Labour: Miliband outlines 'cost of living crisis' plans

 

Labour leader Ed Miliband: "It is wrong that millions of people in our country are going out to work, unable to afford to bring up their families."

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Labour leader Ed Miliband has set out plans to tackle what he calls the UK's "cost of living crisis", after arriving in Brighton for the party conference.

Mr Miliband promised to reverse controversial changes to housing benefit and extend childcare.

He also pledged to increase the minimum wage to help with the cost of living.

Meanwhile a senior party figure has said people earning £60,000 were "not rich" and the tax rise focus should be "the privileged few rifght at the top".

Mr Miliband said he wanted to "send a very clear signal" that it was wrong that millions of working people in the UK could not afford to bring up their families properly.

The Labour leader said:

  • Different sectors, such as finance, IT or construction, would be examined to see if they could afford to pay a higher rate to their staff
  • He would end the "epidemic" of zero-hour contracts
  • The government's health reforms would be repealed
  • Primary schools would be forced by law to look after pupils from 08:00 until 18:00 to help working parents

Mr Miliband said the housing benefit cut - affecting social tenants in England, Scotland and Wales deemed to have spare bedrooms - would be scrapped.

Analysis

Labour's leader stood on a box in the centre of Brighton to tell passing shoppers and party supporters he heard their concerns.

This will be a cost of living conference. Even though the economy is beginning to grow, Mr Miliband argues it's not being felt in most people's pockets.

He said the minimum wage had fallen behind inflation and the party has asked Alan Buckle, deputy chairman at accountants KPMG, to investigate how the wage could rise.

The party has also suggested it would not raise income tax for people earning £60,000 a year.

This flurry of policies is meant to answer critics who say that Labour doesn't have many.

But apart from the housing benefit pledge, these policy aspirations are not fully costed.

Earlier on Saturday, shadow communities and local government secretary Hilary Benn told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme the housing benefit change was a "cruel and unfair policy" which "undermined families and communities" and did not work because there were no smaller properties for people to move in to.

Critics have called the cut a "bedroom tax" however the government said it was tackling a "spare room subsidy" which was unavailable in the private room sector, and that the £23bn-a-year housing benefit bill must be cut.

Mr Miliband told a crowd in Brighton: "Abolishing the bedroom tax. Strengthening the national minimum wage. Childcare there for parents who need it. That's what I mean by tackling the cost of living crisis at this conference. That's what I mean by a government that fights for you."

The Labour leader added that the national minimum wage was "one of the proudest achievements of the last Labour government" but it was falling behind price rises under the coalition government. He pledged to strengthen it.

If the national minimum wage had risen in line with the cost of living it would be 45p an hour higher than the current level, which is due to rise next month from £6.19 to £6.31, he explained.

Tory chairman Grant Shapps said: "Conservatives back the minimum wage.

Child painting Labour says childcare will be a top priority for the 2015 general election

"But if Ed Miliband was really on the side of hardworking people then he would have supported our welfare changes to ensure work always pays and should have voted in favour of halving the amount of income tax someone working full-time on the minimum wage pays."

Mr Miliband criticised Mr Cameron's record as one of "tax cuts for millionaires, tax cuts for hedge funds, tobacco lobbyists in Downing Street".

It was the "forgotten wealth creators - the people who put in the hours, who do the work, who do two jobs, who do the shifts" that should be supported, he said.

'Cruel and unfair policy'

The speech came after Rachel Reeves, deputy to shadow chancellor Ed Balls, told the Daily Telegraph what incomes she thought should be considered for tax changes.

"The focus should be on those privileged few right at the top, and that's not people earning £50,000 or £60,000 a year," she said.

"If you're a single-earner family in the South East on (that income), you don't feel particularly rich, and you'd be aggrieved that people earning between £150,000 and £1 million are getting a tax cut."

A Liberal Democrat document leaked earlier this week suggested the party was considering increasing taxes for people earning more than £50,000.

Senior Lib Dem Vince Cable said the proposal was not government policy and he did not know where it had come from.

The average annual wage of full-time workers in the UK was £26,500 in the year to April 2012, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics in its annual survey of hours and earnings last November.

Labour has also promised to make childcare a key part of its manifesto.

Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves wants the "focus" of tax to be on people earning £150,000 or more

Of their plan for schools to extend their opening times, Mr Miliband said it "doesn't make sense in this century" that some schools still close in mid-afternoon when parents are usually at work.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said "most jobs don't fit neatly with school hours".

She added: "We know parents with early starts, or commutes to work, need childcare they can rely on.

"Childcare is now as vital to our economic infrastructure as transport, housing or IT."

At present some schools offer breakfast clubs and after-school clubs to help working parents, but Labour says many of these have closed due to government cuts.

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman told the Independent she was "determined" mothers and fathers should be entitled to transfer part of their flexible parental leave to grandparents, enabling them to return to work.

Responding to Labour's plans in the Guardian, Treasury minister Sajid Javid said: "Despite promising 'discipline' on borrowing, Ed Miliband has shown he is too weak to deliver. Nothing has changed - it's the same old Labour."

 

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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1483.

    We have to do something about the low pay in this country it seems stupid that a firm can pay somebody minimum wage then the tax payer has to pick up the bill for their accommodation while the shareholders and top management take excessive amounts We may as well just subsidise the firm

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1197.

    This is nonsense. All great in theory but who is really going to pay? 60k is not a high wage in the south east where the cost of living is very high. The really high earners will never foot the bill. Housing costs in many areas are out of control due to overseas investors inflating the market and landlords pushing up rents. People need to see housing as a place to live not an alternative to a bank

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 907.

    If you earn £60K then on paper you are richer than someone on £30K but that does not make you "rich".

    A couple each on average wage nearly adds up that figure anyway.

    In my mind "rich" is someone that does not have to worry about money, not someone who takes home £3500 per month with outgoings which nearly match that figure.

  • rate this
    +24

    Comment number 721.

    Something really needs to be done to make sure pay is fairer in this country. You can have people with similar qualifications and job earning anything from 20k to 100k. Fairness seems to have just completely vanished. This can only cause the country to fail as people will get more and more resentful and the cohesion that holds the country together and lets it earn well will be broken.

  • rate this
    +46

    Comment number 718.

    Reduce the cost of housing then people would not need to earn so much, it's ridiculous that a young couple need to earn in excess of £1800 net pay per month to afford accommodation and household bills, then add transport, clothing and a possible holiday. £60k today is not a lot for a young family, so why does the government believe a couple on average earnings can afford a £200k mortgage.

 

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