‘Out of pocket’ a report published last week by the Centre for Cities[i] thinktank provides evidence that the cost of living crisis is hitting towns like Oldham hardest. Analysis of the impact of inflation on 58 major cities shows that inflation in Bradford (the town most like Oldham in the report) was 10.9% in May 2022 compared with 8.8% in London.
The report outlines three main reasons for this. Older homes are more expensive to heat and there are more of them in Oldham and other Northern towns than in the south; people use their cars more in areas like Oldham with poor and expensive public transport. On top of higher costs, real wages had fallen by £130 a year in Bradford and fell more than in London. Inflation is widening the north/south divide.
Oldham Council Leader, Councillor Amanda Chadderton said ‘ Oldham was hit hard by the pandemic and now people are struggling with a cost of living crisis. Oldham is a low wage town and cuts in welfare support just make it harder for families to make ends meet. Not one of the candidates for leader of the Tory Party has put forward a clear plan to help people now. Instead, they take lumps out of each other and argue about unfunded tax cuts which benefit the already well off the most.’
The report echoed calls already made by Oldham Labour for immediate reinstatement of the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit and an immediate increase in all benefits to match inflation instead of the 3% agreed in April.
Councillor Chadderton added ‘Government is doing nothing to help people who need it most. It is also interesting that the Centre for Cities highlights the need to support people who live in homes – like many, particularly in the private rented sector, in Oldham, which cost more to heat. I support the idea of a one-off payment targeted at those households and a proper programme to get all homes to at least EPC level C[ii]. Warm Homes Oldham has successfully brought Council owned homes up to this level and stands ready to run a better version of the Green Homes Grant Scheme to help others. If Levelling Up is to make a difference to Oldham, we need a laser focus from government. On the evidence so far, none of the Tory Leadership candidates will take the urgent action we need.’
Cllr Chadderton is hosting the Oldham Cost of Living Summit on 27th July. She said “As the cost of living crisis continues to hurt residents across the borough, I thought it was important to bring key stakeholders together to identify any local interventions that can be put in place by working together to support local people. We can’t rely on the Tories. Whether it is Theresa Coffey MP telling people to work more hours, George Eustace MP saying people should buy budget brand food, or Cllr Max Woodvine telling people they can save a deposit for a house by not drinking and buying clothes from Marks and Spencer, they are woefully out of touch with the reality on the ground.”