Bethnal Green South councillor Sirajul Islam on why living standards should be a top priority for politicians


- Credit: Archant

There’s been a lot of talk over recent months about the increasing cost of living. With prices rising, wages frozen or cut, and many people struggling to make ends meet, living standards should be the top priority for all politicians.

The government spends a lot of time talking about the tough economic times but regularly totally misses the point about the impact it is having on ordinary people. Most people don’t care about fiscal stimulus packages; they care about real things like paying growing gas and electricity bills, the cost of housing, and securing decent child care and schools for their children.

Last week Ed Miliband set out some of the steps a Labour government would take to ease the squeeze on living standards. Things like new reforms to make it easier for councils to build housing which would result in a million new homes. Not only is this great news for the 23,000 people on the housing waiting list in Tower Hamlets but also for the thousands of hopeful first- time buyers desperately in need of affordable homes.

This comes on top of our announcement that one of the first things a Labour government would do is scrap the Tories’ hated bedroom tax. My thanks go to all those who campaigned on this issue.

Ed Miliband also pledged action to tackle energy and childcare costs. Last year nursery costs rose six times faster than wages. These high childcare costs are squeezing families and making work unaffordable for many parents, particularly women.

That is why Labour will expand free childcare for three- and four-year-olds from 15 to 25 hours per week for working parents, paid for by an £800m rise in the bank levy.

Similarly, energy bills have risen by almost £300 for families since 2010 and businesses say it’s the second biggest cost they face.

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To ease this burden we would take long-term steps to prevent overcharging. Until these reforms kick in we will put a stop to unfair price rises by freezing energy bills until January 2017.

With costs soaring and wages stagnant, these bill freezes and free childcare would make a real difference to hard- working families who are struggling to make ends meet.