We can see the ‘cost of living crisis’ approaching, as fuel and food bills soar on the back of huge inflation and stagnant wages. Energy prices are due to rise by 54% on 1 April, putting an average of £700 onto household energy bills. It’s a massive hike. At the same time, latest forecasts are that food prices will increase by 5%. Labour's policy on the cost of living crisis is clear. We would cut VAT on energy bills, expand the warm homes discount and pay for it with a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas companies. BP and Shell announced profits of £40 billion last week. They can definitely afford it. Yet, the Chancellor’s plan was a £200 loan in October that everyone will have to pay back to the energy companies over the next 5 years.
Alongside that news last week, the Conservative Government tried to quietly gloss over the fact that they have written off £4.3 billion of fraud on covid loans, grants and furlough. This is in addition to the billions wasted on faulty PPE through hastily arranged contracts via a ‘VIP channel’. People are finally beginning to realise that the Conservatives cannot be trusted with our money.
That may explain why the Government’s long awaited ‘Levelling Up’ manifesto came with no new investment. Instead, it rehashed old commitments and tired sound-bites. Like the replacement EU funding for Cornwall that seems to be re-announced every few months, yet we’ve still seen virtually no money! The Levelling Up White Paper proposes a Mayor for Cornwall. But just having a Mayor won’t solve any of our deep rooted problems: our housing crisis fuelled by second homes and Airbnbs; our low wages and insecure job market; our public services that are being decimated by this Conservative Council’s budget cuts; and our health and social care system that has been limping along in critical care for months, with no sign of easing of the number of ambulances queuing outside Treliske.
Cornwall deserves so much better. Secure, high-quality jobs, taking advantage of all our natural resources and transforming Cornwall into a green industrial powerhouse once again. Decent housing that local people can afford to live in. A health and social care safety net that has the resources to take care of the people of Cornwall. There really could be solutions to our many challenges. Labour wants to invest £28 billion every year in building the green industrial revolution that we need in Cornwall and creating good jobs in our duchy so that our young people have choices and chances. We need the power to take decisions for ourselves, not in Westminster, so we can take the steps to tackle our housing crisis here in Cornwall. The long-awaited Levelling Up paper doesn’t give us those solutions and it doesn’t feel like we are any closer to them, after years of Conservative government and Conservative MPs representing us.