The true extent of the cost of living crisis facing people in the South of England has been uncovered by Labour’s Southern Taskforce.
The new data lifts the lid on the myth of an affluent south, highlighting the impact of falling wages while the cost of everyday essentials is rising.
The findings, to be published on a new website, show that real wages in the South East have fallen by 8.1% since 2010 meaning people are on average £2061.00 worse off a year.
House prices have increased 6.4% up to £223,128, while the average rental cost for a two bedroom house is £789 a month compared to £454 in the North East.
At the last election, many southern voters trusted David Cameron or Nick Clegg. They promised change but they have failed to deliver," Ed Miliband.
Working families are being hit by rising rail fares, childcare costs and high house prices. Rising energy bills and the Bedroom Tax mean vulnerable people are choosing between heating and eating, and many small business owners say they desperately need a cut in rates.
In response to the analysis the Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said: “This Tory-led Government, propped up by the Liberal Democrats, seems to think that the cost-of-living crisis is over in southern England.
“I know that’s not true and I am sure you do too. From Cornwall to Reading, Hastings to Great Yarmouth, families are struggling to get by.
“From Swindon to Brighton people have seen their wages fall at the same time that the prices of so many essentials are rising.
“At the last election, many southern voters trusted David Cameron or Nick Clegg. They promised change but they have failed to deliver.”
As well as highlighting the growing cost of living crisis, the Southern Taskforce sets out why Labour should be the party of the South.
- 200,000 new homes a year would be built by the end of the next Parliament
- The minimum wage would be strengthened and companies who pay a living wage supported.
- Gas and electricity prices will be frozen until 2017 and energy markets will be reformed to work for consumers
- Business rates would be cut and then frozen to support our small businesses. The average business with a rateable value under £50,000 in the South East of England would save £470, in the East £440 and the South West £390
- Employment agencies and rogue employers who exploit migrant workers to undercut wages and conditions would be tackled.
The Southern Taskforce has been chaired by Southampton Itchen MP, John Denham. On Saturday 15th March the website and analysis were set out at South East Labour’s regional conference.
John Denham said: “This analysis is proof of the message people keep telling us on the doorstep. The South is seen by the Government as an affluent area but the high costs and falling wages mean many families are really struggling.
“People have the double whammy of rising rail fares and house prices. Child care costs are second only to London. Many coastal communities have very low wages. It is very hard for people to get by.”
Success in the South East
The new website will also showcase the successes of Labour councils in the South.
- Reading Borough Council is developing a "one-stop shop" smart phone app and social media tools giving information finding a job, with direct input from young people and local businesses.
- In Hastings we have run the Own Grown apprenticeship and work experience programme, helping over 1100 young people get placements with local employers and training.
- Oxford is licensing homes in multiple occupation to drive up standards.
- Southampton is cutting fuel costs in thousands of council homes with insulation and district heating schemes.
- In Gravesham when funding for a solar panel scheme failed we stepped in to keep it on track and now that project will earn the council money.
The southern taskforce analysis will be released this weekend.