The cost-of-living crisis is now very much beginning to bite. I’ve spoken to people across Bristol East who are already struggling to cope with rising bills, taxes, and food prices, and are having to make very difficult choices. With inflation at 6.2% (its highest level for 30 years), the worst I’m afraid is still to come. My worry is that – as Money Savings expert Martin Lewis has said – we’re now at the point where people have run out of ways in which to try to make ends meet.
I know that Bristol Council is doing its best to help, supporting the WHAM (Warmer Homes, Advice and Money) project, maintaining the Council Tax Reduction Scheme which helps 40,000 families, and with a Local Crisis Prevention Fund for those who need emergency help with food and fuel bills, school uniforms and other costs. The Fishponds-based Bristol Baby Bank Network and the food bank at Fishponds Baptist church, along with other community-led organisations, provide a valuable service.
Please do contact me if you are finding things difficult and I can signpost you to where help is available. Also, please do keep a eye out for neighbours and others who might be struggling, particularly older people who are often reluctant to ask for help.
As your Member of Parliament, my main role is of course to try to convince the Government that urgent action is needed. Ahead of the Chancellor’s Spring Statement – in effect, a mini-Budget – I wrote to him numerous times, flagging up the need for more support for my constituents.
The main question facing the Chancellor ahead of this Statement was ‘who pays the price?’ Who takes the biggest hit from soaring energy bills and who will benefit the most from each announcement?
Martin Lewis told MPs before the speech that many households were facing a “fiscal punch in the face”. Unfortunately, instead of providing a helping hand, Rishi Sunak was the one wearing the boxing gloves.
There was some positive news. The National Insurance threshold was raised, the use of energy efficient materials was encouraged with a VAT reduction, and there was a 5p Fuel Duty cut. Labour’s proposal of a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producers was rejected despite BP bosses crowing that “we have more cash than we know what to do with” – if only people in Bristol East could say the same!
This Government has been in power for 12 years. It must bear responsibility for pensioners being too afraid to put the heating on or parents struggling to put food on their children’s plates. I will, along with many colleagues in the House of Commons, insist that the Chancellor does more to help.