Plaid Cymru has published a ‘cost of inequality’ plan that would help people in Wales struggling to pay bills over the winter. Its five proposals are “tangible solutions” to address the challenges faced by increasing numbers of people.
Member of the Senedd and Plaid Cymru spokesperson for social justice Sioned Williams says the Labour government in Wales should be doing more to support those in need, adding that Wales possesses powers to take direct action at little additional cost to help people struggling to make ends meet. She suggests the administration is not acting with the “urgency and seriousness” the crisis deserves.
Cost of inequality plan
Outlining the proposals, the Plaid Cymru MS said the party would continue to fight for the best interests of Wales’ communities over the winter. The five proposals are:
- Implementing the new Warm Homes Programme immediately to tackle fuel poverty.
- Supporting local authorities to pilot free bus travel for under-16s for a trial period, and to pilot the removal of peak-time fares for all rail services across Wales, similar to Scotland’s scheme.
- Extending free school meals to secondary school pupils in households receiving Universal Credit, without a cap on earnings.
- Developing a Wales-specific benefits system. This would involve the introduction of common approaches to eligibility, applications, and the verification of evidence, while continuing to work on the long-term goal of introducing a Child Payment system similar to Scotland’s.
- Having a winter freeze on rent for private renters and reintroducing a moratorium on evictions.
Progress to date
What has Plaid Cymru done already to support those in need during this cost of inequality crisis? Through the Co-operation Agreement to date, and since we published the last iteration of our cost of living plan, we have delivered the following progress:
- 8 million additional free school meals
- Over 2,000 additional childcare places for 2-year-olds: 12.5 hours a week of free childcare
- Uplift in Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) delivered through the budget agreement for 2023-2024 from £30 to £40 – we want to see it to go further, to £45
- £40mn to help those in mortgage difficulties stay in their homes, building on the work of the One Wales Government
- Free entry for low income families to the Urdd Eisteddfod in 2023
This will help make a difference to those struggling across the country, by putting more money into people’s pockets and helping household budgets go further. The ongoing impact of this crisis continues to dominate many households and communities across Wales, especially for those most vulnerable within our society. These economic impacts have led to the worsening of socio-economic conditions, while also creating great challenges across all other sectors. Furthermore, this has led to inequalities that continue to grow for many.
Unfair and unconscionable
Sioned Williams MS says: “The cost of inequality crisis facing households this winter is devastating. The prices of food and fuel have left families struggling to make ends meet. Energy bills are at an all-time high. Rent and mortgage payments are continuing to rise. People are going without basic essentials. It’s not just unfair, it’s unconscionable.”
“Plaid Cymru is proud of the steps we have already taken … But there’s more the Labour Government can and must do to support those in need … Affordable and sustainable housing is essential to mitigate the worst of the cost of inequality crisis.”
Referring to Plaid Cymru’s five-point plan, she says: “These are all tangible solutions that will directly address the pressing challenges faced by our communities. Labour must step up, use the powers Wales has, and tackle the crisis with the urgency and seriousness it deserves, rather than settle for crumbs from the Conservatives in London.”
“Plaid Cymru will continue to fight for the best interests of our communities during what will be a difficult winter.”