Welcome to Britain, where profits trump standard of living. On February 3, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced mitigation measures to deal with a snowballing energy crisis threatening the livelihoods of millions of people in Britain. As energy regulator Ofgem announced that energy bills would skyrocket by £693 per year from April, ‘Dishi Rishi’ announced a a measly £350 aid package for households, in what he saw as a surprisingly generous decision to take the “prick” growing energy cuts.
In France, the the government has limited increases in energy bills to 4%, forcing the national energy company to suffer a £7billion impairment loss to protect its citizens from rising costs. In Norway, the Parliament voted to subsidize household energy bills. In Great Britain, we are rather presented… the Wonga government.
If we ever needed proof of how out of touch conservatives are, the introduction of “loans” to pay energy bills has provided it. The Chancellor proudly announced that all households would receive £200 off their energy bills in October – with the caveat that they would then have to repay the rebate of £40 a year over five years from 2023. In a world of innovation and opportunity, the Tories are giving us… payday loans. And, since energy bills are decided by the market based on the prices of the previous year, the Tories will demand refunds when families are still grappling with the massive increases.
We are not only in the midst of an energy crisis of course; now, we realize that a general crisis in the cost of living is well under way. For millions, life is about to get very, very hard, extremely fast. Municipalities increase their tax bills about 4.4% a year as they struggle to fund community services. Consumers can expect to pay £180 more on average this year for their races than in 2021.
Meanwhile, the Bank of England has revealed that UK interest rates will double from 0.25% to 0.5%while national insurance – which is automatically withdrawn from your salary – must be increased by 1.25% to fund the health and social care crisis – a crisis of the Conservatives’ own making. Then there is what has been dubbed a ‘stealth tax hike on student loans. All this against a backdrop of stagnant wages. And these murderous measures have consequences: millions of people will not have the means to live, period.
On the very day that Sunak presented his sad lifeline apology to the British public, the oil company Shell boasted of having “momentary” 14-fold increase in its profits to £12 billion. In 2021 it was revealed they had failed be taxed on North Sea oil and gas profits for three years. Fellow fossil fuel giant Exxon Mobil had its most profitable year in seven years in 2021, after receiving £360m in grants of the British government. And on Tuesday ministers voted to give bankers a tax cut is worth £1 billion a year.
There is no element of inevitability in the cost of living crisis. Almost £9 billion worth of PPE and £4.3 billion in Covid-19 fraud have been written off. Despite this, the Conservatives maintain, of course, that there is no “magic money tree”. The cost of living crisis is a matter of political choice. Allowing gas prices to rise – and refusing to raise taxes on energy companies that earn billions for their shareholders – ultimately fuels energy company profits and puts millions of people in energy poverty. The message – that everything will cost more, but to compensate, we will all earn less – is the inevitable outcome of a political agenda that blatantly ignores the most vulnerable.
“At the moment, we realize that a general crisis in the cost of living is well under way. For millions, life is about to get very, very hard, extremely fast »
Not surprisingly, the rising cost of living hits minorities and vulnerable communities hardest. A study last year found that people from black and ethnic minorities are among several groups that disproportionately face high cost of living, due to the likelihood of being hit by the “poverty premium” and the overrepresentation of people of color in lower-paying and less secure jobs. People of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin are over three times more likely as white people to live in the bottom 10% of neighborhoods, while black women are less likely be among the highest paid in the UK.
Pretending to worry about the public and obsessing over replacing #11 with #10Sunak announced measures that make life unaffordable for millions of people. Modeling from the New Economic Foundation says the poorest 10% of families will be even worse off by £450 a year after the supposed council tax refund in April. Indeed Sunak has summed up the issue himself, outlining how to provide £350 to help “the vast majority of households”.
But when that’s not even enough for the vast majority (the average family facing additional costs of £1,096 per year), disadvantaged communities will struggle at an unfathomable level. Pushing households into abject poverty as they choose between heating and food, the poorest communities have been left out of the equation entirely, with Sunak slashing the universal credit enhancement months before.
The Conservatives once presented themselves as a ‘strong and steady’ party. They still openly embrace the myth that they are the only responsible administrators of the economy – writing in The sun Yesterday Rishi Sunak said the Tories have ‘always been the party of sound money’. But the math doesn’t add up. Under the Conservatives one in three children now live in child poverty, 700,000 more since 2012. Even in 2019, before the pandemic, one fifth of the population lived in extreme poverty, warranting a special investigation by the UN.
When Covid-19 ends, things look set to get a lot, many worse and the “solutions” offered by the supposed prodigies of economics will only exacerbate the long-term problems, with millions of people to suffer Victorian levels of deprivation. But at least the big companies will have their profits protected. as one writer Put the: “the problem with the remorseless and relentless accumulation of wealth is that eventually you run out of other people to extract capital from”.
“The message – that everything will cost more, but to compensate we will all earn less – is the inevitable culmination of a political agenda that blatantly ignores the most vulnerable”
The Conservatives are not conservatives of the economy – they are conservatives of themselves, having been in government for eleven years. Harnessing a combination of weariness and complacency, the government unleashes murderous measures on a depleted population. It is depressingly ironic that this crisis peaked the same week as the “Upgrade” white paper, a conservative fantasy that promised no new funding to achieve its goals.
The Conservatives cannot be trusted with the economy. There is a national cost of living crisis in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet. Read that again. We are about to suffer the biggest drop in living standards since the start of comparable records. a chancellor worth £200m – the wealthiest man in the House of Commons – enforces measures that line the pockets of investors, not those who need them. At some point, then, maybe we should stop leaving millionaires too preoccupied with construction of tennis courts build public policy. The myth that the Conservatives are the party of the economy has long been debunking. This crisis cemented it. But unless we do something, it will always be the public who will have to pay the price.
Change comes through collective action. Join the nationwide protests against the cost of living on 12 February put the standard of living before profits.
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