Families welcome Labour’s fresh focus on rising costs of living

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29 Sep 2013
Families across Newcastle this weekend welcomed Labour’s emphasis on tackling the high cost of living and falling household incomes following leader Ed Miliband’s impressive speech to the Party’s annual conference in Brighton.

A two-year freeze on soaring gas and energy prices, if Labour wins the 2015 election, formed the centrepiece of Mr Miliband’s speech - a move welcomed by consumer groups nationally.

But in an hour long address, made without notes for the second year running, Labour’s leader saw off critics - egged on over the summer by the Tory press – with a raft of policies aimed at lifting low incomes, easing housing shortages and boosting employment.

‘People I’ve spoken to this weekend after getting back say Ed’s speech – and the positive TV coverage – really touched a raw nerve,’ said Newcastle’s Labour MP Paul Farrelly.

‘The bankers blew up the economy, yet the government’s let them off scot free. Meanwhile ordinary people are still paying with lower living standards. This week, I think Ed’s shown he's in touch, just like he did when talking to people in Newcastle town centre back in April.’

The performance further improved the Labour leader’s standing in the polls, following his opposition to giving the Government a blank cheque to intervene in Syria, and left the Conservatives trailing by 11 points (42% to 31%) as their conference started in Manchester.

Ahead of the 2015 general election, among the policies Labour announced in Brighton were:

- Freezing gas and energy prices until 2017, and strengthening the energy regulator 
- Increasing the national minimum wage
- Re-introducing a 10p starting tax rate, cutting taxes for nearly 25 million people 
- Expanding free childcare for three and four year olds to 25 hours a week 
- Building 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 and abolishing the unfair ‘bedroom tax’ 
- Helping employment by cutting small business rates in 2015, with a freeze in 2016 
- Action to bring people unemployed for over two years back into work

They follow the longest fall in living standards since 1870, and the weakest economic recovery on record, as a result of the coalition’s austerity measures over the last three years.

This week in Manchester the Conservatives signalled another seven years of pain, with spending cuts across Government all the way up to 2020, if re-elected.

Mr Miliband’s strong reception also prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to bring forward by three months the Government’s latest ‘Help to Buy Scheme’, which part-guarantees mortgages of up to £600,000 on new homes.

Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable, however, has joined sceptics - including the International Monetary Fund and Governor of the Bank of England – who fear the plan will just stoke a further house price bubble, while not tackling the shortage of affordable homes.

As Tories gathered in Manchester, Sir Merrick Cockell - Conservative Chair of the Local Government Association - also predicted some local Councils would be pushed over the edge by having to find an extra 15% of cuts for 2015/16, on top of budget cuts this year.   

You can download or read a copy of Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour Party Conference here: http://bit.ly/1bDGMI3