Politically Speaking in the Wakefield Express

I’ve been over in Manchester for the Labour Party Conference this week. I’ve brought with me a huge pile of surveys local people have sent me over the last couple of weeks. Together with views on everything from mortgages, pensions and the internet have been some very worrying stories about the pressure people in our area are under.

Natalie from Stanley wrote, “I’m a single mum, struggling with money, bills and the bedroom tax.” Another local pensioner couple said, “the decline of the NHS really frightens us.” And one Outwood mum struck a real cord with me when I knocked on her door a few weeks back. Her son, trying to get on and do well is on a zero hours contract, which means everyday he gets up not knowing whether or not he’ll get work that day. For him and thousand like him in our area I want to see an end to exploitative zero hours contracts.

So these were the people I was thinking about when I took to the stage on Monday.

Because we need action to deal with the cost of living crisis which has meant prices rising and people’s incomes not keeping up. I’m calling for a lower starting rate of income tax and an increase in the minimum wage to £8 an hour to make work pay, freezing energy bills and more childcare support for working parents trying to juggle work and family life.

And we will do whatever it takes to protect our NHS. Faced, as it is, with fragmentation, privatisation by the back door and pressures on its budgets, we need to save and protect it so that it is there for people like the pensioners who wrote to me last week to tell me their fears.

But balancing the books and saving our NHS means tough decisions too. We are committed to getting the deficit down in a fairer way, making different choices and asking those who have most to shoulder more of the burden. To get the deficit down, we would reverse the recent tax cut for the richest 1% – those on the very highest incomes.

But with the deficit still high, there will have to be other changes too. I want to see child benefit rising again but we also won’t spend money we cannot afford. So I also announced in Manchester that child benefit would only rise by 1% for the first 2 years of the next parliament to help reduce the deficit. And we will introduce a mansion tax on properties worth over £2million for the NHS.

These are difficult decisions but ones we have to take to make sure the sums add up. We can balance the books in a fairer way and protect vital services like our NHS.

You can read my speech here.

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Posted September 26th, 2014 by Ed