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Cost of living crisis: Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties on their solutions to the issue as Bishop's Stortford Conservative MP Julie Marson ignores questions again



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Chancellor Rishi Sunak tried to tackle the UK’s cost of living crisis with his Spring Statement in the House of Commons.

As the country faces the fastest annual rise in inflation – 6.2% – in 30 years, the man in charge of the Government’s purse strings announced he would cut fuel duty by 5p a litre until next March, raise the threshold at which people start paying National Insurance to £12,570 in July and pledged to cut basic rate of income tax from 20p to 19p in the £ by the end of this Parliament.

For many, his measures are too little or too late. The Resolution Foundation think tank forecasts that a typical household's income will fall by about £1,000 this year once the effect of inflation is accounted for.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaves 11 Downing Street as he heads to the House of Commons, London, to deliver his Spring Statement. Picture date: Wednesday March 23, 2022.. (55738282)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaves 11 Downing Street as he heads to the House of Commons, London, to deliver his Spring Statement. Picture date: Wednesday March 23, 2022.. (55738282)

This crisis is being driven by a 54% hike in energy prices from this month, pushing an increasing number of families into fuel poverty. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicts bills will rise by 40% again in October if wholesale gas prices remain at the same level they are now. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is further squeezing supplies.

Overall, the Resolution Foundation expects inflation to peak next month at 8.3% – much higher than the Bank of England's 7.25% forecast and greater than salary increases.

While the Government has offered limited assistance to some households through a council tax rebate, Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, told the BBC: “For those on lower to middle incomes, £350 worth of help – of which £200 is questionable – to cover a £1,300 rise... well, you don't need to be the Money Saving Expert to work out no, that is not enough."

Night Shelter and Food Bank, Bishop's Stortford. Julie Marson MP visiting the centres to learn about issues they face and future plans. Food Bank l-r: Bill Macdonald (chair trustees), Julie Marson MP, Jim Tatchell (trustee), Hana Hainsby (food bank co ordinator), Rev Gill Hulme, Cllr Norma Symonds. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (55745038)
Night Shelter and Food Bank, Bishop's Stortford. Julie Marson MP visiting the centres to learn about issues they face and future plans. Food Bank l-r: Bill Macdonald (chair trustees), Julie Marson MP, Jim Tatchell (trustee), Hana Hainsby (food bank co ordinator), Rev Gill Hulme, Cllr Norma Symonds. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (55745038)

Mr Lewis said the UK was facing the worst cost of living crisis he had ever seen and warned: “I am virtually out of tools to help people now.”

This week MPs will get a £2,212 pay rise, taking their basic salary to £84,144 a year. The Indie asked Bishop’s Stortford’s Conservative MP Julie Marson to address what measures she believed the Government should take to help families immediately as well as longer-term strategies.

She failed to respond. Again. So the Indie asked East Herts’ Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties to offer their solutions.

Labour Party (55738560)
Labour Party (55738560)

Labour said: “The facts are quite stark. We are facing the biggest decline in our living standards since the Second World War.

“While energy and food prices are rising, wages are falling behind inflation. And this had started well before the Ukraine war.

"It is another stark fact that 14.5 million people live in poverty in the UK.

“How does this affect ‘prosperous’ Stortford? Some are not so well off, of course: those on benefits, families with children, people caring for relatives, those who work in the public sector and the key workers we rely on, small traders whose businesses are struggling. Stortford is an economically diverse community, more so than it is often portrayed.

“Without urgent action to support those in greatest need, this crisis will only get worse.

"The Chancellor’s Spring Statement was risibly, shamefully inadequate. The 5p off a litre of petrol will quickly be lost to rising fuel prices and the £200 cut to energy bills must be repaid over five years: buy now, pay later.

“The increase in National Insurance that many MPs across parties tried to stop was obscured by the Chancellor’s contemptible 1% income tax reduction for the 2024 election campaign.

“What would a Labour Government do? Labour would drop the National Insurance increase, reverse the cuts to Universal Credit and lower the tax threshold – the Spring Statement actually increases the number of people paying tax.

“Labour would also end the public sector pay freeze and chase Covid fraudsters to repay.

“Labour would tax the energy companies (BP’s profit for last year was £12.8bn) and international corporations such as Amazon and Google properly. We would apply the rules on unexplained wealth instead of just talking about them.

"Labour would address the energy crisis with a programme for house insulation which would reduce energy consumption and expedite the COP26 work on new approaches to energy.

“In Stortford, there are people who rely on food banks and other charities. This is the most shameful legacy of an out-of-touch Tory government that favours their wealthy friends: the untapped untaxed, the second-job Tory MPs and offshore tax evaders.

“Labour says tax fairly and support those in most need so that we improve equality as well as standards of living.”

Liberal Democrats Logo (55738595)
Liberal Democrats Logo (55738595)

The Lib Dems said: “Many residents of Bishop’s Stortford hoped Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement would bring them help. Prices are going up, as are housing costs and utility and fuel bills. But wages and benefits are not keeping pace.

“Mr Sunak’s mini-Budget made some steps towards helping some people, with measures to assist business and a National Insurance threshold rise. But inflation continues to rise, predicted to [hit] 8.3% next month.

“Food bank queues are growing, homelessness is increasing and people in the 'even more squeezed middle' are suffering greatly.

“The announced increase in Household Support Fund [local authorities will get another £500m from April, creating a £1bn fund], providing some support for those on lower incomes, is welcome, but people must apply for this.

"Lib Dems say it would have been much better to have retained the £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit. Lib Dem Herts county councillors want to pay for free school meals in the holidays.

“Liberal Democrats would cut VAT from 20% to 17.5% for one year, saving £600 for the average household and helping to keep inflation down.

“We would introduce a windfall tax on the oil and gas barons’ massive profits and use these funds to help lower-income households pay their energy bills and fuel costs.

“Most importantly, Lib Dems would be responsible with taxpayers’ money – unlike the Conservatives, who pretend to be the most fiscally responsible but in fact wasted £10 billion on unusable PPE and £4.2 billion on Covid fraud.

“Make no mistake, the economic crisis we are all living through isn’t down to the Ukrainian war. People on benefits and low to middle incomes were struggling before that started.

“Long term, the UK needs to build genuinely affordable housing to help everyone have a home they can afford.

“We need to help the average person with the cost of living, not the millionaires who profit from excessive gas and electricity charges.”

Green Party
Green Party

The district’s Green Party said: “It beggars belief that Chancellor Rishi Sunak continues handouts to fossil fuel corporations and billionaires while ignoring the plight of millions on lower incomes.

“The Conservative Party’s failure to address soaring energy prices and double-digit inflation, and to offer so little to help those struggling most is simply cruel.

“Julie Marson has voted to make her constituents in Hertford and Stortford worse off, the biggest standard of living cut in more than 65 years, according to the OBR.

“Worse, it is a tragedy for people and planet that the self-described ‘greenest Government ever’ cannot grasp that solving the climate crisis would help tackle the cost of living crisis.

“Not everything in the Spring Statement was bad. The cut to VAT on energy efficiency measures and renewables is a positive step.”

To make meaningful change and offer economic support, the Green Party outlined five measures the Chancellor should have taken:

  • Addressed pay inequality, doubled the Universal Credit uplift to £40 a week and extended emergency fuel payments with an additional £320 to help pay spiralling costs;
  • Invested in energy efficiency and energy security, including funding local authorities to better insulate all homes, cutting energy use and cost;
  • Invested in high-skilled, well-paid green jobs, including retraining for oil and gas workers;
  • Taxed pollution and wealth, increasing the North Sea oil and gas supplementary tax to 40%, raising £5bn and transition towards a carbon tax to make polluters pay;
  • Banned banks from investing in new fossil fuel development and updated the Bank of England’s mandate so that funding the sustainability transition becomes a central objective, alongside the maintenance of price stability.

The party said: “This could have been a time to help East Herts residents build a better future, instead the Chancellor helped his rich friends at our expense.”



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