Recent announcements to further increase cost of living.
Today Ofgem has announced a rise in the energy price cap. The energy price cap will increase from 1 April for approximately 22 million customers. Those on default tariffs paying by direct debit will see an increase of £693 from £1,277 to £1,971 per year. Prepayment customers will see an increase of £708 from £1,309 to £2,017. The Bank of England have also confirmed an interest rates rise of 0.5% and warn inflation will exceed 7%.
The UK already has the worst levels of poverty and inequality in north-west Europe and the highest levels of in work poverty this century. A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that around two-thirds (68%) of working-age adults in poverty in the UK live in a household where at least one adult is in work – this figure has never been higher. Using OECD Data shows that UK poverty rates have been worse in nearly every year of the 21st century compared to nearly every neighbouring country of the UK in North West Europe.
The SNP in Government is using all the powers it has available to support hard-pressed households, but it is the UK Government which holds the key powers to make a difference.
Comparisons show that people in Scotland are better off with the SNP than the policies of the Tories or Labour. The Scottish Government has delivered a progressive income tax system, ensuring that 54% of Scottish taxpayers are paying less than elsewhere in the UK. On average, people in Scotland can pay around £840 less in taxes and statutory charges than people in England, and up to £500 less compared to people in Wales.
The SNP in Government has also delivered 75% more affordable homes per head of population than in both England and Wales, and delivered over nine times more social rented properties per head of population than England.
The Scottish Government is doing more than any other UK administration to tackle poverty and support hard-pressed households. For example, introducing the game-changing Scottish Child Payment, which will be doubled in April, and investing around £2.5bn to support low income households, including nearly £1bn to directly support children.
The Scottish Government has also delivered key support through 1,140 hours of free early learning and childcare, increases to School Clothing Grants, and new employment support, including the £23m Parental Employability Support Fund.
Council tax levels are significantly lower, average income tax lower and by keeping Scottish Water in public hands the SNP in Government has ensured bills are consistently lower than the spiralling costs in the privatised industry that serves the rest of Great Britain.
These figures underline the SNP commitment to protecting household budgets at a time when Brexit is exacerbating the UK’s cost of living crisis with more impending tax increases by this Tory government. They also underline how the people of Scotland are better off making decisions for themselves rather than having Westminster make those decisions.
The Chancellor’s response to the energy price cap rise falls woefully short of what is required. The SNP is calling on the UK Government to tackle the cost of living crisis by cutting VAT on energy bills, providing loans to energy companies which would, in turn, help consumers, categorically ruling out a rise to the energy price cap, and delivering an emergency financial package to help families.
Sadly, the direction of travel of this Tory Government means things will only get worse – which is why the people of Scotland need to have the opportunity to choose a different path.
Despite the rapidly rising living costs under the Tories’ watch, the UK government ploughed ahead with a cruel £20 per week cut to Universal Credit. Over 340,000 households in Scotland are directly affected by the £20 Universal Credit cut – with incomes slashed by £1,040 per year. The UN rapporteur on extreme poverty has called the Universal Credit cut “unconscionable”, adding that it effectively breaks human rights law.
The Scottish Government is using all the powers it has available to support hard-pressed households, including targeted assistance for the most disadvantaged. They are committing more than £3.9bn towards benefit expenditure, providing support to over one million people in Scotland – money which will go directly to low-income families to help with their with their living costs including heating and enable disabled people to live full and independent lives. That is £361m above the level of funding to be received from the UKG, estimated to rise to £764m by 2026-27.
The Scottish Government has taken action to ensure support for households with the cost of living this winter. This includes:
- Providing £65m in direct financial support to around 500,000 households through the £130 Pandemic Support Payment, paid by the end of October 2021.
- Investing in Bridging Payments, worth £520 in 2021 and 2022, and alternate holiday Free School Meal provision – reaching over 140,000 school age children in low income households as of October 2021.
- Announcing in October 2021 a £41m Winter Support Fund for low income households to help people struggling financially this winter.
- Ensuring all residents in Scotland under the age of 22 will be eligible for free bus travel.
Prescription charges and eye test charges are nothing more than a tax on ill-health – and instead of abolishing them, the Tories in England have hiked them up further. Thanks to the SNP, people in Scotland who are sick or living with long-term illness do not have to choose between medication or other necessities such as food or paying bills.
Of course, with the full powers over welfare, energy and the economy that come with independence, we could go much further. Many households in Scotland will still suffer tremendously due to rising living costs and Citizens Advice Scotland can help. They have been giving free, impartial and confidential advice for over 80 years and during the pandemic they unlocked around £147 million for people. For energy advice people who saw a gain were around £272 better off.