The U.K. is one of the world's richest countries, but people are finding it increasingly difficult to pay energy bills. Electricity and gas bills could rise fourfold by the winter. Even people on good salaries are feeling the pinch. Lower-paid workers and those who have retired may soon be faced with a stark choice of heating or eating. Local governments have devised a makeshift solution. They are converting communal areas like libraries into spaces where people can go to stay warm for free. These are called "heat banks". Money-saving expert Martin Lewis said he is dumbfounded by the idea of warm banks in a supposedly wealthy country. The U.K. already has hundreds of food banks for those who struggle to afford to eat.
Britons are already taking drastic measures to avoid skyrocketing energy costs. One woman has disconnected her refrigerator and is storing perishable goods in cold water. A man has turned off his electric kettle and is drinking water instead of hot coffee. Last winter, an older lady used her free bus pass to sit on a warm bus all day instead of sitting at home in the cold. Many people are furious with the government and fossil fuel companies. Giant oil companies are making record profits, and the government is reluctant to implement a one-off "windfall tax". The U.K.'s National Energy Action group said that each year, around 11,400 deaths are caused by cold weather. They predict this figure will rise further this year.