The Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer ahead of the Spring Statement to call for immediate action in tackling the cost of living crisis, with food and energy bills skyrocketing.

Rising food and energy bills, the recent Universal Credit cut, interest rate rises, and the forthcoming rise in National Insurance contributions (NICS) are putting household budgets under extreme pressure, as many people in Tower Hamlets are having to choose between heating and eating.

In the letter, the Mayor calls for the Chancellor to stop the scheduled rise in National Insurance Contributions, a decision that has been made by the Conservative government at the worst possible time. The Mayor has also urged the Chancellor to look again at Labour’s proposal for a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producers which would cut household energy bills by up to £600. This would create a lifeline for struggling families, as opposed to a loan that they would have to pay back.

The Mayor is also calling for the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift to be reinstated, after it was cut by the Government late last year.

The letter also highlights some of the support that Tower Hamlets Council is offering those struggling with the cost of living, including universal free school meals for primary school children, freezing the council’s portion of council tax, maintaining a 100% council tax reduction scheme, and ringfencing additional funding to help those struggling with energy bills.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs said:

“Over 10 years of Tory austerity has pushed vital public services to the brink, and urgent action is needed by the Government to avoid what could be the most serious drop in living standards since the 1950s.

“We are doing what we can as a local authority to help protect residents in the face of this crisis amid unprecedented demand, but the Chancellor needs to step in and urgently implement our recommendations in his Spring Statement to help struggling families in the borough and across the UK.”

 

Full Text of the Letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer

 

Dear Chancellor

As we gradually emerge from the pandemic, many people in Tower Hamlets and across the country are worried about the soaring cost of living and what it means for them and their families.

Rising food and energy bills, the recent Universal Credit cut, interest rate rises, and the forthcoming rise in National Insurance contributions (NICS) are putting household budgets under extreme pressure.

It is in this context that we recently set our Tower Hamlets Council budget for the new financial year and we’ve taken the decision to freeze our portion of council tax in order to provide some respite for residents facing rising bills.

We have also allocated extra funding to help residents, including by continuing our 100% council tax reduction scheme, and by ringfencing money to help people who are struggling with their energy bills.

We are doing what we can as a local council, but we need the Government to do much more to support people.

One action that would help straight away is to stop the NICS rise, which is coming at the worst possible time and will hurt many people, in particular workers, and those who are already faced with the choice between heating and eating. It will also hurt our local businesses just when they are beginning to get back on their feet after the pandemic. We urge you to use the Spring Statement as an opportunity to rethink the NICS rise.

We also urge you to look again at the proposal for a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producers which would cut household energy bills by up to £600. This would provide a real lifeline as bills continue to increase, rather than the £200 loan that the Government is currently offering.

In addition to this, reinstating the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit would be a big help to families struggling to make ends meet.

Residents in Tower Hamlets and across the UK need action now to avoid what could be the most serious drop in living standards since the 1950s – I hope you’ll be able to offer some much-needed help in the Spring Statement.

Yours Sincerely,

John Biggs

Mayor of Tower Hamlets

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