We have seen an unprecedented rise in the cost of living over the past few months. In February, I wrote about this concerning issue in my column at the time when the global economy was just beginning to recover from the pandemic, whilst Russia launched its illegal invasion of Ukraine. Since then, the wholesale cost of oil and gas continues to increase exponentially, causing price rises and inflation, adversely impacting on the cost of living for us all.
The Government rightly continues to take steps to help all households with their bills, especially those on the lowest income. Earlier this year, for example, the National Living Wage rose by 6.6 per cent from £8.91 to £9.50 and someone working full-time on the Living Wage will see their earnings increase by £1,000 this year. Fuel duty was not only frozen for the twelfth year in a row but also cut by 5p. The Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has written to the Competition and Markets Authority asking for a review of fuel prices as many MPs like myself are concerned that this cut in duty has not been reflected at the pumps. The Universal Credit taper rate reduced whilst the Work Allowance increased by £500 (representing an effective tax cut for low income working households in receipt of UC). We have recently seen one-off grant payments to pensioners, disabled people, to those on means tested benefits, and to households to help with energy bills.
In October 2021, we saw the launch of the £500 million Household Support Fund administered by local councils to help people and families over the winter. In the 2022 Spring Statement, the Chancellor announced the extension of the Fund again, with an additional £500 million to help 3-4 million vulnerable households, and this has now been extended with additional funding to 2023 taking the total funding to £1.5 billion.
The Government is supporting families with the current cost of living with a massive £37 billion. Support is available as regards income, bills, childcare costs, housing, transport costs and gaining employment. There is no shame in asking for help – it is only a sign that we are all human – and I will continue to press for more support for people, families and businesses in Hastings and Rye whenever and wherever it is needed.