Archive for Cost of Living

Tom backs Ed Miliband’s call for a new ‘cost of living’ index

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (12th January 2015) backed the call by Labour leader Ed Miliband for a new Living Standards Index.

A national Living Standards Index monitored by independent officials will aim to gauge whether future governments are helping working people improve their lives. This new measure – which will be accorded equal status to gross domestic product (GDP) figures – will help to ensure that economic policy is geared to the everyday needs of families rather than to meeting growth targets on graphs. Under the plan, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility would be expected to monitor standards of living and issue forecasts in the same way it does for GDP.

Tom said:
“This might appear to be rather abstract, but in reality such a new index would be immensely important for Teesside. At the moment, the way current statistics are compiled – often from out-of-date figures – means coalition politicians can create the impression that all is well when, in fact, many people are struggling on the minimum wage, in zero contract jobs or eroding state benefits and pensions.

“On Teesside this is a big problem as Tees-wide statistics show relatively high earnings in UK wide terms. In reality, this is an illusion, with the earnings of a relatively small number of people in well paid jobs in areas like chemicals, mining or on offshore rigs distorting sub-regional statistics.

“As these statistics are key parts of the building block for central government grants for local councils, the police and the NHS, a fair and proper index would be a big boost for Teesside, as it would help create a fairer local society, and would be a big help for local people on low wages, young parents with children and the elderly. It’s something I will be backing 100 per cent.”

‘Tory-led Government is not being upfront with pension cuts’

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (9th December 2014) condemned the Tory-led Government for not being upfront over the latest pension changes.

Pensions minister Steve Webb announced last week that the basic pension state pension would rise by 2.5% – £2.85 a week more, but he also announced the Government was freezing the pension credit – additional money which tops up the income for those who have a small income.

As a result any pensioner aged 65 and above who earns between £120.35 and £190.35 will only get an extra 87p and couples who earn £192 and £278.25 between them will get just 60p a week more.

Tom said:
“Pensioners across Teesside and East Cleveland will be shocked to find out that they will get just an 87p rise in their state pension this April and not the £2.85 promised by the Tory-led Government. Many of these will be amongst the poorest pensioners, already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, and who have saved all their lives for a little extra security in retirement. This Government seems to be punishing them for it. So if you are a pensioner and receive these benefits and believe you are one of the 1.6m who will only get an 87p increase please contact my office.

“The Government needed to be upfront and honest about how the changes are really impacting on the finances of pensioners. It’s been presented as if everyone wins, but that is not the case. The truth is that the Government is giving with one hand whilst taking with the other.”

‘Osborne’s Autumn Statement is a road to nowhere for Teesside’

Reacting to the final Autumn Statement before the General Election next year by Tory Chancellor George Osborne, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said:

“Budget after budget, statement after statement, Teesside and East Cleveland residents and businesses have been failed by this Tory-led Government.

“On the big issues holding back the area – the lack of rail electrification to Teesside and the uncertainty surrounding the steel industry – we heard nothing from the Chancellor. In his own words earlier this year he vowed to create a “Northern Powerhouse”, but from today’s statement it is quite clear he doesn’t have the policies or ideas to deliver that pledge.

“On the NHS – the Chancellor has not found an extra £2 billion for the NHS, as he claims, but instead is proposing to recycle funds already in the Department of Health budget. This is crisis cash because of the fragile financial state of the NHS after the Government’s £3 billion reorganisation. Our local NHS alone is facing £90 million cuts over the next few years.

“And on the cost-of-living crisis being faced by households across Britain and on Teesside it is complete failure. George Osborne and David Cameron promised living standards would rise but since the last election, wages have fallen behind prices month after month. Working people are now on average £1,600 a year worse off since the Tories got elected, while millionaires have been given a huge tax cut and new figures show full-time workers are now £2,000 a year worse off under David Cameron.

“This cost-of-living crisis is why the Chancellor is set to break another promise – to balance the nation’s books by next year. When wages aren’t rising and too many are stuck in low-paid jobs, the tax revenues we need to get borrowing down don’t come in. So the Tory failure to deliver a recovery that works for the many and not just a few is the reason why they’re failing on the deficit too.

“Labour has a better and fairer plan. We’ll raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, freeze energy bills, reform the banks and we’ll cut business rates for small firms, boost apprenticeships, tackle the abuse of zero-hours contracts and expand free childcare for working parents.

“Today we heard more of the same – an economic plan that is failing everyday working people, old announcements dressed up in the Emperor’s new clothes and one that is leaving Teesside – and the North East – on a road to nowhere. By delaying this Autumn Statement until a few weeks before Christmas, George Osborne has ensured that people know who the real Scrooge is.”

Tom slams loan sharks targeting mothers outside schools

Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (7th May 2014) condemned practices apparently being employed by loan sharks of targeting mothers outside schools

Tom’s comments came following England Illegal Money Lending Teams claims that loan sharks are targeting mothers picking up their children at school gates.

Tom said:
“This is a deplorable act being used by loan sharks and one that needs to be clamped down on fast. The use of loan sharks is prevalent across Teesside as families are £1,600 per year worse off and many are struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis. They often turn to loan sharks and other high cost credit sources as a way out but, in many cases, they just fall into a debt trap.

“I’m pleased to see the England Illegal Money Lending Team is using the money seized from convicted loan sharks to fund projects to educate children about the dangers of illegal lenders. I would urge anyone to report loan sharks as they can be blight on our communities and must be driven out.”

“Shocking but unsurprising” rise in foodbank use

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour’s MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (16th April 2014) branded the latest figures from the Trussel Trust that show a 463% rise in North-East foodbank users as “shocking but unsurprising”.

New figures reveal more than 900,000 people turned to foodbanks for emergency help in the last 12 months – a near three-fold increase on the previous year. In the North-East, the region’s nine Trussell Trust foodbanks reported a 463% rise in demand in just 12 months.

Tom said:
“The vast increase in the number of households and families turning to foodbanks reveals the shocking truth of life under David Cameron’s and Nick Clegg. Nothing is a clearer indication of the cost-of-living crisis millions of people are facing up and down the country than the unprecedented rise in the need for foodbanks.

“Difficulty making ends meet has only been compounded by shambolic welfare reforms and this is something anti-poverty campaigners have highlighted as a major cause for this explosion in numbers of people having to turn to foodbanks.

“I’ve been well aware of this growing crisis for the past few years and I’ve took various actions to try and help, such as, urging supermarkets to develop an online tool to allow shoppers to easily donate online; helping out local foodbanks across Teesside; and even setting up a collection point in my Constituency office in Guisborough.

“The flippant way local Tories have responded to these figures is shameful. Instead of hiding behind the Tory myth, that says the increase in foodbanks is driving demand, it is time Ministers got a grip and took this issue seriously.”

Squeeze on household incomes continues on Teesside

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (7th April 2014) claimed that Households will be £974 a year worse off by the time of the next general election because of tax and benefit changes since 2010,

Labour calculations, based on IFS figures and analysis by the House of Commons Library, show that households will be around £950 a year worse off at the start of the new tax year, taking into account all changes since 2010 such as increases to the income tax personal allowance, as well as the rise in VAT and cuts to tax credits and child benefit..

Tom said:
“These new figures are just the tip of the iceberg. The strain household finances are under due to the cost-of-living crisis is unprecedented. They are in addition to the impact of wages falling in real terms, which have left working people on average £1,600 a year worse off since 2010 and, in my constituency, wages have been hit to the tune of £116.93 per week.

“David Cameron is trying to tell working people they are better off, but he’s not fooling anybody. One in four women does not even earn enough to benefit from the latest rise in the income tax personal allowance. While millions have seen their taxes go up, millionaires have been given a huge tax cut by this government.

“So whatever out of touch claims David Cameron and George Osborne try to make, these independent figures are clear: hard working people are worse off under the Tories. Labour has a clear plan to earn our way to higher living standards and deal with the cost-of-living crisis: freezing energy bills; get young people into work with a compulsory jobs guarantee; expand free childcare and cut business rates for small firms.”

Tom backs Labour’s childcare pledge to help working families

Ahead of Mother’s Day this Sunday, local MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (26th March 2014) backed Labour’s pledge to tackle what they are calling “Cameron’s Childcare Crisis”.

Labour’s plan includes ‘wrap-around childcare’ from 8am to 6pm for all primary schoolchildren and an extra 10 hours per week (making a total of 25 hours) of free nursery hours for all 3 and 4 year olds for working families.

Tom said:
“Under David Cameron’s out-of-touch Government, families are feeling the squeeze. The cost of nursery places has rocketed up by 30%; there are 35,000 fewer childcare places and 578 fewer Sure Start Children’s centres.

“Families are finding it increasingly difficult to afford decent childcare as prices rise against a backdrop of stagnant wages. This means hard-pressed mums and dads continue to struggle with bills, while Ministers do nothing to support families.

“Childcare is fast becoming one of the key issues for families. Labour understands the struggles that families face and we’re coming up with plans to address them. For mums and dads in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Labour’s pledge to extend free nursery care to 25 hours will be worth over £1,500 per year for parents of three and four year olds.

“Along with guaranteed access to breakfast and after school clubs through every primary school, these pledges show we are serious about helping families to boost their earnings and get on with balancing their family and work life.”

‘Tory Budget that will do nothing to raise the living standards of Teesside families’

Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (19th March 2014) criticised the latest Budget delivered by Tory Chancellor, George Osborne, for its ‘complete failure to raise the living standards of hardworking families here in Teesside’.

Commenting Tom said:
“Today George Osborne delivered his penultimate Budget before the General Election in May next year. George Osborne and David Cameron can claim everything is going well but that’s totally out of touch when thousands of working people on Teesside on middle and lower incomes are not feeling any recovery at all.

“The North East features just once in the Budget whilst Teesside, and places within, don’t even get a look in. The Chancellor is completely out of touch when it comes to the lives of Teesside families.

“David Cameron and George Osborne stand up only for a privileged few – not hardworking families. We need a Budget that tackles the cost-of-living crisis which has left working people £1,600 a year worse off under the Tories. In my constituency alone, wages are being squeezed by £116.93 per week.

“George Osborne wants to take credit for increasing the personal allowance, but hopes people forget his 24 Tory tax rises including the increase in VAT. While millionaires have been given a huge tax cut the truth is millions of hard-working people have seen their taxes go up. It’s the same old Tory con – giving with one hand while taking away much more with the other.”

Wage squeeze is the longest in over 50 years

According to a recent report by the Office for National Statistics real wages have been dropping consistently since 2010 – the longest period of falls since at least 1964.

They cited shorter working hours and reduced output as factors behind falling wages.

Commenting on the figures Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, said:
“To many of my constituents these figures won’t come as a surprise. They have seen their wage squeezed by over 25% in real terms since 2010 – that is £116.93 per week.

“But this is just further proof that we are facing a cost-of-living crisis under the Coalition Government as living standards are facing a squeeze unlike any in the last half century.

“Labour would tackle the cost-of-living crisis by strengthening the minimum wage, introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax and expanding free childcare for 3 and 4 years olds to 25 hours per week.

“Rather than helping hard-working families in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, David Cameron is again choosing to stand up for just a privileged few at the top. In 2013, Cameron gave people earning over £150,000 a year a big tax cut. Now he’s paving the way for yet another cut to the top rate of tax, a further tax giveaway for millionaires.”

Labour demands action on enforcement of National Minimum Wage

Labour will today (15th January 2014) force a debate on the National Minimum Wage (NMW) after it emerged that, despite Government promises, not a single firm has been named and shamed for not paying.

This year sees the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the National Minimum Wage. In November 2013, Ed Miliband announced that a future Labour government would introduce ‘make work pay’ contracts to incentivise firms to pay the living wage. Alan Buckle, former Deputy Chairman of KPMG is leading a review for Labour on how the NMW can be strengthened and its value restored, including looking at extending the role and powers of the Low Pay Commission.

Tom said:
“This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of National Minimum Wage – one of Labour’s great policy successes, it boosted pay at the bottom without leading to a loss of jobs, and has wide industry support as a result. The Tories and many Lib Dem MPs bitterly opposed the introduction of the minimum wage legislation and low pay has got worse under this Government.

“For all their rhetoric the Tory-led Government is completely failing to properly enforce the NMW with only two prosecutions in four years. This is despite evidence that as many as 300,000 people in the UK earn less than the NMW.

“Families are on average £1,600 a year worse off since David Cameron took office in 2010 and the value of the minimum wage has declined by almost 5% under his watch. In my constituency alone, the average weekly pay has declined by £116.93 since 2010 – the pressure on family finances is unprecedented.

“That is why we are demanding that the government takes action to restore the value of the National Minimum Wage and does more to encourage employers to pay a living wage. We are also calling for a tenfold increase in penalties for rogue companies that don’t pay employees the minimum wage and more effective enforcement, including by giving local authorities new powers.”