cost of living bombshellRecently, Ed Miliband has been focusing on the crisis in the cost of living. Inflation, stagnating salaries and soaring energy prices have squeezed family bank accounts until the pips squeak.

The Tories may have attempted to delete their internet archive, but I saved a quote from their manifesto: “We want to see an economy where not just our standard of living, but everyone’s quality of life, rises steadily and sustainably.” We hope to succeed where the Tories have sadly failed.

There are three areas we want to focus on to tackle this: childcare, energy prices and long term unemployment.

Firstly, we want to extend free childcare for three and four year olds from 15 to 25 hours per week for working parents of three and four year-olds, and introduce a legal guarantee of access to wraparound care 8am to 6pm at primary schools. We need this urgently.

The Government’s offer of childcare for disadvantaged 2-year-olds is failing with 1 in 3 councils not having enough places, and there are 576 fewer Sure Start centres – with three being lost on average every week. The cost of nursery places has risen by 30% – five times faster than pay.

The Government has done nothing to help parents struggling to pay for childcare, and this is having a major impact on the amount of money left at the end of the week.

Secondly, we hope to tackle soaring energy bills, which have risen by almost £300 for families, and businesses say it is the second biggest cost they face. The only reason this happens is because when the wholesale price of energy increases, the energy firms pass this on to us in the form of higher prices. When the price falls, they simply pocket the extra, which comes out of our wallets. This is why we will reset the market by increasing competition and transparency.

We will force the energy companies to sell their energy in an open pool, introduce a new tariff structure, and split off the energy generation parts from the retail parts. Until the reforms kick in, we will free energy bills up to January 2017, with immediate effect. This will save a typical household £120 and an average business £1,800.

Another area we are hoping to tackle the crisis is through guaranteeing jobs for the long term unemployed. This country needs to be a nation where people who can work, do work. Not a country where people who can work are on benefits. But the Tories have allowed long term unemployment to rise.

Labour, the party of work, will control social security spending by focusing on getting people back to work with a limit on the time people can spend out of work through Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee.

Our compulsory jobs guarantee would be funded by repeating the tax on bank bonuses, and limiting pension tax relief for the very highest earners. This would guarantee real paid work for young people unemployed for a year, or adults unemployed for two years – work they would have to take or lose benefits.

Prices have been rising for 40 out of 41 months since David Cameron became Prime Minister, meaning that working people are now on average over £1,600 a year worse off than they were at the time of the General Election.

We are committed to succeeding where the Tories have failed. At a time when those earning more than £150,000 per year have been given a bumper tax cut by George Osborne, only Labour has a plan for tackling this crisis.

This article was originally written for the Stockport Express newspaper

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