My column in the Morley Observer & Advertiser

As the cold weather tightens its grip, it’s vital that pensioners and families can turn up the heating to keep warm. But the cost of fuel is high and rising. And it’s causing real worry. In my cost of living survey before Christmas I asked local households about the impact fuel and other costs was having on their family budgets. Hundreds of people have responded.

Worryingly, over half of those who replied told me rising bills meant they didn’t put the heating on as much. Comments I’ve not seen for many years from pensioners included, “We’re going to bed earlier to save heat” and “I sit with the heating off as long as possible, wear a fleece, hat and slippers to keep warm.”

As well as increasing bills, many local families are also facing reduced incomes because of the flat-lining economy. My survey revealed stories of families rallying round when someone loses hours at work or becomes unemployed.

For any family facing a reduced income, every pound helps. And that’s what makes new changes to tax credits and other support for working families and those looking for work all the more outrageous. Thousands of Morley families are now set to find money even tighter in 2013.

A working family in Morley receiving tax credits will be hundreds of pounds worse off over the next few years. These families include our soldiers, nurses and teachers. The Government claims they are targeting ’scroungers’, but the truth is that two-thirds of people being hit work.

Of course, in difficult times tough decisions are needed to reduce the deficit. But it can’t be right for pensioners and working families in this area to be facing even more pressure on their budgets when the Government is still planning a massive tax cut for millionaires. 

A better way to save money on benefits is to get people in work. Last week I called for a compulsory jobs guarantee. I want every adult, out of work for two years or more, to be given a job – which they have to take or lose their benefits. This simple change, would really reform welfare by being tough and fair. It wouldn’t penalize families who are striving to do the best for themselves and their kids. But it would penalize anyone who doesn’t want to work. And it could be paid for simply by ensuring that people earning over £150,000 only get the same tax relief on their pension contributions as the average taxpayer.

It wouldn’t ease the pressure on Morley families and pensioners overnight – but it would be fairer way to ensure everyone is doing their bit to get the economy back on track.

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Posted January 16th, 2013 by Ed