There is a cost of living crisis in this country and, not only is the government not doing anything to solve it – it is in many ways making things far worse.
Seeing them as the best of a bad bunch, I reluctantly voted Conservative in 2019. Although not exactly enamoured by their manifesto, I was at least heartened to see commitments to reform the planning system and to not raise taxes. Unfortunately, they have reneged on both, thereby exacerbating the cost of living crisis, especially for younger people.
Let’s start with the failure to reform the planning system. The reason why housing is so expensive is due to this country’s ridiculously restrictive planning system. Rules about what can be built and where strangles supply, and leaves too many people chasing after too few homes. This is why young people are spending so much of their income renting a room in a house with six other strangers – and why the ambition of home ownership is nothing more than a pipe dream.
The government had promised to reform the planning system, but backed down as it was unpopular among the Tory base in the shires. Not only does the housing crisis increase the cost of living for young people and the least well-off, it’s also making us all poorer. There is evidence which suggests that our restrictive planning system is keeping productivity low. Given that productivity is the key driving force of increased living standards, the rent-seeking NIMBYs are making the rest of us far worse off.
Then there are taxes. Practically everyone agrees that health and social care needs sorting out. It’s only right that the most vulnerable in society are taken care of, the issue is how we pay for it. The government decided to increase National Insurance contributions in order to foot the bill – but that decision will put younger people at a disadvantage, as they will be forced to shoulder the burden with more money being taken from their pay each month, making it harder for them to make ends meet.
There is also the issue of spiralling energy bills. Again, this increases the cost of living for people, with potentially many of the poorest households being forced to choose between heating and eating. Unfortunately, the proposal to cut VAT put forward by Labour and supported by many Tory MPs would be ineffective and poorly targeted. The best way to help those struggling to pay their bills is to redistribute the revenue and to increase Universal Credit. The government should also increase the supply of reliable sources of green energy by investing in nuclear power.
There is a cost of living crisis in this country and the government is, in many ways, making things far worse. If the government is really serious about ending the misery faced by millions of people, it should reform the planning system so that more homes can be built, cancel the planned increase to National Insurance, and help with the high cost of energy by increasing welfare payments.