British Gas bosses braced for backlash at annual meeting

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The Independent Online

Angry pensioners and disabled people will confront British Gas bosses today when the energy giant holds its Annual General Meeting.

The shareholder activists are outraged by the company making soaring profits while increasing home energy bills, penalising folk who are already struggling to afford to heat their homes. British Gas customers were hit by a 6 per cent price hike last winter while the firm announced an 11 per cent profit leap and paid £16m to senior executives.

Disabled peoples' rights campaigner Philomena Hartley said: "While British Gas and the other energy companies continue to rack up hundreds of millions in profits, disabled people and the poorest in our communities fund their profits with our lives. We must all act to end this callous, grotesque profiteering on what should be a basic right."

The campaigners from Fuel Poverty Action also object to Centrica's plans to build new gas-fired power stations. They point to mounting evidence that the 'dash for gas' will push up energy bills even further while undermining the UK's chances of meeting legislated carbon-reduction targets

Pensioner Ruth London is also attending the AGM. She said: "Behind British Gas's soaring profits lies the hidden dividend of thousands of deaths from cold homes every year. We'll be making sure the deadly human cost of British Gas's business doesn't go unmentioned at their AGM."

Islington pensioner Beatrice Coker will tell the company's bosses of her anger at rising bills that are leaving more and more people being forced to choose between heating or eating when cold snaps strike.

She said: "This winter I've already paid over £300 and now I'm being asked for another £300 for the same three months. How can this be right?"

Centrica's AGM is being held at 2pm in Westminster and, as well as protesting outside the meeting, campaigners plan to press British Gas bosses to answer their questions during what looks set to be a lively meeting.

The campaigners say they won't let the company off the hook.

Ruth London intends to ask: "Around 7,000 people died last winter because they couldn't afford to heat their homes. How many of these 7,000 deaths were British Gas customers? We will await the response from the company's bosses."