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Thousands of 'warm banks' set up across UK as cost of living crisis deepens

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
British charity groups and local government networks set up heat-hubs as energy crisis bites across the country. (Via Telegraph)

The UK has set up more than 3,200 “warm banks” across the country for people who cannot afford to heat up their homes amid cost of living and energy crisis.

Operated by local authorities and charities, the areas provide a safe and warm environment for people who are trying to make ends meet, as the bone-shivering cold sees temperatures dropping to as low as -10 degree Celsius.

“We’re all struggling with everything – gas, electric, food. Until a year ago I could get by on benefits,” said Nora, a jobless woman in her 50s, who regularly visits a warming center.

Retired Brian, 65, said his energy bill has tripled from £80 a month. At home, he wears a dressing gown over his clothes and a sleeping bag.

The public warming spaces also set-up in churches and libraries, come in different shapes and sizes, and some of them also provide food, hot drinks and internet access.

Daniel Andrews, partnership manager at Wandsworth Libraries, said that since becoming a warm bank, the site had recorded an increase in visitors.

A parent at Wandsworth Library told The National they were visiting with their child to keep warm.

“We are here because outside is very cold and there is no space where you can stay with a little child,” she said.

Warm Welcome, a campaign group offering people warm spaces in their local areas, says that they are “determined” to equip and support thousands of “free, warm, and welcoming spaces in communities across the UK.”

“We believe everyone should have a warm and welcoming space to go to this winter, which is why our network of community organizations, churches, libraries, businesses and other faith groups across the UK have opened their doors to provide exactly that,” says Warm Welcome’s website.

David Barclay, manager of the Warm Welcome campaign, called it "unacceptable" that people are being forced to decide whether to heat their homes or eat.

Many UK organizations have cautioned that thousands of people with low incomes are at risk during the extreme low temperatures hitting the UK, as average energy bills are twice as higher than they were this time last year.

According to YouGov’s newly released data, only one in six Britons (18 percent) said that they had the heating on and that it was both as hot as they like and on for as long as they like.

The think-tank Institute for Government defines the UK's cost-of-living crisis as "the fall in real disposable incomes (that is, adjusted for inflation and after taxes and benefits) that the UK has experienced since late 2021."

The UK's and Europe’s energy crisis has been building up over the past year, as increased demand during the post-COVID reopening of economies coincided with Russia's war on Ukraine and a subsequent squeeze on gas supplies into Europe.

The UK imports around 50 percent of its gas from other countries, and because gas is used to generate a third of the country's electricity, the rise in gas prices has also affected electricity prices.

According to experts, the UK is the worst affected country in Western Europe, as it saw the annual rate of inflation reached 11.1% in October 2022.

The war in Ukraine has massively increased oil and gas prices as both Russia and the West play hydrocarbon supplies as a bargaining chip to force the other’s hand. The market price of fuels and electricity has adjusted accordingly, triggering double-digit energy inflation.  

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