“Our protests have been triggered by the governments OFGEM decision to allow energy companies to raise our energy bills by another 54%” said Jane, from the Tenants and Community Union. “No one here can afford that. And these same energy companies have extracted billions of pounds in profits in recent years from us all. It’s all wrong and we are not going to take it any more. Today is just the first protest”.
Chanting “If they put our bills up – we're gonna rise up!”, Lancaster residents held aloft banners calling for a halt to increases in energy bills, food prices and rents. One large banner simply had the three words: “Tax The Rich”.
A speaker from the TACU union told the crowd: “We are not alone in Lancaster today and we will not give up. All across the country today there are similar protests. Next we will gather in Lancaster’s Market Square again on Sat 5th March, to take part in the second great nationwide wave of protests. We are going to stay on the streets until the government lowers the OFGEM price cap and makes the wealthy energy company owners pay the cost, not us”.
Other speakers at the rally included Cat Smith Member of Parliament for Lancaster & Fleetwood from the Labour Party plus Joanna Young, City Councillor and local foodbank worker from the Greens. Both spoke about the bitter poverty and hardship that low paid workers and working class communities in the Lancaster area already have to cope with, even before the energy bills rise again.
The crowd also cheered representatives of the local university workers UCU union, who spoke about their strike action, and how unions and strikes can help workers defend themselves from the cost of living crisis.
Despite pouring rain, the crowd was defiant and in good cheer. Especially when ‘Boris Johnson’ (played by a floor mop in a suit) made an appearance on the old Museum steps, to laughter and jeering. “It was good to see ‘Boris’ put in an appearance” said John, a TACU member “Especially as we finally put the mop head to good use cleaning Lancaster’s streets after the rally”.
Representatives of TACU spoke about how local people were being driven out of the city as landlords and property agencies try to increase local rent returns. “Renters also suffer more from the rising energy bills” said a TACU representative “as rented homes are often poorly insulated and also on more expensive pre-payment meters”.
“This is why we are launching TACU, the new Tenants and Community Union for Lancaster and Morecambe. We plan to do more than simply protest. We also want to help build community solidarity here where we live, to directly help people struggling with rent rises, eviction threats, and many of the other troubles in our lives the rising energy bills and cost of living crisis will bring”.
TACU, the Lancaster & Morecambe Tenants and Community Union can be contacted at: [email protected]
And found on Facebook at: @taculancs.