10th August 2022
Whilst the Conservative Party is bogged down in internal political crisis, the Government is not functioning and people in Camberwell and Peckham, already struggling with the very real cost of living crisis, face even higher bills. But even though the Government is in crisis, they must take action to ensure people are not left anxious and unable to pay their bills.
The cost of living crisis is hitting people with soaring inflation, petrol and food increases and above all rocketing energy costs. Latest figures show that consumers already owe £1.3bn to energy suppliers, and this is before bills are expected to jump by over 80% in the Autumn. Households are projected to face annual energy bills of up to £4,200 next January. And inflation hits the poorest families in the UK hardest, because they spend more of their total budget on gas and electricity than the better off.
The crisis therefore hits particularly hard in Camberwell and Peckham where more people are on tight budgets. We have a higher percentage of people on low incomes than the regional average and the constituency is in the top 15% nationally for the proportion of people relying on Universal Credit. People just aren’t able to afford sudden price increases for things that are essential to their daily lives. And this crisis will not only hit individuals and their families but also the local economy in Camberwell and Peckham, as local people will have far less money in their pockets to spend in shops and in the local community.
In light of these price increases it is even more scandalous energy company profits and their payouts to shareholders and bonuses to top executives have soared. BP announced its profits had tripled to £6.9bn between April and June this year, and that it would be handing out £4bn to shareholders as a result. The BP Chief Executive took home £4.5m in 2021 alone. These profits show Labour was right to repeatedly call for a windfall tax on energy companies, something which the Government only reluctantly did after a U-turn following political pressure from the Opposition, and it shows how totally wrong it is that the Government has given big tax cuts to oil companies. Labour would abolish these tax cuts and use the money to help insulate people’s homes to help them cut their energy costs.
In the face of this looming crisis, the Government has done nothing to assure people that they will get the support they need to afford the basics this Autumn. That is why I strongly back calls from Labour former Prime Minister Gordon Brown for an emergency budget before the UK hits a “financial timebomb”. Only this can stop millions being pushed into poverty and debt when energy prices rise again in October. I also strongly agree with Labour leader Keir Starmer that the Government should cut VAT on gas and electricity bills now. Taxes on low income people should also never have been raised and the Government should scrap their National Insurance tax increase, which they promised in their manifesto they wouldn’t do but which came into effect in April this year, just when people could least afford it and hitting hardest those who can least afford it.
The Labour Party is putting forward workable policies which would make a difference to people’s lives right away when they need Government support most. So far neither of the two candidates to be the next Tory leader and Prime Minister has put forward a credible and clear plan to help those most in need and the current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is rejecting calls to get a grip of the situation. But a crisis in the Conservative Party and a crisis in Government cannot mean that people are left without support in the face of mounting debt and a struggle to afford the basics for themselves and their families. The Prime Minister and the leadership candidates must act now before it is too late.