“We’ve allowed poverty to be normalised. Everyone should have enough money to eat. Everyone should have enough money to pay their bills and live with dignity.”
This article is a published version of a speech given by Beth Winter MP to the Wales TUC “Demand Better cost-of-living crisis rally” the 25 May at Wales TUC Congress 2022.
By Beth Winter MP
We are facing the worst cost-of-living crisis in living memory. For twelve years, the Tory Government have overseen a reduction in real wages, including holding down public sector pay. They’ve cut social security benefits and they’ve cut pensions.
They are the architects of low-income. And we know that pay demands are not driving inflation. Inflation is being driven by supply issues and profiteering by private monopolies. Often those that should be in public hands, like the energy sector. And the Government response is to dither on taking action.
Instead they are cracking down on those who want to challenge them. Legislation cracking down on the right to protest. Appalling legislation on the right to vote. On the right to judicial review. Riding rough-shod over our devolved governments. Authoritarian and anti-democratic.
And most recently, threats to trades unions rights to withdraw labour and take strike action. Well we must take this head on. And let me tell you why. I want to give everyone a quick snapshot of how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting people in my constituency of Cynon Valley, and why therefore this campaigning work is vital.
I have today published the results of an online survey, The Cost-of-Living Crisis in Cynon Valley. We did the survey to find out how the crisis is affecting people locally, and the response has been staggering.
I was hoping for perhaps 100 or 150 responses. We had over 650 local people responding and the evidence is shocking.
90% of respondents felt worse-off than they did 12 months ago. Only 1% of people in Cynon Valley feel better-off. 99% of people on benefits reported feeling worse off. 86% of pensioners felt worse-off. A majority reported that it was gas and electricity bills having the most impact over the last twelve months. Three quarters had cut down on heating as a result. Around half had borrowed money.
Looking ahead to the next twelve months Over two thirds of respondents report that they will significantly cut down on gas and electric. Almost 40% of people actually said they would simply not put the heating on at all. Almost 50% of those asked said they would be cutting down on essentials such as food. And 81% said the cost of living is having a detrimental impact on their mental health.
The responses paint a bleak picture of poverty, anxiety and despair. Where do we go from here?
We’ve allowed poverty to be normalised. Everyone should have enough money to eat. Everyone should have enough money to pay their bills and live with dignity. There’s more wealth in this country, enough money to pay a real living wage.
The cost-of-living crisis is a political choice. It has been created by people in positions of authority; people who have the power to make all our lives better if they chose to do so.
Both the Spring Statement, and the Queen’s Speech have come and gone without any meaningful attempts to protect people from falling into poverty.
The backdrop to the current crisis is twelve years of Westminster austerity keeping wages, pensions and benefits low. And I can only conclude that this Tory government are happy for this cost of living crisis to continue and for working class people to continue to suffer and struggle.
Let’s call it what it is. It’s a class war. A struggle. And we need to fight back. We need emergency measures to raise incomes and control prices. We need to bring utility companies back into public ownership. Give people a decent wage.
We also need urgent action to better distribute the enormous wealth in this country. To do that we need to change the balance of power. The Government’s pursuit of public order legislation is due to their fear people will organise to demand better.
The key to achieving that is to grow the trade union movement that represents working people. We need a fighting trade union movement and I know that we’ve got that in Wales.
I look forward to joining the TUC on 18 June in London. We’ve got a bus going from Cynon Valley and I know there are various buses going from communities across Wales. But we won’t stop in London. This campaign will have to continue.
That’s why – with Rhondda Cynon Taff Trades Union Council – we’re organising a demonstration in Cynon Valley in July. We have to get out in our communities. We’ve got to organise. We’ve got to empower people. We’ve got to mobilise people. And I look forward to welcoming you to Cynon Valley.
- Beth Winter is the MP for Cynon Valley, you can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.
- Join Beth Winter at the TUC’s national demonstration on June 18th, and for the online mobilising rally of the left for the demo on June 8th.
- Beth Winter was speaking at the Wales TUC Demand Better cost-of-living crisis rally on Wednesday 25 May at Wales TUC Congress 2022 in Llandudno. The rally was also addressed by Frances O’Grady, Gary Smith, Patrick Roache, Shav Taj, Mark Drakeford.