The Green Party has a plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis now
Today marks 100 days since Carla and I gave our first speech to Green Party conference as co-leaders.
At the time, the challenge facing the country was clear. Rising fuel prices, millions facing a choice between eating and heating and a government that seems to be looking the other way. Underpinning all of this is a climate crisis, the impacts of which we are witnessing on a daily basis.
Three months on, things are getting even more frightening for millions of households across the country, as they prepare for a 50 per cent hike in their energy bills from April.
When we were elected leaders of the Green Party, we pledged to focus on doing everything we can to get more Greens elected at every level of government. More and more communities are electing Greens as they know we have the best policies for building a fairer society, as well as looking after the environment.
Yet as Greens, it is our responsibility not only to work towards a better future but also to force the government to do more to help those in need now. Back in October, as the prospect of hikes to energy bills and rising fuel prices became apparent, and it became obvious that millions would be thrown into fuel poverty, we made a policy announcement in our conference speech of a one-off payment of £320 to every household to help get people through the winter.
The country simply does not have the skills or the workforce to deliver a mass insulation scheme at the scale that is required
This costed proposal, funded from a one-off 1 per cent land-value tax on residential landlord properties, would have helped to keep households from falling into fuel poverty. It was about the state responding to market failure. It was about human dignity.
If the government had listened then, we wouldn’t be facing the same crisis as we are now. Unfortunately, they didn’t.
And that is why we are today reaffirming our focus on this issue for the next 100 days. We need to tackle the cost-of-living crisis immediately. We need warmer homes, cheaper bills and a safer climate.
To do this, we pledge to do three things.
First, we will continue to campaign for the government to reverse its decision to cut the £20 uplift in Universal Credit. Cutting this lifeline to many was a cruel and short-sighted move from this callous government. Reinstating the £20 would mean those in receipt of Universal Credit would receive an extra £1,000 over the course of the year, a step in the right direction.
We also need to tackle the underlying cause of high energy bills by fitting insulation and heat pumps in homes across the country to ensure they are warm, and we are not reliant on fossil fuels in order to heat them.
This retrofit revolution could be led from the top - but sadly we are not seeing the action needed from this government.
So, we will be doing all we can to drive the action from the ground up. Green Party representatives elected to local authorities are taking the lead.
We pledge to work with Green Party councillors across the country to persuade their authorities to look at what we are calling the Lewes model. Here, the Green council leader Zoe Nicholson is helping to lead the way in mobilising £1 billion to retrofit 40,000 homes, by working with neighbouring districts to pool their funding.
However, one of the lesser-known issues with retrofitting is that the country simply does not have the skills or the workforce to deliver a mass insulation scheme at the scale that is required.
That is why the Lewes model also covers our third pledge, which is to ensure councils work with local colleges to provide people with the skills required so the country can witness a retrofit revolution on the scale that is required - and create new jobs across the country in the process.
Elected Greens will be leading the argument for this change at local level, and in doing so seek to build momentum for a retrofit revolution across the country.
Warmer homes, cheaper bills and a safer climate. Even with a government that is seriously lacking on true climate action, we do have the power to make a difference. Not only to reduce carbon emissions in the UK, but to ensure that those facing the very real consequences of rising fuel prices are protected.
Adrian Ramsay is co-leader of the Green Party.
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