We're all feeling the pinch at the moment, but increasingly I'm hearing from people who can't make ends meet and I believe other councillors are too. The high inflation and squeeze on wages is affecting everyone but for some it can mean choosing between food and fuel. This radio report puts it very starkly "I've gone to bed crying because I was hungry but I made sure that there was food in the kids lunch boxes." - this from a working mum.
It's time for the government under George Osborne to take responsibility for sorting this out. Isn't it basic incompetence to let inflation outpace wages so much and to govern in a way that forces mums and dads (who often have jobs for goodness sake) to go to bed hungry so their kids can eat or pensioners to turn the heating off so they can afford to eat. I don't think even the most ardent supporter of the Conservatives wants this to happen.
As I've said before though not wanting something to happen isn't the same as having a plan to stop it. I'm asking council staff to come up with options to reduce fuel poverty in Reading where we can, but ultimately it's the national government that has the big levers on this - whether it's to reconsider their cuts to tax credits or to sort out inflation. Sadly the Conservatives/Libdems have just voted down a Labour amendment to the energy bill that would have required improvements in energy efficiency in the private rented sector over the next few years. This is a real blow for Reading, since about a quarter of residents are in private rented homes and some of them are really hard to keep warm.
Let's hope we get some serious alternatives from the government - I'd like to see a plan not just a hope.