Cameron won't stand up to Britain's 'big six' on energy
In the last few weeks I have, in the course of my constituency duties, had a number of meetings with young people as well as a prolonged grilling from one of Plymouth's over-50s groups.
Both are facing the onslaught of the cost of living rises under this government. The older group, struggling with day-to-day living costs, are to an extent protected from the implications of policies like the so-called bedroom tax, which do not apply to pensioners. However those between 50 and pensionable age are caught. Pensioners are also exempt from the rise in council tax which is a result of the changes to council tax benefit – that burden is being borne by all and is a particular hit on low income families.
Young people are, for the first time in many decades, in a position where they may actually be the first generation to be worse off than the last. Their ability to buy their own home has diminished, their ability to rely on the "bank of mum and dad" is also diminishing fast and for the million plus young unemployed their likelihood of a full-time job is also a distant dream.
And yet, I have met some incredibly well motivated young people who really do deserve a break – like the young man who came to my surgery and sat there telling me he hadn't taken school seriously but now, a little older and wiser, he had got himself on a full time course at college with a job at the end of it. Great, you'd think, but no – he can't afford to continue the course because the job centre say he is in full time education and so does not qualify for any support. He has had to borrow money from a relative to pay his bus fares. We have to tackle this type of unfair and perverse outcome and deal with the disincentives, which exist in the system, to work.
I have met young mums fired up and angry, wanting to combat child abuse and bullying. Young single dads who are extremely committed to providing for their children, not feckless, but working as hard as they can to make the lives of their children better.
But what are they faced with? An economy which has been flat-lining for too long, for three damaging years, and the slowest economic recovery in over a century. Not something to celebrate. Prices have risen faster than wages in 37 out of the last 38 months since the 2010 election of the coalition.
Take energy as an example of those price rises. Since the last general election, the average household's energy bill has increased by over £300 a year. At the same time, Britain's big six energy companies have enjoyed a £3.3 billion uplift in profits – household bills go up when the wholesale price rises, but they don't seem to go down when the wholesale price falls. What has this government been doing apart from giving tax breaks to millionaires ?
It is clear that David Cameron can stand up to the weak and the disabled on issues like the bedroom tax but he won't stand up against the strong, the energy companies.
This is not good enough – our young people deserve a future and our elderly citizens deserve to be able to keep their homes warm.