I have struggled with the idea of writing about the cost of living crisis at a time of year when our thoughts should be on Christmas. My reservations however, were pushed to one side when, as part of the Opposition Day debate in the House of Commons, it came to light that 355,985 people needed to use a Trussell Trust food bank between April and September this year. A shocking figure made the more so when you realise that over 120,000 of those people were children. Three years ago 41,000 people had cause to use a food bank.
Rising food poverty is a national scandal but rising food prices; in the last six years they have risen over and above inflation to the tune of 12.6%, are not the only cause of this cost of living crisis. We only have to look to the cost of water, of gas and electricity, the cost of childcare and transport, low wages, the abuse of zero hours contracts in the workplace. Look to the hardship caused by the so called benefit reforms such as the bedroom tax. The Trust also report that 35%, over a third, of their clients were referred due to hardship created by delays in receiving vital benefits.
Put all of this together and we have a toxic mix that is dividing our community between the have and have nots. To make it worse we have a Government that ruthlessly pursues the self interests of the few at the expense of the many. We have heard over this week that employment is up and it is now also confirmed that economic growth is up on last year. But still we struggle to pay our way, our incomes falling far behind the rising prices of basic goods and services. By the time we reach the next General Election it is now estimated that real wages will have fallen by nearly 6%.
We have a Government led by David Cameron that sees all this as a necessity, they say that it is the only way to climb out of recession and deal with years of economic mismanagement. They brush aside the social cost in the pursuit of profit and gain, only by following this approach they say, will we see a prosperous Britain.
They are wrong, we can create growth and jobs and we can do this with the many, by the many, for the many. Led by Ed Miliband, the Labour Party will use Government as a tool to re balance our economy to meet the cost of living crisis head on. This is the point behind freezing energy bills, tackling high water bills, creating a living wage economy, expanding free childcare to support working people, abolishing the bedroom tax and supporting people to tackle hardship and inequality in their lives. A Government that looks to our future with compassion and hope, both qualities that sit at the very heart of Christmas.
Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2014.