ICYMI: My article in Monday's Evening News
Energy and Climate Change matter so much for our city
Just after I became a shadow minister in Labour’s Energy and Climate Change Team, someone said to me that they’d voted for me in May to serve the people of Norwich South not to “go off and try to save the whole bloody planet.” Or to put it another way, “what’s all of that got to do with our city”?
For the record, I’ll still continue to vigorously represent the concerns and values of people in my constituency but those questions do give me the opportunity to explain why energy and climate change issues are so important to Norwich.
A recent independent Competition and Markets Authority investigation suggests tens of thousands of people in our city are being ripped off by the energy companies and are paying too much for their energy bills.
As ever, it’s the least well off who are hardest hit. In the poorest 10% of households, energy bills now make up about 10% of their outgoings. The estimated 36,000 Norwich people with no choice other than to use pre-payment meters pay an average of £226 a year more than those on direct debit (and the gap is growing).
Fuel Poverty and Consumer Protection are big parts of my new role and I will hold the Tories to account for these injustices that blight the lives of so many people in our city.
Climate Change matters here too for so many reasons. Thousands of local jobs - and the future of our own local environment as well as, yes, the whole planet - depend on growing our local 'green economy'
There is the potential for 1000s more local jobs in the low-carbon and environmental goods and services sector by 2020. Here in our city we have a university, research centres and a science park with an abundance of world class innovation and exportable skills. Our region has a well-established ‘all energy’ base with the potential for huge expansion of onshore and offshore renewables.
But also we face enormous environmental risks here. We live in the driest, lowest-lying part of the UK with an extensive coastline and a large agricultural sector. We are firmly on the frontline of climate change. There is no real choice for our city: any growth in our regional economy has to be green growth.
The Tory Tax Credit cuts are penalty on work in Norwich
My party and I voted in parliament against the government's plans to cut tax credits.
On average, families affected by the Tax Credit cut will lose £1,300 next year. In Norwich South alone, there are over 4000 working mums and dads, and as many as 6,700 children who will be affected.
For these families, the Tax Credit cuts are effectively a penalty for working. By dramatically changing the entitlement criteria, the signal this government will be sending to millions is that they’d be better off out of, rather than in, work.
And as a result of the cut, child poverty will increase. The Resolution Foundation has found that all the tax and benefit changes in the Government’s Summer Budget will push 200,000 children into poverty next year.
With around 4000 children in our city already relying on food banks and hundreds going to school holiday feeding schemes because children are going hungry outside of term-time, the cuts will blight the future lives of the current generation of Norwich children. As I said in Parliament, this is a shameful thing to do our local families and children – especially when, at the same time, the Tories are rewarding their super-rich and corporate donors with staggering tax cuts.
The government has tried to evade its responsibility for the misery its cut will cause by claiming that their so-called ‘National Living Wage’ will compensate for the cut. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has called out this bare-faced twisting of reality and has said that this “compensation” is “arithmetically impossible”.
Whether we have families and children or not, the Tories have betrayed every single one of us with these cuts. During the General Election campaign – when he was looking for your vote – David Cameron specifically promised not to cut child tax credits and made no mention of any other changes. Yet these cuts were announced in his first Budget after the election.
If there is one thing that turns people off politics more than anything else, it’s politicians who say one thing to get your vote and then when they’ve got it go and do the precise opposite. That’s exactly what the Tories have done with their Tax Credit Cuts and I suspect it’s a betrayal of trust that will not be easily forgotten.