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‘Tories are not making work pay as they claim’

In the weekly Friday Politics column, Independent councillor Jo Rust discusses the cost of living crisis.

On Tuesday (my birthday no less!), I attended one of the regular Beat the Bills events put on by the Borough Council. It was good to see so many of our local residents coming along and finding out ways that they can cut their costs, access energy efficiency measures and claim entitlements that they may not have been aware of.

I also recently visited the Citizens Advice Bureau and heard from them exactly how hard life is for too many of our residents. There are more and more people presenting with negative income, meaning their costs of living can’t be met from the income they’re earning.

Cllr Jo Rust
Cllr Jo Rust

Nationally the CAB dealt with 1,183 debt issues every day. It’s heart breaking that if you had a class of 30 children, nine of those children will be living in poverty. Statistics show that in the sixth biggest economy 3.6 million children are in poverty. Can you imagine your child going in to school pretending to have a packed lunch, but not having anything to eat?

Yet the number of people in work is increasing. This shows that the Tories are not making work pay as they claim. Foodbank use continues to rise and while it was announced that the cost of items is slowing down, they are still increasing. Prices are still going up.

The Tories have been in power, propped up initially by the Lib Dems, since 2010. Yet our Conservative MP still harps back to things Labour did that weren’t to his liking. They’ve had 14 years to put things right, yet many people are still suffering from austerity heaped on them by a government that awards eye wateringly large contracts to their mates.

Just look at Frank Hester. Not only did he make racist and misogynistic comments about the first female, black MP, Diane Abbott, but he also gave the Conservative party £10million in the year up to March 2024. He certainly benefited from that huge donation in return, having profited from £135million worth of NHS contracts between 2019 and 2022, throughout the Covid pandemic.

It pays to donate big to the party. I can almost hear the cries in the background “but the Labour Party are funded by Trade Unions”. Well yes. And what are trade unions there to do? Stand up for working people, improve the jobs, terms and conditions for those in work. Fighting for equality and promoting diversity and inclusion. So trade unions would donate to the party that they believe will offer the best for working class people. They’re not profiting personally, we all benefit.

Frank Hester, being the only shareholder of his company, was the sole recipient of over £20million in dividends making him the only beneficiary of his donations. He’s not going to care about the triple lock pension and the plight of the Waspi women.

Funnily enough, our former Conservative MP signed the Waspi women pledge. But he didn’t bother to speak of the fact that it was his government, along with the Lib Dems, that speeded up the process. A process which saw more than three million women who were not adequately informed about changes to their state pension age, having their retirement plans ruined and their finances worsened.

So when I read the MPs column about how his government is making life easier for everyone, I don’t smile as it's not true. They care more about big business and profits than they do the majority of the constituents they’re meant to represent. I’m in politics because I care about people and our communities. I’ll continue to care and to work for them regardless of any position that I hold. I’ve always done so and I always will.

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