Joyce Watson MS’s Mid Wales Journal column

Last weekend, like seemingly half the country, I spent too many hours trying to submit my meter readings, ahead of this month’s energy price hike.

Meanwhile, off-grid households are already dealing with record prices and limited supply. Nearly a third of homes in rural Wales rely on heating oil for warmth and hot water. Even if they can afford the exorbitant up-front cost, many are struggling to secure deliveries.

That’s why the Welsh Government has extended emergency financial support for off-grid households – to the end of March 2023. So, struggling households can continue to apply for up to £250 for a one-off oil payment or up to three payments of £70 for LPG.

But more could and should be done. The Labour Party has a plan to save all households up to £600 off their energy bills, funded through a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas profits. The UK Government should adopt our plan now.

Energy prices are part of a bigger picture, of course. Last month, the Office of Budget Responsibility said this financial year will see the biggest fall in living standards in Britain since records began. Growth down, inflation up. Real incomes down, taxes up. It all adds up to 1.3 million more adults and 500,000 more children in absolute poverty. Shocking.

The Welsh Government is doing everything in its power to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis. Since last November, it has invested more than £380 million in a package of support for low-income households. It includes a £150 payment for all households in council tax bands A to D, and all households supported by the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

It is also investing £25m in school kitchens and dining facilities, as part of Welsh Labour’s promise to roll out free school meals to every primary school child in Wales.

And more than 1,500 unpaid carers in Powys will get a £500 payment – in recognition of the financial and emotional hardship they have experienced over the past couple of years.

It all helps. But the bottom line is that unless the Conservatives gets a grip of inflation, by the time we rush to submit our meter readings ahead of the next energy price hike in October, many more people will be much worse off.