I was talking to a group of pensioners in Formby who told me how tough they and their friends are finding things.
The stark reality for many is a choice between heating and eating. The government has suggested that people should go on the internet and find the best deals.
But many pensioners don’t have a computer and don’t know how to use the internet. So pensioners are unlikely to benefit from the best deals as they are not able to find them.
One pensioner told me about her friend who cannot afford to turn the heating on. So she wraps herself in her bedclothes while she eats her dinner. Other pensioners are using food banks.
Meanwhile the granny tax will hit pensioners in April when it is brought in. In 2012, you would not expect to hear of pensioners in this country struggling to make ends meet but that is the reality.
And it’s not just pensioners who are struggling.
One young man told me his building firm stopped trading as there was not work for him and for his partner. He now works in a shop on £6.50 per hour and has to do many hours of overtime just to pay the bills. As he said, he is lucky to have a job.
One campaign that has really taken off is the Fair Fuel campaign. Fuel is set to go up by 3 pence per litre if measures in this year’s budget go ahead. There was some speculation in the Sunday newspapers that the rise might be halted but no confirmation yet from the government.
A rise in the cost of fuel would be yet another attack on the living standards of the majority of people in this country. It would also take money out of people’s pockets just at the time when that money is needed to help with economic recovery. But the reality is that a rise in fuel would hurt as it is on top of rising energy and food prices and will come just before a tax rise of £450 for pensioners, cuts in tax credits for part time staff and cuts in child benefit.
All of these measures are hitting those on low and middle incomes, families with children and pensioners the hardest. The measures taken are also preventing recovery and growth as people don’t have money to spend. So businesses are not hiring.
That means a generation of young people face the prospect of not finding a job, with a million young people out of work and record numbers out of work for more than a year.
All of this at the same time that 8,000 millionaires are given a tax cut.
The fuel duty rise should be scrapped as it is the wrong tax at the wrong time. That is why I will be voting to scrap the fuel duty rise in the House of Commons and it’s why I think that we should cut VAT to further help drivers and everyone else by putting a bit more cash in our pockets until the economy recovers.