

The 34-year-old, from Tower Hamlets, said she teaches children who are already living below the poverty line whose families would be unable to stay warm this winter.

She added that Ofgem “don’t care about us at all” and said vulnerable people would die over the coming months as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.

People protest outside Ofgem’s HQ in London’s Canary Wharf. Growing concerns over the cost-of-living crisis have overshadowed the contest Credit: James Manning/PA

“Ofgem don’t care about us. All we have is each other – historically we know mass non-payment and mass movements do work,” Ms Grey said.

Protester Tony Cisse said: “People are going to be driven into poverty. The people being asked to absorb the price rises are the people at the bottom.”

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Ofgem boss Jonathan Brearley said the regulator had to make “difficult trade-offs” setting the new price cap.

He warned costs would come back to customers in the long run if companies were to fail.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Mr Brearley said: “The price cap was designed to do one thing, and that was to make sure that unfair profits aren’t charged by those companies that buy and sell energy. And, right now, those profits in that market are 0%.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

“What it can’t do is it can’t say, given the cost of the energy, that we can force companies to get from customers less than it costs to buy the energy that they need, because otherwise they simply can’t buy the energy for those customers.”

He added: “So, we have had to make some difficult trade-offs and we have had to make some difficult choices.”

On Saturday morning, the Chancellor suggested workers earning around £45,000 annually could also struggle to cope with soaring living costs driven by energy bill hikes, as well as Britain's poorest households.Nadhim Zahawi said things will be “really hard” for middle-earners, as well as society’s most vulnerable, after the energy price cap change was announced on Friday.