- December 17, 2013
- Posted by: Carwyn Jones AM
- Category: Gazette Column
It’s a sad reflection on Britain today that we now have food banks outside our major supermarkets. So many people find it difficult to make ends meet that they have to resort to the charity of others. I’ve even heard stories of people handing back food that has to be cooked because they can’t afford to turn the cooker on.
With Christmas coming, people will find it even more difficult while trying to buy presents for children and family. At a time when those presents get more expensive and pay is being squeezed is difficult for many families, and some will feel they have no choice but to go to the payday loans companies who charge interest rates in four figures, making people even worse off.
It’s important at this time that people look at the credit unions to help them out. In Bridgend, we have the Bridgend Lifesavers Credit Union with its main office on Station Hill (don’t go to the office next door, it’s the Conservative Assembly Office, and they can’t give you anything!). The credit union can help you to budget, to save, and not get into too much debt that becomes unmanageable.
The squeeze on people’s incomes isn’t helping of course. It’s true that the economy is improving, but slowly. It’s right that in Wales, unemployment is down. In fact we do better than London in that regard. What isn’t clear though is how that recovery will be sustained, because people haven’t got the money to spend; they still feel that they are getting worse off.
This, coupled with the actions of the UK Government in reducing taxes for the highest earners while hitting low earners with things like the bedroom tax mean that feeling is growing. Those on the lowest incomes have been hit disproportionately hard.
What we need is for people to start having real pay rises again. Inflation is running at 2.2 %. Pay increases every year are running at less than that. The result is that people are getting worse and worse off. Food and energy bills have rocketed over the last five years and those on fived or low incomes have been hit hardest because those two items take up a huge proportion of what they have to spend their money on.
Austerity can only go so far. If we want the economy to improve then people have to feel better off in their pockets. If people haven’t got money then they can’t spend. If they can’t spend then they can’t buy. If they can’t buy then businesses have no market for what they produce and they can’t employ more people.
People need to start getting real wage increases and it’s up to the UK government to start getting that message out.
That would be a good Christmas present for many.