Comment Walthamstow

MP Comment: ‘Walthamstow life is already in crisis’

Walthamstow’s Stella Creasy as part of our MP column series


It’s already possible to see the cost-of-living crisis starting to take hold in Walthamstow. Nearly 6,000 people in our area claim Universal Credit, a number that grows month on month. The cost of putting a three-year-old through nursery full-time has risen by £20 a week, while soaring rental prices are forcing those for whom Walthamstow has always been a home out of London.

This situation was by no means inevitable and, after enforcing twelve years of austerity and cutting economic ties with our nearest neighbours, the Conservative government should step up to help make ends meet. Instead, we have a Chancellor who is more concerned with his Instagram and a Prime Minister too busy responding to police inquiries to take this seriously.

Things will only get worse as electricity and gas bills rise by an average of 54% – at least. In response, the Chancellor intends to force every household to take a £200 loan to cover the cost of energy, which we will all be paying back for five years, while the companies setting this ever-growing prices make substantial profits. In the last year alone, the chief executive of Shell earned more than £6million.

Rishi’s raid on the pockets of hard-working families doesn’t stop there: his planned increase in national insurance will hit 27 million workers but leave other forms of income – like buying and selling property or dealing stocks and shares – untouched. Rather than saddling households with debt, the Chancellor should be asking energy companies to pay their fair share and investing in renewable energy to secure a sustainable recovery.

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It isn’t just energy companies who are raking in profits at the expense of our community. The Buy Now Pay Later industry – namely companies such as Klarna, Laybuy and Clearpay – have taken full advantage of squeezed household budgets, offering loans to spread the cost of purchases over a number of months. I’m sure we’ve all seen the Klarna ads lining the walls of stations on the Victoria Line and promising a better, more glamorous life free of financial stress. In glorifying unsustainable spending in this way, these companies are targeting young people and those on lower incomes. Research from Citizens’ Advice shows that 1 in 12 people turned to such loans to cover the costs of essentials in the last six months, while research from Student Beans shows 42% of 16-24 year olds used their services last year. With close to one in every ten of Walthamstow’s 16-24 year olds claiming Universal Credit, I worry about the impact these services will have on their financial futures.

In February last year, the government agreed that this industry needs regulating; they are yet to act on this promise. As a result these companies continue to make bumper profits, while the number of people reporting financial distress as a result of their loans grows. If we do not act now, unregulated services will continue to creep into the gaps left by the government’s ignorance of the sheer scale of the crisis we face.

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