By Lucette Davies (Labour)
Eastbourne Borough Council became the first local authority to declare a cost of living emergency. While this move should certainly be applauded the effects of this are disappointing.
Our local authority will now be placing pressure on central government to do three things. These are to reduce VAT; reinstate the pension triple lock and use a windfall tax on energy companies to lower fuel bills.
The reduction in VAT will affect goods we all purchase, even if they are deemed a luxury, such as adult clothing. But what we can say for sure is that those with a higher income will spend a greater percentage of it on luxuries. So this idea will benefit the country unequally with the wealthiest benefitting the most.
When I canvassed for the county council elections last year I was shocked to hear how bedroom tax was causing so many to suffer desperate poverty. Many of these people were pensioners. I would have loved to see our local authority call for an immediate end to bedroom tax.
I also heard many people talk about desperate poverty due to other welfare changes. I hate to think what is happening now as welfare payments have increased by just over 3% despite inflation now standing at nearly 8%. Rather than fighting for a triple lock on pensions to be reinstated which would benefit all pensioners, regardless of income, why not fight for welfare increases? This would provide help for those who need it most.
The windfall tax on energy companies again could be used to lower household bills. But the people who will benefit most from that are the people who use most fuel. Those who have been choosing between heating and eating, since the austerity programme began back in the days of the Coalition Government, will benefit less.
These companies are recording record profits at the same time as Government is allowing record price increases for consumers. This is morally wrong and we need a Government cap that is far better. The Germans capped fuel price increases at 5%, France at 4 % and Spain took fuel prices back to 2019 levels. It can be done, and must be done as a more lasting solution than a one-off windfall tax.
The Tory party is morally bankrupt and proved that point by abstaining on last night’s vote. We should expect better from our local Lib Dems. But our local authority does not even appear to have a strategy on poverty reduction that many councils have adopted. Nor have they made a commitment to paying all workers a living wage. They need to start putting their money where their mouth is.
Poverty causes poor health. And within our NHS poverty is now affecting many workers. We need our local authority to start fighting to get NHS workers wage increases. Shiny new hospitals may be vote winners but wage increases will save lives. We also need them to fight against healthcare rationing which is making more and more people pay for treatments they once got on the NHS.
This country is in crisis now and the suffering of local people is unprecedented. We all deserve much better.