Energy price hikes are hitting working-class people the hardest

Kate’s latest column for Labour Outlook:

The rising cost of gas and electricity is hitting working class people the hardest, these are the people who are already struggling with cost of living increases. In my own constituency of Jarrow, working people are being forced to use local foodbanks to feed their families because the money they earn simply doesn’t cover their bills.

With council tax set to rise in April as well as national insurance, the added pressure on the least well off will be detrimental and will affect people both mentally and physically.

I have been informed by Citizens Advice South Tyneside, who do an outstanding job in my constituency, that energy bills are now the second biggest area of debt behind council tax, when historically energy bills were 7th on that list and the increase in fuel debt directly correlates to increases in foodbank referrals. In the last five years and under this government, the need for foodbanks has increased by 128% according to the Trussell Trust. Time and time again this government has failed to support working people, and instead is driving them further into poverty.

The impact of this on people like my constituents is profound. One constituent, who contacted my office, about the dramatic rise in energy prices, said that his current deal is due to come to an end and upon looking at price comparison sites, the cheapest deal he can find is £246 per month, which is an 89% increase on his previous rate.

He told me his family are going to suffer greatly because of the increasing cost of household bills, with it impacting both on their physical and mental health. This is unacceptable and another example of this government’s failings.  

Just last week, the Government had an opportunity to do something about this crisis but instead, they voted down a motion tabled by the Opposition to cut VAT on home energy bills.  This would have saved most households hundreds of pounds per year.

The Government needs to urgently intervene in this crisis. If not, constituents like mine will be placed in the position of choosing between food or heating and this is simply not acceptable. Martin Lewis, the ‘Money Saving Expert’, said this week that ‘people will die as they choose between heating and eating’.

And whilst countless people are struggling to pay their bills, North Sea oil and gas companies have seen their profits soar and are expected to report near-record cashflows in 2021 and 2022 of almost £14.9bn.

Under this Government big businesses continue to bring in huge profits and working people are once again forced to pick up the bill. The government have made clear that they have no intention to back opposition calls to introduce a windfall tax on the huge profits being made by North Sea oil and gas companies. The simple fact alone that this government is more focussed on bailing out businesses as opposed to supporting and protecting everyday people on low income, truly shows that this government has its priorities wrong.