Cost of living emergency facing London and the UK

This week the London Assembly passed a motion I proposed declaring a cost of living emergency in London. We called for some specific actions that should be taken by both the Mayor and most importantly central Government.

It was building upon the excellent initiative by the Eastbourne councillor and Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate Josh Babarinde who last month declared Eastbourne as the first town in the UK in a cost of living emergency.

More widely it is also builds upon what we have been doing at a national level as well. Ed Davey was the first political leader to call for a windfall tax on energy firms.

Even before the cost of living crisis London was facing the highest level of poverty of any city or region in the UK. A third of London children are living in relative poverty, so the rise in food prices not to mention energy bills will make things even more challenging.

During the Covid pandemic we witnessed the problems many families face with children being at home throughout the day. The families that rely on free school meals will face the impact again during the Summer school holidays starting in just a few weeks time. Parents are already deciding not to eat so their children do not go hungry. I can’t believe that this is happening in London or anywhere in this country. But it is.

Just one further example of escalating costs is train fares.  For many years the yearly rise in train fares has been set using the July inflation rate as the baseline for the rise in the next year.  With inflation possibly set to peak in this month we could be facing train fare rises of more than 10 per cent next year, unless a new approach is adopted to how train fares are set.

The Chancellor’s measures are not only late, but they are also insufficient. Bold and immediate action is necessary to stop far more families being driven into poverty, whether in London or around the country. Cutting VAT for a temporary period and restoring the cut in Universal Credit are just two critical measures that are desperately needed.

We also need to recognise that every level of government further actions can be taken.  Just as an example in London the Mayor has declared that he has set up a Cost of Living Hub which will hopefully help Londoners access a wide range of information and advice including how to claim benefits that they are entitled to, help dealing with debt, financial management and mental health support. It is a good initiative certainly as set out, but at present the Mayor is failing to provide information about how this initiative will work and share information about the new levels of poverty that this hub is picking up.

The Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront of highlighting the impact of the cost of living crisis and recognising that it truly is an emergency.  In terms of advocating policies, we have been ahead of the other political parties.

Campaigning for changes and ensuring real help reaches some of the poorest households in our country is vital in the weeks and months ahead.

I hope the actions taken by Josh and myself are taken up in council town halls across the country and we campaign consistently on the issue, from street stalls through to social media.

And of course we soon have a chance to punish this Government by ensuring a huge win in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election.

We now have an emergency situation. Soon not just hundreds but many thousands – indeed possibly hundreds of thousands – of families will be facing the regular and horrible dilemma or whether to heat their homes or feed their kids.

I never thought things could get this bad … this emergency is real. We have to act.

* Hina Bokhari is a Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly.

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One Comment

  • An excellent article. You are so right that the London Labour Mayor starts a mass of initiatives, but there is no information, no follow-through, no transparency. It’s all lightning and thunder that comes to nought. Linda Chung, LD Candidate, By-Election 7/7/22, Hampstead Town.

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