Joyce Watson MS’s Mid Wales Journal column

There is a cost-of-living crisis in the country. Inflation, fuel prices, the weekly shop, National Insurance – all going up. Universal Credit – going down. Of course, there are global factors at play, but much of what we’re seeing is a direct result of political choices and economic mismanagement by the UK Government.

Governments should help to solve these issues, not make them worse. That’s why the Welsh Government this week announced more help for people struggling with living costs. The package of support includes a £150 payment for all properties in council tax bands A-D and/or in receipt of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme – and an extra £200 for low-income households through next winter’s Winter Fuel Payment. In addition to the £152m programme, a further £25m will be provided as a discretionary fund for local authorities, allowing councils to use their local knowledge to help households who may be struggling.

It far exceeds what the UK Government is offering in England. But more can and should be done. Taking £20 every week away from the poorest families is cruel – the Tories should scrap the Universal Credit cut. Energy companies should not profit from soaring prices. Labour is proposing a windfall tax on oil and gas profits and VAT cut on home energy bills – the Tories should adopt these policies.

Talking of political choices, I am delighted that the Welsh Government stepped in to save 102 jobs at the former Stadco factory in Llanfyllin. The future of the car parts plant now looks promising, under the stewardship of Marrill Group Ltd. As we emerge from the pandemic, it is a shot in the arm for the town and local supply chains – government intervention at its best.

As is the decision to award social care staff in Wales who are eligible for the real living wage from April an additional £1,000 net payment. It is the right thing to do – looking after the people that look after us, not least throughout the pandemic. Paying the real living wage to social care staff was one of Welsh Labour’s 2021 manifesto promises, so I’m proud we will have done it in just one year of government. The new payment is complicated but will hopefully be processed in people’s pay from April to June. It should help them and their families with those rising living costs.