Last Friday, the energy price cap was lifted from £1,277 to £1,971. This overnight increase will further exacerbate the cost of living crisis that millions of families are currently facing.
This increase wasn’t unexpected, and in fact was first announced on 3 February. The Government therefore had almost two months to develop a plan that would soften the blow for the people it has a duty to represent.
Instead of a plan, however, we got weeks of dither and delay. We got an insulting offer of a £200 loan from the Chancellor, one that won’t even touch the sides of the scale of the crisis. We had a Spring Statement that delivered precious little in the way of support, and instead promised some measures in a couple of years’ time.
I always try to be level-headed about most things, but it really is difficult to overstate the severity of the cost of living crisis. It isn’t just energy bills that are rising; you’ve got food prices, fuel at the pumps, earlier this week it was revealed that in the North West childcare for children under three had increased by 27 per cent since 2018. People’s finances are being squeezed from every direction, and the Chancellor has decided that now is the best time to increase taxes on working people. It’s indefensible.
We need a two-pronged approach to the cost-of-living crisis. One that deals with the immediate pressures that people are facing, whilst also improving our economic resilience for the future.
There are several immediate steps we could be taking. We could halt the tax rises on workers and pensioners and implement a windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas producers who are currently raking in exorbitant profits. These profits could be used to take £600 off energy bills for those who most need it.
We could implement a targeted Warm Homes Discount to support pensioners and families as well as cut VAT to support working people. We could invest in early years support and help families with childcare. These are all measures that Labour have proposed and are all measures that the Government has so far declined to take.
We’ve also suggested long-term strategies. We’ve called for energy regulation and investment in sustainable energy sources. We’ve called for tax cuts for small businesses, which can then be passed on to consumers and protect British jobs. Again, these calls have fallen on deaf ears. There isn’t an absence of solutions, just an absence of good governance.
The Conservatives have proven themselves to be totally ill-equipped to deal with the cost of living crisis, and the people of Tameside deserve better.