A year ago Liz Truss as the Tory prime minister trashed the economy blowing a £60 bn hole in it. We are all paying the price right now.
This week the current Tory prime minister decided to do the same for our long term economy by slamming the brakes on shifting to cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy. There is one measure he announced that will hit residents in Thanet faster and harder than others.
That’s the decision not to enforce better standards on private rented accommodation to keep energy bills down for tenants.
There are tens of thousands of people paying rent to private landlords in Thanet. With pressure on housing as prices and rents rise, many really struggle to get through the month without ending in debt.
In 2020 nearly a third of the Thanet population were on a low income, defined as less than £15,988 a year. Average earnings were £462.50 per week, in the bottom 20% of the whole of England. This means those who are renting in the private sector are spending more than 50% of their earnings on living costs. And that was before the invasion of Ukraine and spiralling energy costs.
Rishi Sunak had the chance to make at least one thing a bit easier for them permanently by insisting that the people that own the homes improve the buildings so they are less drafty, damp and cost less to keep warm during the winter months. He chose not to.
Craig Mackinlay says this decision is “sensible and pragmatic”. Tell that to the people shivering in their drafty homes this winter.
A lot of our housing stock, especially homes that are privately rented are old, cost a lot to heat and often don’t have modern efficiency measures that can keep bills down. From wall and loft insulation to new heating kit, many of these homes need a proper refurb, especially because about ten years ago the then Tory prime minister David Cameron decided to “cut the green crap” and stop efforts to make our homes cheaper to run. Now his successor is doing the same, letting private landlords off the hook and leaving tenants with huge bills.
I know that costs for landlords are rising, with higher interest rates driving higher prices all round. Many people will have chosen to rent out a property to gain some income and that is being squeezed. The government isn’t helping them either.
Cutting the requirements to improve rental properties will not only leave people with higher bills but also poorer health as they choose between heating and eating. Rising costs can often drive people into homelessness and destitution. It’s the biggest cause of homelessness in Thanet.
That’s why I will be campaigning hard to ensure Labour’s commitment to invest £6billion a year in refurbishing our homes makes a difference here in Thanet, helping landlords improve their properties and making those homes comfortable and affordable to heat and run for tenants.
That money will also be invested in social homes and will support those who own their own homes too.
When people – including East Thanet’s Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay – say the “net zero” agenda drives up costs they are wrong. The benefits of acting now are lower bills for many households (about £500 a year off the average bill), more jobs created and a growing industry that can eventually improve all of our homes.
This will be the second winter we are facing paying Putin’s premium for expensive energy. At a time when bills are rising it’s not the time to cut help for private tenants or cut off the chance to create jobs and support the construction industry.
It’s short sighted and proves that once again the current government and our local MP have turned their back on the future.