CEREDIGION MP Ben Lake says this week's Autumn Statement must tackle an 'inequality crisis' facing struggling families.
Ahead of Wednesday’s Autumn Statement, Plaid Cymru Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP is urging the Chancellor to use the opportunity to tackle the ‘inequality crisis’ by cracking down on ‘corporate greed’.
The Ceredigion MP used the example of major fuel retailers, who he accused of failing to pass their wholesale savings onto customers. He called on the Chancellor to “pressure the largest fuel retailers to reduce prices when wholesale costs fall”.
A Competition and Markets Authority investigation found that some supermarket fuel retailers failed to pass on reductions in wholesale costs last year, charging drivers 6p more per litre for fuel. This amounted to £900 million in extra costs in 2022 alone.
Mr Lake also renewed his party’s call for the Rural Fuel Duty Relief Scheme to be extended to Wales. The current scheme currently covers 17 areas of England and Scotland, including parts of the Highlands, Argyll and Bute, Northumberland, Cumbria, Devon and North Yorkshire, but none in Wales. It allows retailers to claim duty relief on unleaded petrol and diesel, and pass on the savings to customers.
Also among Plaid Cymru’s calls for the Autumn Statement is a call to end the “severe geographic disparity in energy bill standing charges”. Mr Lake pointed to the fact that residents in north Wales, for instance, pay over £80 annually more than Londoners in standing charges.
He also called on the UK Government to match fund the £40 million ‘Help to Stay’ scheme introduced by Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government to help people struggling to meet their mortgage repayments.
Plaid Cymru Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP said: “The ‘cost-of-living crisis’ has become so firmly embedded in daily news bulletins and political commentary that it no longer provokes action or the sense of urgency that it demands. It is an inequality crisis compounded by a lack of government leadership. This Autumn Statement is the UK Government’s last chance ahead of the General Election to demonstrate that it is serious about supporting hard working families this winter by ensuring they get a fair deal from large corporations.
“Currently, major supermarket fuel retailers are enjoying record profit margins by overcharging at the pumps despite reduced wholesale fuel prices. The Chancellor must act to ensure greater transparency in the way in which pump prices are set so that households get a fair deal, and pressure the largest fuel retailers to reduce prices when wholesale costs fall. Additionally, extending the Rural Fuel Duty Relief Scheme, which currently gives a 5p relief to rural areas in England and Scotland, to Wales, would help people in rural areas who are sadly reliant on cars due to poor public transport.
“The Statement should also address the severe geographic disparity in energy bill standing charges. Residents in north Wales, for instance, pay over £80 annually more than Londoners. This stark inequality requires urgent action by the Treasury, and further underlines the need for a fairer energy pricing system, including the development of Social Tariff.
“Housing costs are hugely worrying. The mortgage market has been volatile since the Conservative’s chaotic mini Budget – and there is no safety net for homeowners or renters. Plaid Cymru is proud to have introduced the ‘Help to Stay’ scheme through the Agreement with the Welsh Government to help mitigate the harm of the mini Budget. It is now time for the UK Government to match that £40 million funding, bringing the scheme’s total funding to £80m. Increasing the Housing Allowance is also crucial to help low-income renters.
“Together, these interventions would go some way in addressing the crisis that is making life difficult for so many people in Wales. Plaid Cymru stands with struggling families; it is time for the UK Government to show it cares too."