April will bring biggest living standards fall in 50 years, Labour leaders warn

Elliot Chappell
© 360b/Shutterstock.com

Gordon Brown, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, all eight Labour metro mayors and more than 70 local authority leaders have warned Rishi Sunak that the country is facing “the worst cost-of-living crisis for half a century”.

In an open letter to the Chancellor, the group of Labour leaders in the ‘Alliance for Full Employment’ called on Sunak to acknowledge that these are “extraordinarily difficult times” and use the Budget later this month to:

  • Stop the 1.25 percentage-point rise in employee National Insurance contribution;
  • Reverse the £20-per-week cut to Universal Credit;
  • Provide greater help for energy costs, targeted at the poorest households;
  • Put in place urgent support for insulation costs for the poorest households as part of a “comprehensive programme” for housing retrofit; and
  • Uprate benefits this year in line with actual inflation rates.

They wrote: “Six million low income families have already lost £20 a week because of the cut in Universal credit in October. Further cuts in the value of their incomes, as heating bills surge and good bills soar, will deepen the cost of living crisis they and many others face.”

Ministers scrapped the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, introduced during the first wave of the pandemic amid a surge in the number of claimants, in October last year despite warnings that 800,000 more people would be pushed into poverty.

“These cuts are unfair, and for many will be unbearable – pushing them over the edge into extreme poverty, and rendering them unable to adequately heat their homes or perhaps even provide the nutrition their children need,” they told Sunak.

The group of Labour figures argued that only the four measures outlined above, implemented simultaneously when the Chancellor delivers the Budget on March 23rd, can “adequately respond to rising fuel poverty and prevent poverty as a whole rising faster than at any time in recent history”.

“We have the means to put them in place. And we have to find a way, because at stake is the unacceptable and avoidable suffering for millions of our fellow citizens – and especially children – across our communities,” they added.

The Alliance for Full Employment, led by Gordon Brown, was formed by the Labour representatives from across the UK in September 2020 in anticipation of an employment crisis following the withdrawal of the furlough scheme.

The number of people in fuel poverty in the UK is set to rise by a further three million next month to seven million. Research from the Alliance, due to be published on Thursday, suggests that without action this could rise to 12 million by October.

Recent analysis from the TUC revealed that utility bills are set to rise at least 14 times faster than wages this year, by 54% when the price cap rises in April, as the conflict in Ukraine exacerbates the ongoing energy crisis.

The Bank of England forecast that wages will rise by around £1,000 in nominal terms during 2022, but the analysis from the trade union federation suggested 70% of these gains will be wiped out by the energy price cap increasing by £693.

The analysis by the TUC also noted that the expected further increase in the price cap in October – which could see it rise by more than the annual equivalent of £1,500 across the course of 2022 – could negate any gains in wages altogether.

Labour MP Ian Byrne warned in an exclusive interview with LabourList earlier this week that families have already been placed in an “untenable” position, even before the changes take effect in April.

“The situation that we find ourselves in as the UK is unparalleled for a long, long time, and the cost-of-living crisis is going to be terrifying for millions and millions of people,” the MP for Liverpool West Derby added.

Below is the full list of signatories to the letter sent to Rishi Sunak.

Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister
Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales
Tracy Brabin, West Yorkshire Combined Authority mayor
Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Combined Authority mayor
Jamie Driscoll, North Tyne Combined Authority mayor
Nik Johnson, Cambridge & Peterborough Combined Authority mayor
Sadiq Khan, Greater London Authority mayor
Dan Norris West of England Combined Authority mayor
Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region mayor
Marvin Rees, Bristol mayor

Cllr Matthew Brown, leader of Preston City Council
Cllr Alistair Bradley leader of Chorley Council
Cllr Anthony Hunt, leader, Torfaen County Borough Council
Cllr James Swindlehurst, leader Slough Borough Council
Cllr Andrew Western, leader of Trafford Council
Cllr Ros Jones Mayor of Doncaster
Cllr Ian Ward, leader, Birmingham City Council
Cllr Bev Craig, leader Manchester City Council
Mayor Joanne Anderson, Liverpool City Council
Cllr Graham D Henson, leader Harrow Council
Cllr Peter Lamb, leader of Crawley Borough Council
Cllr David Ellesmere, leader Ipswich Borough Council
Cllr Phil Bialyk, leader of Exeter City Council
Cllr Tricia Gilby, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council
Cllr Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council
Cllr John Clarke, leader of Gedling Borough Council
Cllr Louise Gittins, leader Cheshire West and Chester Council
Cllr Denise Jeffery, leader of Wakefield Council
Cllr Anthony Mckeown, leader of High Peak Borough Council
Cllr Jason Brock, leader of Reading Borough Council
Cllr Peter Marland, leader of Milton Keynes Council
Cllr Terry Fox, leader of Sheffield City Council
Cllr Mike Wharton, leader Halton Borough Council
Cllr Neil Emmott, leader of Rochdale Council
Cllr Shabir Pandor, leader of Kirklees Council
Cllr Doina Cornell, leader of Stroud District Council
Mayor Philip Glanville, London Borough of Hackney
Cllr Kieron Williams, leader of Southwark Council
Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council
Cllr Arooj Shah, leader of Oldham Council
Cllr Bob Cook, leader of Stockton on Tees Council
Cllr Huw Thomas, leader of Cardiff Council
Cllr Roger Truelove, leader of Swale Borough Council
Cllr Kerrie Carmichael Sandwell Council
Cllr Claire Holland, leader London Borough of Lambeth
Cllr Jan Williamson, leader of Wirral Borough Council
Cllr Darren Rodwell, leader of the London Borough of Barking Dagenham
Cllr Ian Maher, Labour leader of Sefton MBC
Cllr Afrasiab Anwar MBE, leader Burnley Borough Council
Cllr Alan Waters, leader Norwich City Council,
Cllr Hazel Simmons leader Luton Council
Cllr Peter Mason, leader of London Borough of Ealing,
Cllr Steve Fritchley, leader of the Council Bolsover District Council
Cllr Ric Metcalfe, leader of City of Lincoln Council
Cllr Neil Moore OBE, leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council
Cllr Ann Thomson, leader of Barrow Borough Council
Cllr Stephen Houghton, leader Barnsley MBC
Cllr Mohammed Khan CBE, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Borough
Cllr Stewart Young leader, Cumbria County Council
Cllr Jane Mudd, leader of Newport City Council
Cllr Graeme Miller, leader, Sunderland City Council
Cllr Sharon Taylor OBE, leader of Stevenage Borough Council
Cllr Stephen Cowan, leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham
Cllr Jas Athwal, leader London Borough of Redbridge
Cllr Huw David, leader of Bridgend County Borough Council
Cllr Shaun Davies, leader of Telford and Wrekin Council
Cllr Brenda Warrington, executive leader Tameside MBC
Cllr Chris Read, leader, Rotherham MBC
Cllr Carole Williams, cabinet member for employment, skills and human resources, London Borough of Hackney
Cllr Bev Craig, leader Manchester City Council

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