WORCESTER’S Labour’s deputy group leader Coun Jabba Riaz has sounded the alarm about the cost-of-living crisis, amid reports that the government is to lift the cap on energy prices.
Talking as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt rejected calls to prevent a sharp rise in domestic energy bills in his March budget, Coun Riaz outlined the stark situation across Worcester.
Money saving guru Martin Lewis has written to the Chancellor to call for April’s planned rise in the energy price guarantee to be scrapped.
The average bill is expected to rise from £2,500 to £3,000 if the cap is amended.
But Mr Lewis, who founded the website MoneySavingExpert.com, has called on Mr Hunt to halt the cap increase, saying it is no longer necessary because wholesale energy prices have “come down very substantially”.
Coun Riaz said: “As city councillors active in local communities, the whole Labour group sees first hand the impact the cost-of-living crisis is already having on residents, even with the energy price cap in place.
“Schools across the city are now being co-opted into providing food and counselling to pupils, and we are having to provide guidance to school leaders on how to access support systems.
“Foodbank deliveries, which were unheard of as recently as 2010, are now booked solidly through their entire delivery windows.
“As well as the long-term sick, disabled people and job-seekers, recipients include working people whose jobs do not pay enough to live on, with even nurses reliant on food aid.
“Too many families in Worcester were struggling even before this latest cost-of-living crisis.
“The foodbank itself is now having to give out a dedicated number for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau through which people can access direct support on food and energy, such is the demand. It has also been forced to set up satellite operations around the city, as the original premises are now beyond capacity.
“Much of our casework is now informed by the cost-of-living crisis, which has knock-on impacts on physical and mental health, crime and neglect.
“Moreover, small pubs, cafes, restaurants are unable to afford to operate if the cap is lifted – they are already struggling.
“Failure to keep the cap in place could see hundreds of small Worcester businesses going to the wall, putting many local people out of work and damaging the opportunity to grow the economy after the Covid lockdowns.”
Despite the calls, the Treasury has suggested the rise in April will still go ahead.
“Wholesale prices falling is good news, but as we have all seen, prices are volatile and can increase as fast as they fall,” a spokesperson said.
“To support families in the meantime, we are providing millions of vulnerable households with £900 in direct cash payments this year, plus a record increase in the National Minimum Wage, and a 10 per cent uplift in working-age benefits and the state pension.”