‘Got any loose coal, mister?’ – that’s the cry echoing round our city centre streets, as the coalition government’s tough green energy measures begin to take their toll on consumers.
With prices climbing, desperate householders are being driven to begging, relying on the generosity of passers-by for their fuel.
Every evening, long queues of the down-and-outageds form outside London’s St Martins in the Fields, waiting for meagre mugfuls of heating oil, petrol and diesel to be ladled out by volunteers.
The church charity hopes to extend the scheme.
‘We are experimenting with ways of distributing small quantities of household gas among the fuel needy, using a technique similar to helium balloons,’ explained the Dean, the Rev Wilfred Layton.
Swindon mother of three, Tracy Shipman, bemoaned the terrible effect fuel poverty is having on her family.
'My children get picked on at school, just because we can’t afford fancy designer fuels from the likes of EDF and NPower any more. We've had to switch to the cheapest dual fuel deal, and my kids are suffering because of it.’
In Colchester, busker Johnny Johnson has set up a pitch near the Cornmarket, singing mostly classic Bob Dylan songs, in exchange for modest fuel donations from the public.
‘You get some jokers who think it’s funny to toss me an old clinker or a dud battery but you’d be surprised how generous some people can be. One old lady gave me a log and only yesterday, after I sang Mr Tambourine Man for a bloke, he dropped a big chunk of nutty slack into my hat.’