Many people across Stockport, and indeed across the country, will have been understandably anxious at the news that from April, millions of households will typically pay an extra £693 a year on their energy bills. The announcement had been anticipated for some time, but the sheer scale of the expected price rise took many by surprise.
I know that for households across Stockport, soaring energy prices will add pressure to household budgets which are already incredibly stretched.
The Government have shown themselves to be fundamentally ill-equipped to deal with the cost-of-living crisis. Earlier this month, the Chancellor set out a scheme with the apparent goal of ‘easing’ the pressures on working people.
What we got was essentially a loan, which will leave taxpayers in debt, all whilst oil and gas companies continue to make unprecedented profits.
Needless to say, this botched scheme will do very little for the people of Stockport. We need a scheme that taxes the massive oil and gas companies and gets that money to households in need. More generally, we need a Government that stands up for working people and gives them the proper support they need to get through this crisis.
Rising fuel bills have an obvious knock-on effect on other household finances. That’s why I’m grateful that here in Stockport, the Council will once again be distributing holiday support vouchers to families with children in receipt of income-based school meals. I know that these vouchers were a real lifeline for many over the Christmas period, and their continued distribution will be a relief to so many families.
There is also some innovative community-based work taking place, which I wanted to take a moment to recognise. For example, the Local Pantry scheme – organised by StockportHomes – operates in five locations across the borough. Members pay a small subscription fee, and in return can choose groceries worth many times more. The aim of the Local Pantry scheme is to drive down food poverty, whilst strengthening health and wellbeing.
There is no escaping the fact that this is a difficult time for many people, and it’s important to remember to look out for one another and do all you can to support friends and neighbours.
I hope that sooner, rather than later, the Government outlines a proper plan of action to address the crisis. Until then, I will continue to do all I can to work alongside StockportCouncil to give people the support they need.