Sir Keir Starmer on cash crisis facing Ipswich families and Sizewell C plans
- Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND
The average family in Ipswich is set to lose up to £3,000 because of inflation and the cost of living crisis, according to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in a wide-ranging interview with this newspaper today.
Speaking on his first full working day back in the office after recovering from Covid, Sir Keir also talked about the challenges his party faces in winning back votes in areas like Suffolk - and how major projects like Sizewell C should bring benefits to local communities with major infrastructure improvements.
Ipswich families face cost of living crisis
Sir Keir Starmer spent three days in Ipswich during the summer, meeting people and businesses - and even calling the numbers at a local bingo hall.
The party has now done analysis of the state of the town's economy and Sir Keir said many families were facing a real struggle over the next few months.
He said: "Figures show that 48% of families with children in Ipswich are supported by Universal Credit so the cut of £20 a week will really hurt them."
Benefit cuts would take £12m out of the local economy and Sir Keir said that restoring that would put money back into businesses across the area.
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Inflation, especially fuel price rises, would also have a serious effect: "Families are set to be an average of £3,000 a year worse off as a result of price rises that are not matched by their wages.
"We are looking to cut VAT on fuel to help ease this - the government has seen its VAT take increase as prices go up so the ought to be able to do this."
Ipswich Conservative MP Tom Hunt dismissed Sir Keir's claims that families had been left worse off by the government.
He said: "The best way to make people better off is by boosting the economy and that is what is happening. Also the Chancellor addressed the issue of Universal Credit in the budget by reducing the taper effect when people start earning more."
Winning back rural votes
In May's county council elections, Labour won no seats outside Ipswich. The official opposition group on the county is led by the Green Party which came second in the election.
Sir Keir said he knew there was a major challenge to win back votes in seats like Waveney and Great Yarmouth which Labour held between 1997 and 2010 - but which saw Tory majorities of 18,000 and 17,000 two years ago.
He knew the party needed to attract more rural voters: "I am talking regularly to the National Farmers' Union about the really serious issues facing the rural economy.
"We are seeing real problems for food producers with staff shortages and other issues. We have to work with them and show they are as relevant to us as urban voters."
Sizewell C and green energy
Sir Keir has expressed support for plans to build a third nuclear power plant on the Suffolk coast - and the jobs it would bring to the area.
However he said the developers should be made to show that there were clear long-term benefits to local communities with new infrastructure projects to boost business and lifestyles generally.
He also said there should be action to ensure that as much of the labour and materials came from local sources as possible: "It is important that the local area gets as much benefit as possible from a major development like this."
He was also concerned that while the East Anglian coast was becoming a major source of renewable power, too much of the infrastructure - especially the turbines themselves - were manufactured abroad.
Sleaze and the Owen Paterson row
Sir Keir Starmer was talking as MPs were preparing for the emergency debate on House of Commons standards following the Owen Paterson affair last week.
During weekend television interviews he accused the government, and specifically Prime Minister Boris Johnson, of political corruption.
He questioned whether MPs had been forced to back the government in last week's vote after there were some anonymous reports over the weekend that party whips had threatened Town Fund offers to constituencies where MPs had not supported the motion.
"Did they put pressure on [Ipswich MP] Mr Hunt?" he asked.
Mr Hunt dismissed the comment: "Labour would do better to welcome a real boost that is bringing £25m for 11 great projects in Ipswich rather than ridiculously making suggestions like this."