Politically Speaking in the Wakefield Express

Over in Wrenthorpe last week I discussed the squeeze on incomes and the rising cost of living at a busy public meeting with local residents. In the last few weeks many hundreds more local people have been in touch with me to tell me their views.

Despite help from the Winter Fuel Allowance, I’m hearing stories from pensioners I’ve not heard for many years. One woman told me, “We’re going to bed earlier to save heat.” Another wrote, “I sit with the heating off as long as possible, wear a fleece, hat and slippers to keep warm.”

Over half of the people who’ve contacted me have told rising bills mean they don’t put the heating on as much. That’s really worrying. With the winter weather still very much with us, people need to be able to turn on the heating to keep warm.

The clear message from the people I met in Wrenthorpe on Friday was that the squeeze on their incomes isn’t just coming from increasing household fuel costs. Food bills, insurance and of course petrol have all increased. And at the same time most people aren’t seeing their incomes keep up. Tax credits have been cut and reforms to child benefit, Disability Living Allowance and other financial support is causing real problems for thousands of local families.

I’ve set out my position on the coalition Government’s cuts many times in the Wakefield Express. The rise in VAT to 20 per cent was the wrong tax rise at the wrong time. And the cuts have gone too far, too fast. The economy was recovering from the international financial crisis but this recovery was choked off and our economy has flat-lined since the summer of 2010. Of course cuts, savings and reforms needed to be made. But savings need to be fair.

In this area the impact is hitting people hard and people on middle and lower incomes have less money in their pockets. But what I really don’t understand is why those with most aren’t being asked to do more? Why is Wakefield Council being asked to make bigger cuts than other, wealthier areas of the country? Why are the very richest people about to receive a huge tax cut worth £100,000 a year while families in Wakefield are having their tax credits reduced?

Down in Westminster I’ll continue to pursue the injustice of the decisions being taken. We still need a proper plan for jobs and growth. This week I’m calling on the Government to use the Budget in March to cut taxes for middle and lower income families to kickstart the economic recovery. But I fear that if the Government continues to ignore the need for action, it will be families, pensioners and small businesses who pay the price.

 Anyone else who wants to send me their views on the Rising Cost of Living can complete the survey here.

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Posted February 15th, 2013 by Ed