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General Election July 4th 2024

As a charity we are concerned to know what a future government plans to do to help the many people experiencing poverty in the communities that we serve. With this in mind we have written this letter to all the parliamentary candidates in the Henley and Thame and Mid-Buckinghamshire constituencies. We will publish all the responses that we receive here to help readers in making their voting choices.

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Henley and Thame
candidate responses (in alphabetical order):

Mid-Buckinghamshire candidate responses (in alphabetical order):

Here are all the responses we have so far received.

Caroline Newton - Conservative Party

Thank you for your question at the hustings yesterday evening. And many apologies, again, for failing to respond to your email. 
 

I have received well over 600 emails from residents in the last 5 weeks, and as a lone candidate, without any office staff, it has been a real struggle to keep on top of them all. I deeply  regret that I had not yet addressed yours. 
 

If I am elected as your MP I would really hope to be able to spend time with you and the team at Sharing Life Trust and learn more about the challenges faced by the  people you help, and how you support them. 


The figures you share certainly are stark. I infer that the dramatic increase in need is closely related to the cost of living crisis and inflation provoked by COVID and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and by the rise in interest rates. 
 

The number one thing any Government could do to relieve poverty in those circumstances was to get inflation under control and to help get control of  interest rates. As you know, that has been the focus of Government policy since Rishi Sunak became PM.  inflation is now down to 2% and wages are rising faster than food prices. I hope this will feed through to the people you are supporting. 
 

Beyond that, the Conservative govt has been trying to ensure that work really does pay: it was we who introduced the living wage, and who increased the minimum wage this year to £11.44 an hour. We are also

cutting tax for all workers on average and lower wages by £900 pa with the cut in National Insurance Contributions. 
 

And we have introduced work coaches to help those who are out of work - or who have never been in work - to transition into jobs. And to make it easier for parents to get into work we are subsiding childcare for children from 9 months. 


I believe that it is the role of government to look after the most vulnerable in our society. But to be able to

do that sufficiently Government does need to ensure it prevents people who don’t need that help don’t receive it. That’s why we are putting so much effort into helping get people into jobs (and to staying in them), and to reducing welfare fraud. 
 

The work that your charity and others like it do is really crucial, too. I don’t  believe Government can do everything, and in fact I am convinced that local charities supporting local people is - and always has been - a mark of a healthy community. It binds our society together, and reminds us of our collective role in ensuring eachother’s well-being.  

 

But certainly charities should not be responsible for ensuring vulnerable people’s basic needs are met. That is the job of Government, and as your MP I would do whatever I could to make sure it fills that role. 

Best wishes

Caroline

Jo Robb - Green Party

Dear John,

Thank you for reaching out and for the excellent work you do with the Sharing Life Trust.

The Green Party is committed to creating a fairer society, to ending the cruel and punitive benefits regime which forces many into poverty and and to addressing the crisis of inequality in our country which poses a threat to the stability of our society.

1. The Green Party will:

* Increase Universal Credit and legacy by GBP40 a week;

* End the unfair five-week wait for benefits which is pushing people into debt;

* Abolish the two-child benefit cap, immediately lifting 250,000 children out of poverty;

* Increase disability benefits by 5%;

* Increase carers' allowance by at least 10% a month;

* Scrap the bedroom tax;

* Increase the minimum wage to GBP15 an hour (costs to small business offset by increasing the Employment Allowance to 10,000);

* Deliver equal rights for all workers including those in the "gig economy" and those on "zero hours" contracts.

 

2. Child Poverty:

* Scrap the two-child benefit cap;

* Invest GBP50bn in insulating homes and buildings, thus helping to reduce/eliminate fuel poverty;

* End no-fault evictions which are responsible for many families becoming homeles;;

* Provide 150,000 new social homes (including supporting Local Authorities to "buy back" the social housing stock;

* Reinstate Sure Start with a GBP1.4bn annual investment;

* Free public transport for under-18s;

* Votes for 16 and 17 year olds;

*Introduce a Fairer, Greener Homes Guarantee to end the scandal of children living in freezing, mouldy homes;

* Indroduce a Clean Air Act to guarantee the right to Clean Air.

 

3. Inequality

* Tax wealth fairly - wealth tax on the richest in our society - 1% tax on wealth over 10m and 2% tax on wealth over 1bn;

* Align tax rates on income from wealth with income from work;

* Introduce a 10:1 pay ratio for all private and public sector employers;

* Push for the long-term aim of a Land Value Tax to replace Council Tax, which is unfair and regressive;

* Increase in the rate of windfall tax on oil and gas production, carbon tax and clamping down on tax avoidance.

 

Another factor is our grossly unfair voting system - we would, of course, work to abolish First Past the Post and replace it with a fairer proportional system in which every vote counts. We would abolish the House of Lords and replace it with an elected upper chamber.

 

Thank you again for reaching out and for all the work you do in our community. 

With very best wishes,

Jo

Greg Smith - Green Party

Thank you for the fantastic work that you and the Sharing Life Trust are doing. The fact that you are delivering so many food parcels deserves both our admiration and shame. It is a terrible indictment of the failure of our society that food banks not only exist but continue to face increasing demands.

In answer to your questions:

  1. What will you and your government do to establish a social security system that enables those experiencing financial hardship to afford the basics that we all expect to live on? 

We need to face up to the fact that we are a wealthy society... Its just that we are badly organised! The tax system should expect those with the broadest shoulders to carry a proportionate share of the tax burden. A modest increase in the tax level for very high wealth individuals will allow us to stimulate the economy around well paid 'Green jobs and businesses' and properly fund the services that ordinary people rely on and that too often trap them in poverty.

 

2. What steps will you and your government take to reduce the incidence of child poverty as described above?

Properly funded services, increase the minimum wage and ensure that working people receive a decent wage for the work they do.

 

3. Our current economic system seems to be perpetuating the poverty and inequality we have described. How would you work to change this?

 A Green Economy that confronts climate change isnt just about new tech solutions.  We need to consider how to manage a prosperous society that doesnt depend on growth.  Through a local focus, recirculating local money through local business and local services we can create a more sustainable way of living that doesnt leave the most disadvantaged carrying the greatest burden.  Economic growth in recent years has tended to mean the very rich getting richer whilst increasing numbers of people are struggling to pay fuel bills and put food on the table.  This is not sustainable.  We need to re-think the relationship between prosperity and economic growth.

With thanks, Greg

Yvonne Wilding - Social Democratic Party

Thank you for your invitation to participate in this exchange. I present answers to your questions here, annotated with some personal experience. We absolutely agree that UK individuals are facing unprecedented financial pressures. I commend your organisation’s efforts to support people and enable access to food. 

1.What will you and your government do to establish a social security system that enables those experiencing financial hardship to afford the basics that we all expect to live on? 

The social security system is important to help those who either permanently or temporarily need support to access it. It should be a simple process for access and it should be a fair and prompt assessment process for eligibility. We would like to create more work opportunities for those wanting to work and we would like to help those struggling with health issues to reach full recovery. We do not support long term unemployment and would focus effort on helping those people into fairly paid work opportunities.

 

2. What steps will you and your government take to reduce the incidence of child poverty as described above? 

We would like to support parents and potential parents with education and advice on how to support and feed their children and how to access government and community support services. We would provide free school meals for all children in term time. All the factors I have described above, are contributing causes which we would like to address.

 

3. Our current economic system seems to be perpetuating the poverty and inequality we have described. How would you work to change this? 

We completely agree. Britain feels more divisive and more unequal than ever before. We believe our focus on Family-Community-Nation is the right way to address this, focusing on the key points listed above, to deliver acceptable living standards for all.

 

With Kind regards, Yvonne Wilding

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