COLUMN: Community spirit needed more than ever

Talking Politics from Holly Lynch, Halifax Labour MP

By Zoe Drye
Thursday, 17th February 2022, 12:00 pm
More people will be plunged into financial insecurity and fuel poverty
More people will be plunged into financial insecurity and fuel poverty

Years of austerity have been difficult, but since the autumn my office has been inundated by a depressingly consistent series of emails and phone calls from local people, all struggling more than ever to make ends meet.

Just this week, one person has asked if we can check with their energy supplier whether the increases in their bills are accurate, as they seem unbelievably high.

A single parent has emailed me, explaining that every month all her pay goes straight to bills, and that she is having to rely on borrowing from family and friends to keep her children fed and clothed.

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And an elderly local resident called my office, saying that her energy bills have increased by 250 per cent in the last three months, and that she has no idea how she will be able to keep the heating on with her pension allowance.

These cases are just a snapshot of the situations people are facing.

My small team and I have been doing all we can to provide support and assistance but it is clear there are far too many people who are currently being forced to make a brutal calculation everyday - between either keeping their homes warm or putting food on the table.

Boris Johnson’s Government are asleep at the wheel: preoccupied trying to manage their own scandals and have done absolutely nothing to mend the cost-of-living crisis.

As a matter of fact, Tory policies, such as the cut to Universal Credit, the planned National Insurance rise, and the 54 per cent increase in the energy price cap, have only plunged more people across Halifax into financial insecurity and strife.

When I speak to those running our local foodbanks and charities, these are the main factors driving people into poverty.

But there are things which could be done which would immediately provide relief for people from the cost-of-living crisis.

Labour MPs are calling for the Warm Home Discount to increase from £140 to £400 and would also remove VAT on energy bills, smoothing the costs of supplier failure, saving the hardest-hit households £600 off their bills in total.

These measures would be partly paid for by a special one-off windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas producers who can certainly afford it.

The Government have so far rejected these proposals and are only offering £350 off household bills – including £200 that will not come until October and that bill payers will have to pay back as a surcharge later, and a £150 council tax rebate that many pensioners and people on low incomes will not automatically be eligible for.

We know that this won’t be enough and so we keep trying to make the case for further support.

Whilst the last two years have been immensely challenging for everyone, I see so many people who have gone over and above to help their friends and neighbours.

We will need that community spirit more than ever over the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, if you require any assistance, please contact me at [email protected]