Inflation and rising living costs have understandably been at the forefront of many people’s minds in recent weeks, and families across the country are currently faced with a calamitous drop in their standards of living.
I’ve been very outspoken on this issue in Parliament, and recently challenged the Government about the ongoing crisis, and in a House of Commons debate asked the Minister to explain to my Stockport constituents how they are going to help tackle spiralling costs.
Research by the Food Foundation recently revealed that, last month, a million UK adults went an entire day without eating because they could not afford to put a meal on the table. This worrying situation will only worsen as inflation drives up food prices, and people struggle to provide for themselves and their families.
This is compounded by the fact that soaring energy prices – alongside the removal late last year of the £20 Covid top-up to Universal Credit – is bringing further misery to millions of people across the country.
Last year the Trussell Trust reported that food banks in its UK network gave more than 2.5 million emergency food parcels to people facing crisis between April 2020 and March 2021. More than 980,000 of these went to children. A year on, the situation is even bleaker.
Furthermore, research I have carried out with the help of the House of Commons Library has revealed that the average gross weekly pay for full-time employees in my Stockport constituency was £554 in April 2021, below the average of £578 in the North West and more than 10% less than UK earnings of £611. With inflation now north of 5% and many wages either stagnant or rising below inflation, this is stretching people further still.
As well as leading to real hardship for my constituents, it’s also fuelling rising health inequality across the North West, which I recently spoke about in Parliament. Across Stockport, the gap in mortality and reported serious illness is stark, and the divide will continue to grow as people struggle to eat regularly and healthily, or heat their homes.
Housing is another area that the Government must urgently get a grip of. In Stockport, the average rent for a two-bedroom property is £800 which, amid rising costs and less money in people’s pockets, is simply unaffordable. Despite a recent review of the Local Housing Allowance, the calculated rate is still only £650, meaning that many of my constituents are struggling to make ends meet and cover the cost of other essential goods such as food and heating. I again spoke in Parliament on this issue and urged the Government to act.
I will continue to do all I can, both inside and outside of Parliament, to support my constituents on this issue, to ensure that everyone receives the support they so desperately need and they do not have to face the indignity of a “heat or eat dilemma”.