This year, it will be 17 years since I was first elected as a Member of Parliament. Before then, I served as a Councillor for Denton West. I can safely say that in these 27-or-so years of elected office, I have never seen a more concerning economic landscape.
Now I can only apologise for a bleak opening paragraph, but there is no point sugar-coating it. Rampant inflation, stagnant wages soaring energy bills, a historically high-tax burden are just some of the issues local people are facing.
It’s clear that we need national action to address these simultaneous crises. From a Labour perspective, we’ve been clear that we want to see an energy price cap (paid for by a comprehensive tax on energy producers), the introduction of a Genuine Living Wage in line with inflation, and far better support for working people struggling to put food on the table.
While we work to put as much pressure on the national Government to do more in these turbulent times, I have been inspired by local people pulling together in incredibly difficult circumstances.
Take, for example, Tameside East Foodbank, or St Mary’s Church & Community Food Bank in Haughton Green. These centres, staffed by local people, are doing an incredible job in providing essential meals for families and individuals who are struggling. While I sincerely wish we didn’t need food banks, it really is inspiring to see local people going out of their way to make a difference.
There’s also been some really great work on a local Government level. Tameside recently launched its ‘Helping Hand’ service, which aims to be a one-stop-shop for various local support services. It has information on help with food, clothing, housing and childcare, as well as mental health support.
This effort has been matched by all ten Greater Manchester local authorities, who have worked collaboratively to agree a package of support measures, alongside an increase in the number of Emergency Food Vouchers for young people, and a continuation of the No Child Should Go Hungry campaign.
So, I’d like to take a moment just to thank all the unsung heroes who are working around the clock to make a difference here in Tameside. You are stepping up where central Government is failing and are an example of the power of community. Now it’s time for the Government to take a leaf out of your book and help people through these unprecedented times.