16/02/2011

Fuel Prices and the Cost of Living

At the City Council's Policy and Resources Committee on Monday evening their was a debate about the Courier's campaign on fuel prices. The SNP put forward the motion which was debated in the House of Commons last week, Labour put forward a reasoned amendment. Our amendment actually sought action, we wanted to contact the Prime Minister about this issue. We also refuse to be fixated with dealing with only one means of reducing fuel prices. The issue for us is not how the cost of living and the price of fuel is dealt with but rather that it is dealt with. We felt that there should have been a greater effort by the Convener to bring about consensus but we were pleased that at least the SNP took on board our call for action in their motion and that they accepted an amendment from Labour.

Action on the cost of living is needed from the UK Government. After the latest inflation figures were announced on Tuesday with the inflation rate at double the Government's target at 4%. I have written to the Prime Minister to raise his concerns.

In recent weeks the Courier has been highlighting growing concerns around the cost of fuel. The Conservative-led government have previously stated that they would deal with this through a fuel duty stabiliser, I am not concerned about the means by which they do this but rather that some effective action is taken. The recent rise in VAT has had a major impact on the cost of living for people in Dundee.

The UK Government claims that 'we are all in this together' well I have my doubts about that, I'm not sure that hard-pressed families in Dundee feel that the Prime Minister is on their side or that he understands what they are going through. Many of these economic problems are the result of political decisions made by the Conservative-led Government. People in Dundee are suffering as a consequence.

Government at all levels must make sure that it is doing everything that it can to alleviate the problems caused by inflation and rises in the cost of living. At the level of the City Council and at the level of the Scottish and UK Governments decisions should be being made which boost the standard of living of people in Dundee and beyond. The Governor of the Bank of England has stated that this has led to the longest decline in the real value of take home pay in the UK since the 1920s, this is unacceptable. That is why I am supporting efforts to bring in a Living Wage for public sector employees in Dundee and elsewhere and why I want the Living Wage to apply to all sectors of the economy.

I have written to the Prime Minister to raise my concerns about the cost of living and I hope that he will reverse the policies which are causing the problems. These are difficult economic times and all political parties must accept a share of the blame for financial problems facing the country, but it is important to ensure that these problems are dealt with now and that the real impacts on real people are dealt with rather than engaging in a sterile debate about what has happened in the past.

In terms of the Courier's campaign they have done particularly well over the last few weeks in highlighting what is clearly an important issue - the cost of fuel. I note that the Conservative-led government stated that it would introduce a fuel-duty stabiliser; they have not yet done so. They might do so in the budget next month.

In some ways the issue before us tonight is whether a technical adjustment to fuel prices will deal with all the issues that face hard-working families in Dundee. The Tories have said that they would do it, they should do it, but the issues are bigger.

Labour believes that the issues here are bigger than just fuel prices. The cost of living for people in Dundee and beyond is rising. This is having a major impact on families in Dundee. Right across the country council budgets were agreed last week which are effectively a pay-cut for many of our employees. That is why I support the campaign for a Living Wage for all public sector workers in Scotland.

VAT increased at the start of January and this is having an impact on the cost of living for everyone whether they drive a car or not.


We should be doing all we can to deal with the issues around the cost of living.