The Cost of Living at Christmas

For many of us, Christmas is the most expensive time of the year. Families are working hard to balance household budgets but the rising cost of food and fuel makes that especially difficult.

That is why the measures the Government have introduced to tackle the cost of living should bring some festive cheer.

Earlier this month the Chancellor announced that fuel duty will be frozen until the next General Election in 2015. The average motorist will save a huge 11 every time they fill up their tank, compared to the plans this government inherited.

To help older people, the Government have introduced a triple lock on pensions. This means that the Basic State Pensions will increase every year by 2.5 per cent, earnings or prices, whichever is highest. Over the course of their retirement, the average pensioner will be about 12,000 better off, thanks to this new commitment.

Council Tax is especially difficult for those on fixed incomes, so the freeze has been very welcome locally, I know.

For all families struggling with the cost of energy, the Government has rolled back the green levies that we pay on our bills. These changes will save an average 50 on household bills. Older people, in particular, need to be protected when the temperature drops. So Cold Weather Payments have been increased and the Warm Home Discount has been introduced to provide vulnerable pensioners with an 120 rebate on their energy bills.

I am, though, frustrated by those who claim there are easy solutions to the rising cost of energy, such as freezing prices. That would actually put up the cost of our bills in the long run as it becomes more expensive to invest in power plants. Indeed, price freezes are likely to deter companies from investing and we need investment to keep the lights on!

And in his April Budget, the Chancellor announced an end to the beer duty escalator and a 1p cut in the tax we pay on a pint this year. So a pint of beer will be 4p cheaper this Christmas than it would have been.

Times are still tough for families but things are looking up with our economy. Economic growth is forecast, unemployment continues to fall and the deficit has been significantly reduced. I think we can approach 2014 with a welcome sense of optimism.


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