North Devon couple turn off heating for a year in protest to soaring bills
A couple from North Devon are so outraged at soaring energy prices they have lived without heating for a year.
Joanne Bell, 68, and her husband Jim, 64, from Yelland, wrap themselves up in coats, scarves and gloves and huddle under blankets with hot water bottles to keep warm.
Their only source of heat is an electric shower and they boil the kettle to wash dishes and to fill the occasional bath.
They have vowed never to turn their heating back on and have cancelled their standing order with British Gas.
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Joanne said their heating 'strike' is a protest at the greedy energy companies, who she describes as "blood suckers" who are preying on hard-up families.
She said: "I am furious because there are so many people on low incomes who really are having a tough time and no one is speaking up for them.
"We haven’t used electric heaters or anything like that, we have blankets, hot water bottles, I keep my coat on, and we usually have to wear hats, scarves and even gloves, or we just huddle together.
"At first my husband didn’t approve but I was adamant because we have grandchildren and we would rather spend money on.
"I thought this was something we could do and we have done it. I shall not be tempted to put the heating on again and I am very proud.
"The heating companies are blood suckers and keep making more profit and the ordinary people are suffering."
Joanne, a retired gardener, and Jim, who worked for the UN as a quartermaster, have been customers of British Gas for 35 years but went on heating strike last March.
Their last annual bill was £800 and they would often rack up a £300 quarterly charge during the winter months.
Joanne said: "It started when I heard on the radio that an 80-year-old lady hadn’t had her heating on for the last few years and I don’t like to be over heated or waste heat so it just made sense to me.
"We didn’t have it on last March, all the way through this winter and it is still not on today, we’ve even cancelled our standing order with British Gas."
Their five-bedroom house in Yelland is often so cold they have to take their two grandchildren outside when they babysit because it is too cold inside.
Luckily, the couple have an electric power shower and they can enjoy a luke warm bath with kettle-boiled water.
They still use gas for their cooking and their most recent quarterly bill was for just £46. Their most recent annual electricity bill was for £560.
The couple recently received a rebate of £400 as they had been over-paying on their monthly standing order.
Joanne added: "We have stopped our standing order with British Gas and they have written a few letters with us trying to get us to reconsider although we won’t.
"The way prices are rising I believe that a lot of people will be going this way.
"Obviously we wouldn’t be doing this if we lived with sick or elderly relatives and when our grandchildren come to stay we take them out so they are not cold.
"We are not looking for help from our council, we are doing this as a kick up the backside to the power companies, they know this is happening.
"I worry for young children, there are young families here and I dread to think what they are going through financially."
The couple even find themselves arguing about who is going to smuggle up with their pet poodle, Bobby, three, to stay warm.
"Our miniature Poodle is like a sheep, we actually fight to have him on our lap because he is very warm," said Joanne.
"We know it is cold but we believe we are doing the right thing, and after a year you get pretty used to the temperature."
British Gas came under fire just days ago after reporting a huge 11 per cent jump in profits, only months after spiking charges.
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