In her regular column, Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome talks about the ongoing cost of living crisis...
With a Tory Government at the wheel, the escalating cost of living crisis feels like watching a car crash in slow motion. Everyone is shouting at the driver to brake, but they’re ignoring you. You know what’s about to happen, you know it will be devastating, but the one person who could prevent it isn’t even trying to.
While almost every corner of our society feels on the brink of collapse - from the economy, to our public services, to the environment - our Government is completely absent. To paraphrase Liz Truss in her now infamously bizarre speech about cheese, that is a disgrace.
Even before the cost of living began to spiral, millions of people in this country were already saddled with debt, struggling in insecure work and barely able to afford their rent. Last year, over a third of children in my constituency were living in poverty. Average wages and living standards hadn’t recovered from the last recession, yet the wealth of the super-rich has soared.
Now our economy is in chaos and working class people are paying the price. The real value of wages is plummeting, with inflation forecast to reach an astronomical 18.6% in January - the highest peak in almost fifty years. Energy bills could top £5,300 a year by April, nearly 35 million are under threat of fuel poverty this winter, and another recession is looming.
Meanwhile, bosses are telling workers that decent pay rises are unaffordable or will drive up inflation, while the pay of company executives is up 39% and the average CEO is now paid 109 times an average worker’s salary. It’s not wages that are causing inflation to rise, so why are working people being told to make sacrifices and not these executives, or the 177 billionaires in Britain? It is companies putting bonuses and dividends before fair wages that is forcing workers to turn to food banks and to go on strike.
Meanwhile, bosses are telling workers that decent pay rises are unaffordable or will drive up inflation, while the pay of company executives is up 39%
In terms of what action the Government should be taking, people firstly need help that recognises the scale of the challenge in the here and now. If the energy price cap rises in October, it will be catastrophic. Labour would save families £1,000 this winter by freezing energy bills - the Government must commit to doing the same. Benefits must rise above inflation and the Government should give all public sector workers a decent pay rise. A recent study has shown that we could afford to increase the minimum wage to £15 an hour within the next two years, with tax breaks used to compensate small businesses.
The sooner we take utilities from profit-sucking companies back into public hands, the better - and a clear majority of the public wants this to happen. Support for nationalising energy has increased by more than 10% in just two years.
We must build huge amounts of social housing and put an end to the deregulation that has turned the private rental sector into the Wild West.
In the longer-term, unless we make drastic changes, these crises will keep coming. We need to lower energy consumption permanently, by decarbonising and insulating our homes. A massive Government-funded programme would deliver new jobs as well as tackling the cost of living and climate crises. And we must invest in renewables, not only to combat climate change, but also because our reliance on fossil fuels makes us vulnerable to shocks in the gas and oil markets and dependent on authoritarian regimes.
To fix the housing crisis, we must build huge amounts of social housing and put an end to the deregulation that has turned the private rental sector into the Wild West. That means giving tenants proper rights, making long-term secure tenancies the norm, and controlling rent increases.
The hardship so many are already experiencing, and millions more are about to face, is not inevitable. Government action could change lives - we are right to demand it.
We have a favour to ask
LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?