There’s no doubt who’s been setting the agenda as we leave Party Conference season. Ed Miliband and Labour have brought the problem of living standards into the spotlight.
The Tories and Lib Dems just assume that people in the south of England are well off but the reality is different – there are too many families falling into debt and going without the basics because of the cost of living crisis.
Think of the coastal towns in Hampshire, wages are often well below the average but the cost of housing, commuting and child care is still higher than in other parts of the country.
In Southampton city centre, the people trying to make work pay are struggling – independent shops and small businesses are handing over too much of their income to pay for business rates. Our young people face an uncertain future with zero hours contracts increasing and a careers advice network that has been stripped to the bones.
The foodbank network is expanding at an alarming rate and even some Children’s Centres in the South are handing out food parcels, it is a disgrace that in 2013 some parents are going without to feed their children.
Yet only the Labour Party has laid out policies to tackle these serious problems – our plans include a tax cut for small businesses, childcare help for families and a pledge to freeze your energy bills until January 2017.
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 3 and 4-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.
Ed Miliband has also set out bold plans to reform the energy market, there will be a simple new tariff structure and 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. See how much you could save by visiting http://www.freezethatbill.com/.
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 on average nearly £1,500 worse off. The truth is that year after year, you’ve been working harder, for longer, for less.
Yet 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 Southampton can only dream of. 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.
David Cameron and the Conservatives have realised they’ve got a problem, but have no new ideas to deal with it. Britain can do better than this, Britain needs a Labour Government that fights for you.