What is Don't Pay, the growing movement against the UK's energy squeeze?

Grassroots group wants one million people in Britain to stop paying energy bills

Millions of poor people unable to afford heating could freeze in their homes this winter and millions more are likely to be pushed into debt, Don't Pay said. PA
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A Conservative Party hustings was disrupted on Wednesday by a protest by “Don't Pay”, a group that describes itself as a movement against the rise in energy bills.

The protest comes amid mounting anger in Britain over the cost-of-living crisis, in which inflation has soared to more than 10 per cent and household energy bills have tripled in the space of a year.

Here is what is known about the campaign.

What is Don't Pay?

Don't Pay is a grassroots protest group that is looking to encourage more than a million people in Britain to stop paying their energy bills following a price surge amid the war in Ukraine.

It wants to use “collective power” to force the government to act to lower energy prices, which are set to cost households more than £3,000 per year.

Those engaged in the protest will cancel direct debits and withhold payments from October 1 unless the government comes up with an actionable plan.

Millions of poor people unable to afford heating could freeze in their homes this winter and millions more are likely to be pushed into debt, the group said.

“By pledging to strike, we all agree to take on some risk — if we hit one million and go ahead with the strike — because we know the risk of us not taking action is far greater.”

Who is behind it and how many people have signed up?

Don't Pay was set up by a group of friends who decided to take action against the threat of winter fuel poverty.

It has taken its inspiration from the “Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay” protests against the UK poll tax, in which 17 million people refused to pay the fee amid anger over the cost of living in the late 1980s.

Since mid-June, the campaign has attracted more than 130,000 supporters.

What are the risks?

The group says that refusing to pay bills could result in a negative hit to credit ratings.

However, it says that not paying bills is a civil offence and will not result in the creation of a criminal record. In addition, the likelihood of being disconnected for not paying is very low.

But the Citizen's Advice Bureau says failure to pay bills could land protesters with a higher energy tariff or a visit from debt collectors.

What has the government said?

A spokesman for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has described the campaign as “irresponsible” and said it would push up prices for everyone and affect personal credit ratings.

“While no government can control global gas prices, we are providing £37 billion of help for households including the £400 discount on energy bills, and £1,200 of direct support for the most vulnerable households to help with the cost of living.”

Updated: September 01, 2022, 4:15 PM