In the past few weeks and months, I have had a number of conversations with constituents in Mansfield about the current cost of living and energy price increases. These are concerns I completely understand and share, so last week in Westminster I was on the case, including meeting with the Chancellor about this subject whilst also speaking in the chamber in a debate on energy prices.
The higher inflation that we are seeing is largely down to global factors, relating to the fallout from the pandemic and a global spike in energy costs. This in turn is affecting energy prices and hitting people in the pocket.
Clearly Government don’t have all the answers or directly control the prices, but they are committed to supporting people with their rising bills. They already announced the £500 million household support fund, which is designed to help the most vulnerable households during the course of this winter. They also changed the universal credit taper rate to ensure those in work can keep more of their own money, which adds up to about £1000 extra a year. The national living wage is also seeing a rise which will come into effect in April. Existing schemes include the Warm Homes Discount and Cold Weather Payments which provide targeted support to those who are facing the most hardship due to the price increases.
I’m also pleased that Government has committed to reviewing what action they can take on energy bills. There have been calls to cut VAT on energy bills and Ministers have said that this is under active consideration. It’s worth saying that, whilst reducing VAT would reduce prices and as a Conservative MP I’m always in favour of lower taxes, it would also mean spending taxpayers’ money on cutting energy bills for a lot of people who don’t need it and are not struggling, so we do need to debate and look at exactly what the best measures are, including and what is the best value for taxpayers.
When I spoke in the Chamber about the various taxes that affect your bills, I raised the issue of ‘green levies’ on energy bills. Whilst we all agree diversifying our energy production is vital, and by having more sources of renewable energy in the UK we will be less susceptible to changes in global energy prices, in the short term people are paying an extra 12% on their bills to fund it and that is a problem. These green levies are not helping put food on their table right now, and I definitely think this is one area where we could help put pounds back in people’s pockets. I raised this directly with the Chancellor.
The cost of living will be a huge issue in the months ahead, and though Government doesn’t control global prices, they are committed to helping wherever they can. You get can information about the existing schemes on gov.uk and Government looks set to introduce additional support in the weeks ahead.