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Column: Tory Mini-Budget Catastrophe Hitting Stirling Households

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Categories: Column, News

Evelyn Tweed MSP and I spoke to constituents this week at our cost-of-living event in Raploch. We were joined by organisations from across the public, private and third sector to provide advice on how to best navigate these tumultuous times, and needless to say – positive feedback on the UK Government’s approach was slim to say the least.

The UK Chancellor has presided over unprecedented economic self-destruction. In post for barely a month, Kwasi Kwarteng’s ‘mini-budget’ saw a crash of the pound, the near-collapse of pension funds, the withdrawal of more than 40% of mortgage deals from the market – and tax cuts for the richest in society, fuelled by borrowing.

It’s little wonder the Friday speech earned a rare rebuke from the International Monetary Fund and Tory MPs alike. 

One would be forgiven for feeling a vindictive sense of satisfaction at it all, how quickly the right-wing libertarian vision for the UK has dissolved in a puddle of its own contradictions. And yet, I don’t feel satisfied, or smug. I feel deep anxiety for households and businesses across Stirling and Scotland who will have to deal with the fallout.

The price cap of £2,5000 itself has become a victim of this hapless government’s miscommunication – bills are not capped at £2,500. Instead it is the unit prices of energy which are capped; the £2,500 figure comes from an average household use case, meaning many will see huge bills regardless.

Research suggests 21% of Stirling households are in fuel poverty, which has likely increased given recent price increases. Households reliant on home heating oil are typically not connected to the UK energy grid and therefore not covered by the energy price cap or Energy Price Guarantee. 

In the past two years, the cost of home heating oil for households has increased by more than 230%, rising from £0.31 a litre to £1.05 a litre. For a home in rural Scotland, £100 would buy less than 100 litres of heating oil, which would provide just two to three weeks of heating. And yet, the UK Government has offered just £100 to homes in this scenario.

Support for businesses too is welcome, yet a cap of six months is far too short to give the guarantees and comfort required to maintain investor and consumer confidence.

Given the Chancellor’s tremendous miscalculations, including abolishing the cap on bankers’ bonuses and his (now u-turned) attempt to completely remove the 45% rate of income tax, households must now add increased mortgage bills to the cost of living crisis as markets roil.

It’s clear the current situation is untenable. The Chancellor must resign or be sacked for his historic act of economic vandalism; the UK Parliament must be recalled urgently, so Members can better hold this Government to account; and I back calls for an immediate General Election. The public deserves better than this rotten, dangerous Tory government.