The after-shock of Covid and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have combined to cause rising costs worldwide. Trade and supply chains have been disrupted. Ukraine is known as the ‘bread basket’ state for its wheat, sunflower oil and other everyday cooking basics. The misguided reliance by Germany and other European countries on cheap gas from Russia provided Vladimir Putin with billions of pounds of extra money to finance his illegal invasion.
The correct, but sudden, sanctions on Russian oil and gas has had knock on effects to the rest of the world, including the UK. In a global world of trade, energy and food inter-reliance, the impact of the war is far-reaching and inflationary on all major economies. Inflation is already at the highest level in forty years. It is now expected to average 9% this year. This creates the risk of significant hardship at home, as well as serious risks of severe food shortage, even starvation, in some African countries.
Our Government has been concerned to help people with the rising cost of living. Last week a massive package of financial support was announced by the Chancellor. This will see every household benefit. From £550 for the majority of households, up to £850 for pensioners and £1,200 for the eight million most vulnerable households. To help households who are not on universal credit or other direct benefits, but who receive only housing benefit, the Household Support Fund has been doubled to one billion pounds. This fund is distributed locally by Dover District Council. It is a discretionary fund designed to help individual cases of hardship, focussing on those households who do not receive any other direct financial support.
The National Living Wage has been increased, providing a boost of over £1,000 a year. Meanwhile, fuel duty has been cut. The universal credit taper, which is the rate at which benefits are reduced when people go back into work or extend their hours of work, has been lowered which is expected to provide a further £1,000 for around two million families. The threshold at which tax and national insurance has to be paid has been raised for lower paid households, so that no national insurance or income tax is payable for those who earn up to £12,570.
The rising cost of living, how to pay the higher energy and food bills, is a real worry for hard working families and struggling households here in Dover and Deal. The new support and funding will not solve all the pressures caused by the rising cost of living but I will continue to work, together with our local councils, charities and others, to do all we can to support everyone in our local community at this time. Together, we can once again make sure that those most in need in our community are supported and protected from greatest hardship.