The cost-of-living crisis we are currently facing is the worst in half a century.
After 12 years of Conservative Government, inflation and energy prices have now reached historic highs, while the British public is facing the largest tax burden in more than 50 years.
In his spring statement on March , the Chancellor announced that the Household Support Fund (HSF) is set to double to £1billion from April. First announced in October of last year, the fund is designed to enable local councils to support those struggling to manage the costs of essentials such as food and utilities.
The money may come from central Government, but individual councils are tasked with deciding how it should be distributed to their local communities.
Doubling the HSF may seem like a generous decision to alleviate some of the financial strain on families, but when you break it down it remains clear – there is simply not enough money in the pot to go around.
The Chancellor went against calls from Labour – and even some Conservative MPs – to scrap the National Insurance hike.
There was also no mention of a windfall tax for oil and gas producers to help with rising energy costs (another Labour idea).
In Lewisham, a large share of the original £500million HSF went to free school meals for children in the community.
While I wholeheartedly support this decision by the council, insufficient funds from the Government mean there is little money left over to help others struggling to make ends meet in the face of huge financial pressures.
My constituency office receives countless emails, letters and phone calls from constituents who are struggling to pay rising energy bills or meet rent payments, and there are fewer and fewer places left to direct them for support.
Councils are on the front line of delivering the essential services that people rely on.
While the Government may have devolved decision-making powers to them, it is failing to provide them with enough funds to do this effectively.
We are in desperate need of reform in local Government finance to ensure that communities have access to the help that they need, and the HSF merely acts as a poor and temporary sticking plaster when serious fundamental changes are needed.
The cost-of-living crisis is a result of Government decisions that predate both Covid and the war in Ukraine.
The Government’s unwillingness to adequately address the current economic crisis means the financial burden will continue to fall on low-income families, while large companies and the rich remain protected.
Labour is committed to strengthening and rebuilding our communities.
Ahead of the council elections on May 5 you can read more about our pledges in the 2022 Lewisham Labour Manifesto at https://www.lewishamlabour.