MPs have clashed over the rise in cost-of-living after a County Durham councillor called on the government to take action to avert a 'calamity'.

County Durham Labour deputy leader Rob Crute, urged the Government to introduce a series of measures to avert a financial “catastrophe” for people in the region.

The measures include removing the five per cent increase on gas and electricity bills, scrapping the National Insurance hike due to hit pay packets in April and restoring the £20 Universal Credit uplift.

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He also called for increased benefit payments to help hardest hit households, council tax rebates to those who need them most, a freeze to the energy price cap and a windfall tax on profit-rich North Sea oil and gas companies.

The County Durham Labour deputy leader's package to tackle the cost-of-living crisis drew almost unanimous backing from his fellow councillors.

However, not all MPs agree with Mr Crute’s calls and feel that some of these measures would not be “a cost effective route.”

Paul Howell, Conservative MP for Sedgefield said the “wish list” presented by Councillor Crute "is uncosted and places all of the blame for all of the impacts on the UK Government".

He said: “I think we can all acknowledge that there are serious pressures building on the cost of living for many people.

“The wish list presented by Councillor Crute though, is as usual for Labour, uncosted and places all of the blame for all of the impacts on the UK Government.

“There are serious world pressures on Gas international markets that are outwith the UK Governments control and the National Insurance contributions are the proposed mechanism to start to address the Social Care concerns we all have, but Government does need to review options to help people at this time.”

According to the MP the Government needs to “target help where it is needed” and feels that taking VAT off would take more off the Bills of “people living in bigger properties with higher incomes” instead of helping the poor.

He added: “Of course one of the best ways for people to be able to cope with increased cost pressures is to have a buoyant jobs market enabling opportunities for increased incomes and that is where we are now thanks to the efforts of Boris Johnson’s Conservative UK Government.

“We have seen with the Chancellor over the last two years that he has been incredibly innovative in his approach to helping as many as possible through extraordinarily difficult times and I am sure he is evaluating how best to assist our communities at this time too.”

Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham, however, feels that County Durham families are facing “a tsunami of costs.”

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He said: “County Durham families are facing a tsunami of costs as everything is becoming more expensive, energy prices are out of control and the Government are pressing ahead with an increase in National Insurance.

“The Government need to cut VAT on energy costs and implement a windfall tax on energy companies’ record profits. Without urgent action this spring is going to be tough for many.”

MP for Redcar Jacob Young, said that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak will “do whatever it takes” to help support peoples lives and livelihoods.

He added: "Boris and Rishi have consistently demonstrated over the last two years that that they will do whatever it takes to help support lives and livelihoods throughout the pandemic.

"Now, as we face a potential rise in the cost of energy bills, the Government is working day and night to come up with the solutions to help those who need it most.

"More broadly, this scenario outlines exactly why energy security is so important for the UK.

"And that is why it was so disappointing to see a number of Labour, Lib Dem and SNP MPs voting against measures for financing new nuclear power, which remains an absolutely vital part of ensuring the UK's long-term energy security." 

Labour MP for Easington said the Government has “failed to act and ran out of ideas” and said the cost of living and “runaway” inflation was making “life more difficult.”

He added: “The cost-of-living crisis and runaway inflation are making life more difficult with record-high petrol prices, basic food staples more expensive, and utility bills out of control.

“The Government have failed to act and have run out of ideas.

“Cllr Crute secured unanimous support for a motion at Durham County Council calling for practical action such as removing VAT on energy bills, scrapping the National Insurance Tax hike, and helping those on the lowest income through reinstating the £20 Universal Credit uplift.

“Cllr Crute has previously sought to cut the cost of living for County Durham residents by calling on the Council’s ruling Coalition to lobby the Government to replace Council Tax with a Proportional Property Tax. This change would save households in my constituency around £900 a year.

According to the MP we need “a strong council standing up to the Government” during these “difficult times.”

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He continued: “The policies and ideas advocated by Cllr Crute and the County Durham Labour Group are the practical measures that would actually deliver on the Government’s so-called levelling-up agenda and make life easier for people living in County Durham.

In these difficult times we need a strong Council standing up to the Government, instead, we have a Conservative-led Coalition watering down motions and failing to act in the best interests of residents. Coalition Councillors need to consider if they are effectively representing residents or are they being ruled by Downing Street incompetence.”


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