As the political conference season ends there’s no doubt in my eyes who has been setting the agenda.
Ed Miliband and Labour have identified the real problem of living standards facing families around the country, and laid out policies to help deal with them – including a tax cut for small businesses, childcare help for families and a pledge to freeze your energy bills until January 2017.
And David Cameron and the Conservatives have realised they’ve got a problem, but have no new ideas to deal with the cost of living crisis that’s happening on their watch.
Since David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010, life has got tougher for too many people. We’ve seen the slowest recovery from recession in 100 years. Nearly a million young people are unemployed. Prices have risen faster than wages in a staggering 38 out of 39 months while David Cameron has been in Downing Street.
And working people are an average of nearly £1,500 worse off. The truth is that year after year, you’ve been working harder, for longer, for less.
Yet at the same time, bankers’ bonuses went up by 82 per cent this April, and David Cameron’s tax priority has been to give a tax cut to people earning over £150,000 – wages most people here in St Helens can only dream of.
Help for a privileged few, nothing for ordinary families. No wonder people think that our Prime Minister, who admits that he doesn’t know the price of a loaf of bread, is completely out of touch.
Labour will also repeal the bedroom tax, which we’ll pay for by reversing the Government’s tax cut for hedge funds and abolishing their “shares for rights” scheme. Many of those affected are disabled people who desperately need their so-called “extra” room for a relative or other person who cares for them.
The bedroom tax doesn’t make economic sense either, because if people are forced to move into more expensive private rented accommodation, it will push up the housing benefit bill.
Families and businesses need help, and Labour is setting out plans to help them. Ed Miliband announced that Labour will cut business rates in 2015 and freeze them again in 2016 – prioritising a tax cut for 1.5 million small businesses over a tax cut for 80,000 large businesses.
We will support working parents, by expanding free childcare for three and four-year-olds from 15 to 25 hours a week for working parents, paid for by an £800 million rise in the bank levy.
We will increase the number of apprenticeships, by insisting that every medium-sized or large company that hires a skilled worker from outside the EU must do their bit to train the next generation, by taking on an apprentice.
g One of the biggest problems families and businesses face right now is rising bills. Energy bills have gone up by an average £300 since David Cameron became Prime Minister, while energy companies’ profits have shot up.
Businesses say that energy bills are the second biggest cost they face. When wholesale prices rise, the energy companies pass the costs on to consumers – but when they fall, bills stay high.
That’s why Ed Miliband came to St Helens to see for himself the impact high energy costs is having on business, he has set out bold plans to reset the energy market and make prices more competitive, forcing them to introduce a simple new tariff structure and creating a tough new energy regulator. And in the time it takes to make these reforms, Labour will freeze your energy bills from the next election until January 2017 – saving a typical household £120 and the average business £1,800. We can only tackle the cost of living crisis with an economy that works for working people.