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January 14, 2014 - Bill Esterson's Westminster Diary

Bill Esterson



With winter heating bills coming through the letter box and after the cost of Christmas, January is always a tough month for millions of families and pensioners.

But at the moment too many people find the squeeze lasts for all 12 months of the year.

Latest figures show that working people are on average almost £1,600 a year worse off since the Tories came to power.

That is the cost of Cameron’s policies, which saw our economy flatline for three years while people earning over £150,000 got a huge tax cut.

So when David Cameron and George Osborne now try to claim their plan is working, it’s no wonder most people reply: "It’s not working for us."

Because even though it’s good news that the economy is finally growing again, business investment is still weak and prices continue rising faster than wages for most people.

And throughout 2014 my colleagues and I will be highlighting Labour’s plan to earn our way to higher living standards for all and tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

We’ll back small firms by cutting business rates and setting up a British Investment Bank.

To help young people get on the ladder and deliver a recovery that’s built to last, we will get at least 200,000 new homes built a year by 2020.

We will freeze energy bills until 2017 while we make long-term changes to stop customers being ripped off.

To make work pay, we will expand free childcare for working parents – paid for by asking the banks to pay a bit more in tax – and cap rail fare rises.

And we will expand apprenticeships and introduce a compulsory jobs guarantee for young people and the long-term unemployed.

We will not duck difficult decisions on spending cuts.

But we will get the deficit down in a fairer way – and not give tax cuts to millionaires.

With so many struggling to make ends meet, we are determined to ease the squeeze, change our economy and ensure that living standards rise for the many – not just for a few at the top.

The bedroom tax has been described as cruel by many people and this was highlighted by the story of Stephanie Bottrill, who killed herself when faced with a bill for £20 a week for the spare rooms in the family home, where she had brought up her family for nearly 20 years. It now turns out that she was probably exempt from the bedroom tax after all. 

In fact, thousands of people up and down the country may well have been charged this extra amount incorrectly and remember that people paying the bedroom tax are some of the poorest people both in work and out of work and include 420,000 disabled people. 

In the House of Commons, Labour held a vote calling for the bedroom tax to be scrapped. We lost the vote as Conservative and Lib Dem MPs, including our local Lib Dem MPs, voted to keep this appalling tax. 

I sincerely hope that they think again now we can see just what the true effects of the bedroom tax are on ordinary people like Stephanie Bottrill.

 

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