Councils across Britain are looking at opening “warm banks” to provide places for people struggling to pay their energy bills this winter.
Art galleries, museums and libraries will all become refuges when bills soar to more than £3,500 in October – three times more than the cost last winter.
Some 8.9 million households are predicted to be left in fuel poverty according to charities and the Conservative government has been warned lives will be at risk unless it takes urgent action to address the crisis.
National Energy Action (NEA) say 11,400 deaths are already caused by cold weather in the winter each year.
This year it is likely to be even more as energy costs continue to spiral, fuelling already rampant inflation that is forcing all other costs upwards.
“The energy crisis will hit every area in the country this winter,” the NEA chief executive Adam Scorer told: “It will need direct financial support from the Government to offset the worst impacts but it’s welcome that there are some great local initiatives being planned too.
“’Warm banks’ are likely to play a big role in supporting some of the most vulnerable over the winter, but also being a focus for those determined to make a positive difference within their own communities whether that’s local councils, faith groups or other public and civic spaces.
“Over this winter, practical and neighbourly help is going to be needed to get people through to the other side.”
Reality makes Birmingham city council provide warm banks
England’s biggest council, Birmingham – which serves 1.14 million people – pledged on Tuesday (Augist 30) to “map out spaces across the city where people can go to keep warm”, while councils in Glasgow, Bristol, Dundee, Gateshead and Aberdeen are looking at similar plans.
ITV reports that councils in Essex, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire “have already started mulling” plans “for either setting up, supporting or highlighting the locations of ‘warm banks’.”
Friends of the Earth published research by the Local Democracy Reporting Service which reveals almost 9,000 communities that will be most affected by soaring energy costs, with England’s second city set to the worst affected by the rises.
Birmingham city councillor John Cotton said they “want to help people find places where they will be welcomed, free of charge”, and suggested using “local community centres, places of worship or libraries” as warm banks.
Cotton continued: “It should not be the case that people cannot afford to keep their homes warm, but that is the reality that we are facing here in Birmingham.
“By mapping out the places where people can go to keep warm, we can help some of the most vulnerable people in our city.”
Boris Johnson’s “zombie government” has been heavily criticised for not doing more to help with the long predicted crisis. Johnson’s likely successor in Number 10, Liz Truss has so far refused to announce what extra she will do until she takes over in Downing Street.
The “money saving expert” Martin Lewis tweeted on July 11: “Can’t believe I’m writing this, but I wonder if this winter we[‘]ll need ‘warm banks’ the equivalent of ‘food banks’ where people who can’t afford heating are invited to spend their days at no cost with heating (eg libraries, public buildings)?”