Thursday, 24 January 2013

Holding down the cost of living...


The biggest challenge facing families in Cornwall is the cost of living. We all know that there is no money around, public spending is under huge pressure and people are not seeing their wages go up. That is why we have to do everything we can to try to drive down the cost of living.

I was one of the MPs who argued that fuel duty should be frozen and then cut as soon as possible. In a rural peninsula like Cornwall, people are dependent on their cars to get to work and we need to recognise that fact. I was pleased the government abolished the so called “fuel duty escalator” so that prices at the pumps are now 10p lower than they would otherwise have been, but we need to keep up the pressure.

Another longstanding challenge in Cornwall is the high cost of water bills. Again, I lobbied the government to get change and progress has been made towards addressing this unfairness with the introduction of a new rebate of £50 per household due to take effect later this year. There will also be additional forms of discounted tariff for those on very low incomes. It’s not perfect, but things are moving in the right direction.

Electricity and gas bills also put pressure on household budgets and I want to see far greater transparency from energy companies about what they are charging their customers. All too often, gas prices are fast to rise but slow to fall when there are changes in the wholesale price. That is not good enough and the Office of Fair Trading should investigate. Likewise, David Cameron was right to say that we should legislate to ensure that electricity companies are required to offer their customers their cheapest tariff because sometimes the different options on offer are so complicated and change so often that people who are busy can’t keep up with it all and end up ripped off.

This week there was a debate in parliament about reinstating the 10p tax band for those on low incomes. This was something abolished by Gordon Brown in 2008 which was a mistake. The government has made a start by raising the threshold before people start paying any tax but I want the 10p tax rate back too.

Finally, we need to keep the freeze on Council Tax. Over the last three years, the government has helped those councils who freeze council tax by meeting them half way on the cost. Cornwall Council has taken it up in the last two years and should do so again. I know that it puts their own budget under a strain, but what about the budgets of those who have pay their council tax?

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.