When news broke about 500 jobs going at Pfizer in Sandwich, it felt like another hammer blow for the local economy. That is 500 families worrying about the future and facing a cold and anxiety-ridden Christmas. It’s clear we need a proper industrial strategy to attract and maintain high quality jobs like those at Pfizer. The problems in the economy go wider than those families as demonstrated by the government’s tax plans announced this week.
As winter draws in and energy bills are going up, more families in Thanet are worrying about the cost of keeping warm. With the rise of the government’s cap on energy prices, the average annual bill will be nearly £2000. It’s in that context that we should consider the Tory tax cuts announced this week. Because of tax rises – more than 25 since 2019 – we are all worse off. We are headed in the direction of having the highest tax burden ever as a nation. The average family, thousands of pounds down as a result of those Tory tax rises, has now been given a couple of hundred quid back and is expected to be grateful.
Unsurprisingly they are not. When I talk to people as I’m campaigning around Thanet, their worries about making ends meet come up again and again. Food inflation is more than 10% and many are anxious as rents and mortgages rise too. More than 11000 families in Thanet are paying an extra £250 a month on their mortgage because of Tory mismanagement of the economy. When people ask themselves – “Are my family and I better off than we were 13 years ago?” the answer is an emphatic no. Living standards are falling. This parliament will be the first when people are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.
It doesn’t need to be this way. The country – and Thanet – needs a change and it needs it sooner rather than later. But because – as so many people tell me – “everything is broken” we need to be careful and not try to do everything at once or promise the earth.
That’s why I am listening to Thanet residents and talking through plans to improve family finances. We need better insulated homes to cut our energy bills by £500 per year, clean cheap home grown energy that will cut bills by £900 per year and cracking down on car insurance pricing, subscription traps and unfair postcode pricing which could save families £400 a year. But perhaps most important of all is the need for a government that will be responsible with money and never again have a Prime Minister or a Chancellor who forces through unfunded or uncosted spending commitments.
We are all paying the price of the Tories’ irresponsible running of the economy so it really matters that we do this right. The impact on communities like Thanet can be huge: if people have less money to spend, our high streets and businesses suffer. Jobs go and shops close. Underfunded public services mean more families struggle. We have to get out of this vicious cycle. The sooner there is a general election the better.