‘Victorian levels of poverty’ - What Birmingham MPs really think about the Cost of Living Crisis
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Birmingham MPs have given their perspectives on the Cost of Living Crisis. The comments come as the energy price cap – the maximum annual energy price firms are legally allowed to charge – rises by 80% to £3,549.
The news means energy bills are set to be three times higher than this time last year, while inflation is at an eye-watering 10.1% – the highest since 1982. In this climate, workers in many sectors are striking over pay and conditions.
What’s more, new research by Friends of the Earth has identified energy crisis hotspots across 9,000 locations in England and Wales. These spots have residents who use higher amounts of energy, in households with incomes below the UK average, therefore making them the most vulnerable to energy price hikes.
According to the data, Birmingham has the most energy crisis hotspots of all – a worrying sign for the winter ahead. Against this backdrop, cross party Birmingham MPs spoke to the Local Democracy Reporting Service about their views on the Cost of Living Crisis.
Tahir Ali Labour MP for Hall Green - Victorian poverty
“Close to 50% of children in Birmingham Hall Green live in relative poverty, which is well over twice the national average. I am extremely concerned about the impact of the cost of living on the lives of children and young people in my constituency, as well as the elderly and vulnerable groups.
“We know that record numbers of children now live in Victorian-levels of poverty, relying upon free school meals. We must push for free school meals to be extended over the holidays and to be made available to all those who need them.
“Whilst meeting the immediate issue of rising energy prices is important, it is also essential that we see pay increases for workers across the board. As the ONS has recently shown, workers pay has fallen at the fastest rate in 20 years, with the real value of the workers’ pay packet having dropped by 3%.
“Whilst large companies are paying off their CEOs and shareholders with eye-watering profits, workers are being told that there isn’t enough money for a decent pay rise. This is complete nonsense – workers are not the cause of inflation, whilst profits are contributing to higher prices for the consumer.
“We need serious measures aimed at the redistribution of wealth away from wealthy shareholders to the workers. That is why we must support striking workers in their struggle for fair wages and decent conditions, like CWU members of Royal Mail who are fighting a paltry pay offer whilst their CEO’s pay has risen by 32%.
“In terms of the energy crisis, it is clear that we need serious investment in renewables so that in the long run we can generate affordable and sustainable energy. We also must assist people in retrofitting their homes to improve energy efficiency.
“At the moment, many people simply cannot afford to properly insulate their home, so it is clear that the Government should support them in doing so with subsidies.”
Jess Philips Labour MP for Yardley and Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding - Winter fears
“I’m terrified about the winter ahead. We’ve done a survey across Yardley about how people are being affected and the vast majority of people have had housing cost increases, they’ve had food cost increases, and obviously energy.
“We’re seeing, not the classic people who I’ve got used to seeing in my office in the last seven years, where we’re running across the shop to buy nappies and hot food for people while they’re waiting with all their paperwork. These are people who were previously able to save and are now living on their savings, and won’t be able to buy a house.
“It is hurting, it’s already having a really bad impact. My emails were just flooded with people terrified about winter; it’s just constant, isn’t it? It’s this constant: what are we going to do?
“Currently what is available is just simply not enough. In our offices, we will be setting up really specific sessions for people to come in and make sure they’re accessing every bit of support possible.
“I will also be trying to go to Westminster, which we should frankly already have done, to thrash out all of these ideas about what can be a negotiated settlement in this dreadful crisis that’s not going to force people to the brink.
“But we’re not even in Westminster debating these issues are we? So that’s what needs to happen. People are bound to be worried about job losses, because that’s the next step in a recession as well, but the availability of work is not yet part of the story. All of it just feels like a bomb waiting to go.”
Khalid Mahmood Labour MP for Perry Barr - Failures of Thatcher
“I think a lot of people are very frightened and unfortunately there are people who just aren’t informed about what the cost of these things are. So they’re trying to save a lot of money and thinking, will they have to go without heating?
“Or how will they survive? And it’s becoming really, really serious, particularly the elderly, people with large families, even people that are working, with large families on low wages [up to £30,000], people who have children to look after, people who need to use a car as a necessity.
“My problem is that this is the failure of Thatcher; we were facing the consequences of privatising all the utilities and all the things that were actually important to the structure of the nation. And now the cost of those things is being put onto people.
“Everything from the electricity, from the gas people, from the water, even the railways, they all use the infrastructure that is provided by us, the taxpayer, and they’re making a huge amount of subsidies and money on top of that. I don’t think anybody has looked at these contracts since they were signed.
“They had lots of responsibilities to modernise and keep up to date, it’s been an abject failure. And yet they continue to give their shareholders billions and billions in some instances companies, over £72 billion to these companies shareholders. They’ve benefited hugely.”
Preet Kaur Gill Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston and Shadow Minister for International Development - A national emergency
“Britain has had 12 years of Conservative Governments who have failed to prepare by securing our energy supply and refused to invest in sustainable British energy to bring bills down in the long-term. This has left bills higher and our country less secure.
“This is a national emergency and people have been left scared about how they’ll get through the winter. Action must be taken immediately if we are going to prevent this national crisis from worsening, yet the Conservatives have no plan to support the British public.
“Labour, under Keir Starmer, wouldn’t let anyone pay a penny more for their energy bills and our fully costed £29bn plan will work in both the immediate and long-term. If we had a Labour Government today, we would freeze the energy cap saving households over £1,000 on their energy bills and create sustainable energy for the future – helping people get through the winter while providing the foundations for a stronger, more secure economy.”
Gary Sambrook Conservative MP for Northfield - Putin’s illegal war
“I know how much the cost of living is affecting families across Northfield, caused by Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine. The cost of energy in particular is the top issue amongst those who contact me, and I want to see more done to make sure the impact of this is as minimal as possible.
“In just a few weeks time we will have a new Prime Minister and I’ll be banging the drum to make sure this is the number one issue that we need to tackle.”
All Birmingham MPs were contacted for comment. Some were on annual leave and some chose not to contribute.
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