Guest post: How to warm-up in 10 easy steps

Posted on Thu 12th Jan 2012, 12:00pm
This is a guest post from Fuel Poverty Action

On Friday 27th until Monday 30th January, Fuel Poverty Action are staging a weekend of Winter Warm-ups where we will be coming in from the cold, to the warm offices of those resposible for fuel poverty. Across the country we will challenge the collusion between the government and the energy companies who are profiting from people freezing this winter. Here’s a step by step guide to planning a Warm-up in your local area…

1. Who is affected… Fuel poverty disproportionately affects young children, pensioners, people suffering from illnesses, disabled people, students and others on low incomes. Think about contacting mothers & toddler groups, pensioners’ groups, student organisations, disability groups, residents associations, tenants associations. Before you plan your warm-up, it’s a good idea to chat with some of these people and discuss the idea of a warm-up with them. See what they think of the idea, whether it’s something they’d like to help plan or participate in, and what they’d like to get out of a warm-up.

2. Find a group of people who want to plan a warm-up together. This can be anything from a group of people fed up with extortionate energy bills, a group of friends, a coalition of people from different groups, an existing group such as an anti-cuts group or environmental organisation, or a combination of any of these! A really successful warm-up can be planned by a few people with a spare few hours, so don’t worry if you don’t have masses of people!

3. Choose a place to warm-up… Fuel poverty is being driven by the collusion of the government, public and private landlords, and energy companies. These institutions are ensuring that private profits and cuts are being prioritised over people’s rights to warm homes, a safe environment and a say in where our energy comes from. We can challenge the government, the Big Six, and housing providers by warming-up in the toasty buildings that house them. Possible targets include town halls, council offices, housing associations, government departments, the offices of the Big Six and cultural and sporting venues sponsored by the Big Six.

4. Inside or outside… You need to decide whether you want your warm-up inside or outside your target. Getting inside and occupying is a powerful way of challenging the power of your target, as we’ve seen with UK Uncut actions against tax-dodging corporations across the country. But before you decide to warm-up inside, your group needs to have a discussion about what people feel comfortable with. It’s also a good idea to have a plan for how to respond if the police turn up and ask you to leave, so decide beforehand whether you want to stay, or all leave together if asked. (For activist legal info, see www.activistslegalproject.org.uk/resour.... The presence of the local paper and a photographer can make all the difference, too! You can also warm-up outside! Chilly weather can be got around with blankets, hot water bottles, flasks of tea, tents (maybe even a campfire of burning energy bills!) and you’ll be in a great position for leafleting and talking to the public.

5. Location location location… If you want to be outside your target, then think about where you want to be: do you want to be in front of the doors, or do you want to be out of the way but still visible? If you want to get inside your target, you need to think about how to do this. It’s a good idea to check out your location beforehand to work out how to go about getting where you want to be. You need to think about questions such as: are doors locked or controlled by swipe-cards? Are there security guards? How can you get inside? If you want to stay for a long period of time, how can you do this and what provisions will you need?

6. Choose a meeting-point to advertise publically… If you want to advertise your event publically and you’re planning to warm-up inside, then you need to think about how to do this without being stopped. One way to do this is to arrange an easy meet up point somewhere away from but nearby to your target like a train station or public landmark. If you do this, then you might want to have a plan for moving people from the meet-up point to your target, such as having flags or music to follow. You still might want to consider this if you’re planning to warm-up outside, although it is unlikely that you will be stopped from assembling outside a building.

7. Think about what you want to do while you’re warming-up… It’s great to include a visual or theatrical element such as destroying energy bills, huddling together to warm each other up, giving yourselves frozen blue lips and white faces, clutching flasks of tea and hot water bottles and blankets…Also, warm-ups are a fantastic opportunity for public meetings to discuss the problems raised by high energy bills in your area, to give people a chance to speak out about their bills and how cold their homes are, to draw up a local campaign plan, to form a new Fuel Poverty Action group and to discuss visions for a new just and sustainable energy system. You might decide that you want to come up with a public statement or a set of demands in your warm-up? You can use the Occupy movement’s human microphone method. This works with big crowds and when you lack a megaphone. It involves repeating whatever the person speaking is saying as a group so that everyone hears it. Alternatively, just use a megaphone or portable amp. It’s up to you, so get creative!

8. Publicity… A really successful warm-up can be organised by a small group without further participants on the day. But, if you’ve got the time to publicise your warm-up, the more people you get along, the better. So, if you can, publicise your warm-up far and wide! Make a leaflet (you can find a template on our website) and distribute it in public places, at other demonstrations and anywhere you think there will be cold and up for it people! Get posters up everywhere: pubs, cafes, public spaces and social centres! Spread the word round all the relevant email lists you can think of! Make a Facebook event and share this widely! Set up a Twitter account and start Tweeting about your warm-up! Go to other groups’ meetings to talk about your plan and get them involved. Obvious groups to link up with are anti-cuts groups, student organisations, environmental groups and any relevant campaigning groups or networks in your area. Also, email fuelpovertyaction@gmail.com to let us know about the warm-up you are planning and we will publicise it too!

9. Media… Try and compile a list of local media contacts that you think would be interested in covering your warm-up. If you think that your warm-up is something that national media would be interested in, email fuelpovertyaciton@gmail.com for some contacts. The really important thing to do is to email a press release and photographs of your warm-up out to your media contacts immediately after your warm-up is finished. If you would like a press release template for your warm-up, email fuelpovertyaction@gmail.com and we’ll send you one. If you’ve got the time, it’s also a good idea to send a press release out a few days before the action. This can be a lot briefer and simply include the key details of your action – date, time, meet-up place, contact details for questions and a short blurb (but obviously if your target is secret – just give the meet-up place!) It’s also good to follow up this prior press release by ringing around the contacts you’ve sent it to in order to check they received it, to answer any questions they might have and to find out whether they will be sending reporters or photographers to the warm-up. You might want to consider agreeing on a media spokesperson to talk to journalists whilst the warm-up is happening, and it’s definitely worth agreeing on some key messages to convey to the media. It’s also worth buying a new cheap phone and setting up a new email account to be used for media contact details as it’s can be better to avoid giving journalists your personal details. For more useful media tips, see http://pressgang.noblogs.org/files/2012/01/ActionMediaTeam.pdf

10. Afterwards… A warm-up will be a great opportunity to make links with people who want to start taking action on fuel poverty. So make sure that you collect the contact details of all that attend. Why not arrange a follow-up meeting for people to debrief and reflect upon how the warm-up went and, hopefully, to think about how a more permanent group or campaign could be built.

Facebook event: www.facebook.com/events/350821344932887

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fuel-Poverty-Action/272943569430814

Twitter: @FuelPovAction

Email: fuelpovertyaction@gmail.com

Stop the time limiting of ESA!

Posted on Tue 10th Jan 2012, 10:07pm
The House of Lords votes on time-limiting employment support allowance (ESA) TOMORROW as part of the ghastly Welfare Reform Bill.

Under the proposed changes, if you fall seriously ill, you will have an work capability assessment. If that assessment finds that you are indeed unwell, but may be able to do some work at some point, you will only qualify for support for a year.

At the end of a year, no matter how ill you remain, if you have a partner who earns just £7,500 or more, or have limited savings, you will lose all ESA. All of it.

Those with long term, serious illnesses, mental health conditions and learning disabilities are likely to be the worst affected. Sickness benefits as we know them will become a thing of the past.

We have to make sure the inboxes of Lib Dem peers are full of emails telling them to vote against time limiting ESA tomorrow morning.

Here's a handy list of Lib Dem peers' addresses:
addingtond@parliament.uk; alderdicej@parliament.uk; allanr@parliament.uk; ashdownp@parliament.uk; barkere@parliament.uk; benjaminf@parliament.uk; bonhamcarterj@parliament.uk; brintons@parliament.uk; carlilea@parliament.uk; chidgeyd@parliament.uk; clementjonest@parliament.uk; cotterb@parliament.uk; dholakian@parliament.uk; ezrad@parliament.uk; falknerk@parliament.uk; gardens@parliament.uk; germanm@parliament.uk; goodhartw@parliament.uk; greavesa@parliament.uk; hamwees@parliament.uk; harrisa@parliament.uk; ecem@parliament.uk; jonesn@parliament.uk; kramers@parliament.uk; leej@parliament.uk; lestera@parliament.uk; linklaterv@parliament.uk; loombar@parliament.uk; maclennanr@parliament.uk; mcnallyt@parliament.uk; maddockd@parliament.uk ; marksj@parliament.uk; methuenr@parliament.uk; millers@parliament.uk; newbyr@parliament.uk; northoverl@parliament.uk; oakeshottm@parliament.uk; palmerm@parliament.uk; parminterk@parliament.uk; randersonj@parliament.uk; rennardc@parliament.uk; robertsr@parliament.uk; scottrc@parliament.uk; sharpm@parliament.uk; shipleyj@parliament.uk; shuttd@parliament.uk; smitht@parliament.uk; stephenn@parliament.uk; thomasm@parliament.uk; thomass@parliament.uk; thomascm@parliament.uk; tongej@parliament.uk; topeg@parliament.uk; tordoffg@parliament.uk; tylerp@parliament.uk; wallacew@parliament.uk; wallacej@parliament.uk; walmsleyj@parliament.uk; williamss@parliament.uk; willisg@parliament.uk

You can find a template letter at http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.com/2011/12/time-limiting-esa-template-letter-to.html and more information at http://wheresthebenefit.blogspot.com/2012/01/whats-wrong-with-time-limiting.html, http://wheresthebenefit.blogspot.com/2012/01/time-limiting-esa-clause-51-amendment.html and http://wheresthebenefit.blogspot.com/2011/12/time-limiting-esa-we-must-stop-it.html.

We will not the let ill and disabled pay the price for a crisis caused by a wealthy elite!

Protest works! Reflections on the report on tax dodging

Posted on Tue 20th Dec 2011, 12:40pm
Today, a respected cross-party parliamentary committee released a damning report into dodgy tax deals struck between big business and bosses at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). It has made headlines, not just in the Guardian, but in the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Telegraph and as the leading story on the BBC Today Programme.

What conclusions can we draw from the report and the reaction to it?

1. There are systemic failures at HMRC

The Public Accounts Committee criticised the ‘cosy’ relationship between HMRC bosses and corporations, the way deals are decided and signed off without oversight, and the way large corporations get preferential treatment. We already knew that Dave Hartnett was dodgy. But the problem is systemic. It’s deeper than Dave.

2. The government has to correct these problems or lose credibility

So following the report of a respected cross-party committee, headlines in papers from the Guardian to the Daily Mail and quotes from thinktanks across the political spectrum, you’d think it was basically impossible for any reasonable person to maintain confidence in HMRC’s deals with large corporations that are costing the public purse £25billion annually.

How do the government react? David Gauke, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, affirms his “full confidence in HMRC and its current leadership.”

Unless the government takes meaningful action to change the culture at HMRC and shows it is serious about clamping down on corporate tax avoidance with new legislation, this case will eat away at its credibility – particularly the claim that ‘there is no alternative’ to savage public spending cuts that are making Britain a colder and harsher place for us all.

They certainly won’t regain credibility though their strategy to cut thousands of jobs at HMRC, making it even harder for the department to collect tax.

Of course, we can’t trust the government to do what is right. That’s part of the reason we’ve been taking direct action against tax dodgers. And the reason UK Uncut Legal Action is starting legal proceedings against HMRC to make them recover the £20million in tax dodged by Goldman Sachs. If the government won’t chase rich corporate tax cheats, we will.

3. Protest works

Amazing work has been done by Private Eye, trade unions, campaign groups, and NGOs to shed light onto the murky world of tax avoidance. But the catalyst for change has come from popular protest. The politics of the street has demanded the attention of politicians, the media and the corporations themselves.

Why is it Dave Hartnett’s reputation now lies in tatters with a startling coalition of organisations demanding change at HMRC? Because of ordinary people taking direct action. Because of the creativity and bravery of people up and down the country who have taken on the tax dodgers and demanded change from the government. Because of the actions organised from Aberystwyth to Edinburgh, Sheffield to Brighton, and Tunbridge Wells to Nottingham. Because of people coming together to stand up (or sit-in) for tax justice as an alternative to the governments’ cuts. Because protest works.

UK Uncut was born in the doorway of a Vodafone store in London just over a year ago. That day, 70 activists shut it down to protest against their £6 billion tax dodge. This started the process which has culminated in today’s damning parliamentary report into tax dodging, forced the retirement of Hartnett and, on Thursday, will see the start of legal proceedings against HMRC.

Today everyone who has played a part in UK Uncut should feel proud of themselves. It is important to remember the power of ordinary people taking action together. And it’s important to keep on going until the government is forced to accept there are alternatives to the cuts.

See you on the high streets, in the headlines, and if you are HMRC and Goldman Sachs, in court!

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