Cost of living crisis continues with prices still climbing ahead of Spring Statement

By Jayden Whitworth

Cost of living crisis continues with prices soaring
Skyrocketing: Petrol prices hit 170p per litre in some places

Families across Leicestershire are feeling the devastating impact of the cost-of-living crisis, as Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, ahead of announcing his Spring Statement today(WED,MARCH23) warns that Russian sanctions will also be felt by British people.

Prices are soaring, with fuel, energy and food costs increasing, leaving many people struggling to make ends meet. 

The economy has been left reeling from a difficult few years with both Covid-19 and Brexit taking its toll.

On top of this, the Russian sanctions that have arisen as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, are set to inflate prices even more.

With the economy trying to recover the prices are reaching extortionate levels.

Petrol has risen to more than 170p a litre in places and energy bills have increased by up to 50 per cent.

This has left people worried as to whether they will be able to afford basic necessities which might put foodbanks and places of support under increased pressure.

Jeff Adems, trustee at Leicester South Foodbank, said: “I expect demand to go up quite a lot.

“Over the last couple of years, Covid-19 has forced demand up, but with cost of fuel and prices going up, we can expect it to get very busy over the next couple of months.

“I can’t see it being worse than Covid if I’m honest.

“Covid was quite a unique set of events, so I don’t think the cost-of-living crisis will be worse, no.”

The Chancellor is set to deliver his Spring Statement to the House of Commons today(WED,MARCH23). 

One of the measures that could be introduced is a cut to fuel duty, reducing the cost of petrol by 5p per litre.

Sunak told BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “I want to be honest with people that it’s not going to be easy.

“I wish government could solve absolutely every problem and that I could fully protect people against all the challenges that lie ahead. 

“I can’t do that, but what I would say is I will stand by them in the same way that I have done in the past couple of years.”

Jeff added: “It’s not my job to worry about prices going up. 

“I haven’t got any control over that; I just have to deal with the consequences.”

Youth Fight For Jobs group rallies in Leicester city centre

By Luke Williamson

Campaign group Youth Fight For Jobs supporters were joined by members of the Leicester Socialist Party at a rally by the city’s clock tower on Saturday [OCT09].

The group were campaigning for an end to zero hour contracts, a £15-an-hour minimum wage and an end to high unemployment rates nationally.

Youth Fight For Jobs and the Leicester Socialist Party campaigning together on Saturday. PICTURE. Luke Williamson.

Steve Score, a member of the Leicester Socialist Party and former City Mayoral candidate, saw the rally as an opportunity to change the “dire future” faced by young people.

He said: “There are a lot of people struggling to find work and what work is there is often zero hour contracts, insecure, part-time and low paid.

“We don’t think that is good enough, leaving aside the other issues affecting young people such as student debt, struggling to pay rent and the whole point of the campaign is to recognise that and put forward solutions to that.

“I think it is brilliant that young people are starting to get organised to say we are not having it anymore, to put forward solutions,” Steve said.

Taxing the rich was one key issue on the agenda, which has been magnified globally after the recent Pandora Papers leaks revealed hidden wealth, tax evasion and money laundering of some of the world’s richest.

The Sunday Times Rich List 2021 also revealed that the rich got richer, with 24 new billionaires taking the list to 171 with a combined wealth of £597.269 billion, a 22 per cent increase on the previous year.

Steve said: “Working class people are being hit hardest and they are not happy about it.

“Millions of people are coming off furlough after the [Covid-19] pandemic where they lived off 80 per cent of their wages when they struggle to live off 100.

“Bills were not reduced by 20 per cent, so people really struggled, yet the rich continued to get richer,” he added.

Another pressing issue wasn’t just raising the minimum wage but also abolishing the exceptions to the wage which sees a 17-year-old paid less than an 18-year-old for the same job.

“Why are you getting paid less money especially if you live on your own and are struggling to pay rent?” Steve said.

The Low Pay Commission says the existing minimum wage structure discourages young people from entering the labour market full-time who could stay in education.

Number of positive COVID tests in Leicester on the rise ahead of July 19th Freedom Day

By Adam Dutton

Boris Johnson is set to free England from its Covid restrictions on July 19th, with many labelling the date ‘Freedom Day’.

Restrictions such as the two-meter rule, face masks and track and trace are all set to be removed, with the government now declaring that it is safe to do so.

However, Leicester has seen a sharp rise in positive Covid cases in the last 14 days.

For many, this will be of a great concern as the ease of restrictions leaves people open to the elements.

From the graph above, we can see that in the last 14 days, Covid cases have doubled. Positive cases have jumped from 480 on June 26, to 912 on July 10.

But it is not just Leicester. The whole of the UK has seen a sharp increase in positive cases in the last 14 days.

From June 26 to July 10, UK cases have jumped from 17,943 to 31,800.

Both are sharp increases.

Boris Johnson has said in a Downing Press Conference: “We cannot simply revert instantly from Monday July 19 to life as it was before Covid.”

As ‘Freedom Day’ looms, it is sensible to practice many of the social distancing guidelines, such as mask wearing, when in public spaces.

New Leicestershire County Councillor ready to serve the Melton community

By Luke Williamson

Mark Frisby said he will be “fighting the corner of everyone” after he was elected to the Leicestershire County Council for the Melton West Ward.

Conservative Mr Frisby claimed victory with 53.3 percent of the vote, which was 30 percent more than the closest challenger, Labour’s Phillip Allnatt, and was one of 42 victories in the County last Thursday [MAY06].

He said: “I haven’t always had the life ambition of getting into politics, but I have always wanted to serve my community.

The new Melton West representative on the Leicestershire County Council, Mark Frisby. PICTURE: Mark Frisby.

“I don’t have ambitions of getting to Westminster, I am just giving a voice to the people of Melton and making sure we do not get overlooked like most market towns do.

Mr Frisby is a careers guidance specialist, providing training to young people and adults in Melton and decided to enter the world of local politics in 2019, standing as an independent in the Melton Borough Council elections.

“I lost in the Melton Borough Council election by just three votes last time as an independent, but this time was very different,” he said.

“I am not from the typical Tory privilege, I am just a boy from the estate and I want people to come and have a chat with me.

“No issue is too small for me to say ‘I don’t care about that’ and no issue is too big for me to disregard without doing my best at it first.

“Come and speak to me, the kettle is always on – not just as a councillor but as a friend too.”

Several of Mr Frisby’s policies stem from his line of work, including a desire to create more opportunities for young people to remain in the town.

He said: “Melton is a sleeping giant of a town and we need to get the people support that the bigger cities in the area are getting.

“I want us to bring some bigger businesses to Melton and Leicestershire, to make sure our talented young people don’t just leave to go off to university and don’t come back.

“I want people to want to continue their family lines in the town and they need the opportunities here for them to stay.

Mr Frisby wants to see another one or two doctors’ surgeries opening in the town, as there is only one to cover the whole of Melton at the minute.

A large part of the Conservative manifesto for the Leicestershire County Council elections was ‘building a greener future’ and that is something Mr Frisby would also like to achieve in the town.

He added: “Melton has a rich rural food heritage but we wrap it in so much plastic.

“I want Melton to be a trailblazer in plastic-free local produce, which hopefully will also create more jobs in our area.

“Tree planting and additional green space is also really high on my agenda and I have spoken to our Member of Parliament already about that.”

One challenge facing Mr Frisby is proving to the people he is representing that he is the best man for the job, and he says he will not stop trying his hardest for the people of Melton over the next four years.

He said: “If I am taking even a penny of their council tax, I want to give them a pound of value in return.

“People went out on a miserable Thursday and gave me their vote, which meant a lot.

“People tend to feel that they don’t have access to their councillors, but I am 100 per cent committed to bridging the gap between the council and the constituent,” he said.

‘Nuisance’ Braunstone Town councillor Amanda Hack re-elected to county council

By Kira Gibson

A councillor who proudly admits to being a bit of a nuisance has been re-elected to represent Braunstone Town on the county council.

Amanda Hack had already been a county councillor for a term and has now begun her second term within the council.

The Labour representative is only one of a small amount of Labour councillors on the mainly Conservative council.

She said: “There’s only four of us out of 55 councillors. Whilst we poll about 20-23 per cent, actually in terms of percentage of councillors we return less than 10 per cent.”

Although Cllr Hack is located in Thorpe Astley, she said she spends a lot of her time building relations within the community of Braunstone as she is also on the Braunstone Town Council.

Councillor Amanda Hack (Labour) for Braunstone Town

When she is in Braunstone, Cllr Hack said she spends her time getting to know her constituents and talking to them whilst doing other things, such as litter picking.

She said: “I will collect litter off the streets in the division I serve, I have a bit of an area that I will do quite regularly. We have a primary and a secondary school that are right next door to each other, and there’s a walkway between the two so I will probably litter pick that every two or three weeks.

“It’s more than just being a volunteer. I am people’s county councillor and I’m a bit of a nuisance and I will talk to people that I see. When I’m doing these kinds of things I will always chat to individuals within the community.

“I find it really important for people to feel that if they know my face, they know that I’m around.”

Alongside her conversations with others during her volunteering, Cllr Hack said she also talks to people during her time doing door knocks. Although this is mostly done during an election campaign, Councillor Hack said she plans to see people regularly in the time prior to the next election.

“Not everybody would do regular door knocks, and that’s not always a feature of all politicians but it’s something that I will try and get out, and at least knock on everybody’s door in a two-year cycle. Being visible is really important to me.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the way that she works, but that hasn’t stopped the door knocking for the election campaign. However, it did mean there was an increase in the amount of people inviting Councillor Hack in for a cup of tea – something that was caused by the loneliness of isolation and being unable to go out and see friends.

In a way to fix this problem, Cllr Hack has requested to the town council that a bench is installed outside the library in Braunstone, specifically for others to meet up and talk, and potentially make friends.

She says: “One of the things I really really wanted after seeing it was a ‘friendly bench’. That’s where you’ve got a bench that sits either side of each other and it encourages people to meet and make friends. I’m really pleased that we’re looking to install a ‘friendly bench’ outside our library.”

The Labour councillor said she aims to spend the next year bringing people together, to try and alleviate the difficulties that the pandemic has left, and the loneliness that people suffer.