The living standards crisis we face is a crisis of Conservative making. It reflects the long-term weaknesses and failings of a society hollowed out by decades of privatisation and austerity where the vast majority of us have been squeezed out in service of enriching the one per cent.
Research from the New Economy Foundation found that disposable income had fallen by £110 for the poorest half of our society since the last election even before the Government lifted the energy price cap. In the same period, the richest five per cent saw their own fortunes grow by £3,300.
Last month’s Spring Statement will do nothing to alter the trajectory of increasing inequality and poverty in our country. Average energy bills are increasing by an average of 54 per cent. Average wages are not. The Government is permitting oil and gas producers to continue making record profits from the very price rises which are making life miserable for everyone else.
Instead of levying a windfall tax to move the energy bills burden away from struggling households who cannot afford to pay onto profitable companies and shareholders who can, the Government is pushing 1.3 million more people into absolute poverty. Even as our Chancellor defended his murky tax arrangements last week, he was increasing everyone else’s and delivering the biggest real terms cut to welfare in 50 years.
The possible £20 million avoided by the Chancellor’s own wife is a desperate reminder that we need to close these tax loopholes and make sure the rich pay the same share of tax as the rest of us. As well as a Chancellor who exploits the tax loopholes he’s meant to close, we also now have a Prime Minister who broke his own lockdown rules. One rule for them, another for everyone else has long been the Tory party rallying cry but this has to be the most corrupt Tory Government of my lifetime.
The upcoming local elections are an opportunity for people to show exactly what they think of the people in charge of our country. But they are also a chance to vote for candidates who will fight for the support people need to weather the coming Tory storm and rebuild the foundations. Our councils have a key role to play in protecting our local environment, making our area safer for everyone to live in, delivering quality homes for residents (including new council homes), making our area safer for women and girls and working to build wealth in our community. I’d urge everyone to vote for your local Labour candidates who are caring, compassionate and committed to delivering these policies.
This article was first published in the South London Press on 22nd April 2022.