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Cost of living squeeze resonates in Aberconwy

When Ed Miliband first coined the phrase the squeezed middle, it was ridiculed by commentators.  But more and more of us would describe ourselves this way: official figures show that, after inflation, average wages are already £1,669 lower than in 2010. This means that working people will, on average, have lost a total of £6,660 in real terms, while David Cameron has been Prime Minister.  Yet, those wages must stretch further as the costs of everyday items such as energy, travel and food increase. It’s not just those who can’t find work who are struggling financially, but many who are in work but need longer hours or better pay to meet the rising demands on their household budgets.

Many people I talk to in Aberconwy are also concerned about prospects for their children or grandchildren.  Can they find work to enable them to stay in the area?  Do the travel costs make it worthwhile?  Is it a permanent job with fixed hours or seasonal with a lack of secure hours, where all the flexibility is on the side of the employer?  It’s even more difficult to find work that pays, for those with disabilities, or childcare costs to factor in too.  And the chaos caused by the preparation for Universal Credit and the introduction of the automatic HMRC reporting system is only making things worse: with people nervous that if they work too much they will lose more than they gain.  How can that be right?

This UK coalition Government has hit people with a double whammy: on the one hand valid concerns about future income and rising costs of living mean people are cautious about spending, but this coupled with the lack of government action to grow the economy is combining to make things worse and create a spiralling downward pressure.  As US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew recently said we cannot “cut our way to prosperity”.  What is needed is a balance between stimulating the economy and correcting the deficit.  This Chancellor and this UK Government have got that balance completely wrong in their actions.  They are failing to stimulate the economy sufficiently themselves and also to create sufficient confidence to enable people to spend and do so themselves. Understandably people are nervous and therefore holding on to money if they can: those on zero hours contracts who have no idea how much money is coming in their next paypacket are in a particularly invidious position.  Government action is needed.

In north west Wales, on the periphery of the economy, the effects are always going to be worse.  But at least, compared to England we have the Welsh Labour Government taking what action it can.  Jobs Growth Wales is helping some 6,000 young people each year and there has been significant support for apprenticeship schemes as well as council support for local job creation. Welsh Labour is working hard to provide hope and opportunity in these tough times.

These actions are in stark contrast to Cameron and his out of touch Tories. The Coalition Cabinet of millionaires has failed local working families and are out of touch with the cost of living crisis. What else can possibly explain the tax cut given to millionaires while hitting the household budget of every other family in Aberconwy. It may be okay for Dave, George and their millionaire pals but the rest of us are paying the price.

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2 comments on “Cost of living squeeze resonates in Aberconwy

  1. So wise of you to quote US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew when recently said “we cannot cut our way to prosperity”.

    Sadly, the reality is that we cannot really spend our way to prosperity, either.

    At least not without generating extra tax income to match. That’s why the Shadow Cabinet are currently quite coy about any promises to reverse some of the unpleasant cuts happening right now – except for the Government’s “own goal” daftness of the so-called “bedroom tax”.

    Because of this, the public – rightly or unfairly, it actually doesn’t matter – perceive the main difference between Labour and Tory to one of rhetoric; this creates the potential for 2015 apathy and no clear change of political direction.

    What would set many of us alight would be a believable pledge to get tough – to right the wrongs of grotesque inequality of wealth and incomes, anti-social tax evasion/criminality and the end of decades of a “blind eye” on untaxed loot buried in tax havens both round the world (Cayman; Bermuda etc) and closer to home (Jersey; Isle of Man).

    Tories like inequality, so they don’t have a problem to solve – lip service will do fine.

    Labour has tried, but gets mired over-much into “targeting” help, which then brings us back to Ed Milliband’s “Squeezed Middle”.

    Be radical, or miss the 2015 boat, and perhaps the 2020 one as well.

    Best wishes in all that you are doing.

  2. Thanks Chris – and totally agree we cannot spend our way out either – need a better balance.- this article http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/aug/04/labour-economic-record-clean-bill-of-health?CMP=twt_gu very good.

    You’re right we need policies to inspire people to believe in us – but we need to be realistic too – about both the timescale and what further damage may have been done to the economy in the meantime. I’m confident we’ll have them in time for May 2015.

    Just read about women turning to prostitution to feed their kids after benefit cuts. Can’t beleive this is Britain 2013 😦

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