As the cold weather sets in rising energy prices are on everyone’s minds once again. That’s why last Saturday in Farringdon I launched my local day of action on energy prices. Many residents told me about their concerns around ever-increasing gas and electricity bills at the same time that wages are falling and household budgets are under pressure.
Last month in this column, I wrote about Labour’s plans to get the cost of energy under control. On day one of a future Labour government we would act to freeze energy bills for twenty months until 2017 and bring in a tough new regulator to take on the big six energy giants. The current market is quite clearly broken.
The government’s response to these proposals has been typically weak. Instead of standing up for hard-pressed families, they have chosen to defend the energy companies and attack green levies, which pale into insignificance when compared to the huge profits enjoyed by the energy giants. In the long run they will actually give the UK greater energy security so that it will be less reliant on foreign imports. David Cameron should act now to help struggling families, instead he ordered a panicked review that will do nothing to help this winter.
It’s not just households that are being forced to tighten their belts. Small businesses are also suffering through high energy prices and business rates will increase by an average of £430 next April, costing businesses £700 million in total. I believe small businesses are vital to the UK’s economic recovery, especially here in the north east. Labour has recently announced plans to cut business rates for small and medium businesses in 2015, and freeze them in 2016.
Small business Saturday
On 7th December, for the first time across the country we will celebrate Small Business Saturday, giving small businesses the opportunity to showcase what they can offer and generate trade. On the day I’ll be supporting the Houghton Traders Association and the fantastic work they do encouraging people to shop locally. Our high streets are facing big challenges, but Small Business Saturday is an important step towards supporting small, independent businesses and recognising their contribution to the economy.
It was an honour to attend the Remembrance Sunday service at Shiney Row this year and to see so many people of all ages come to pay their respects. As the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War approaches, it’s vital we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country and its freedoms in both that war and subsequent conflicts. My thoughts are also with the families of our servicemen and women who make such an valuable and often unrecognised contribution to our nation.