A REPORT by the StepChange Debt Charity has claimed that people in Wales are struggling to meet the cost of living, falling behind in their bills. The report, ‘Wales in the Red’, states that 9,270 people called the charity’s helpline last year, which was a rise of 23% from 2013.
Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity, said: “The situation facing too many households in Wales is becoming more precarious. People overall owe less on unsecured debt such as credit cards and personal loans but the amount they owe on life’s essentials such as water and Council Tax is growing. Falling behind on paying off debts due to borrowing is bad enough, but when people are struggling with everyday living costs, the situation for individuals and their families becomes a crisis that society cannot ignore. Action must be taken to prevent more families falling into problem debt, and to help and protect those who are already unable to keep their heads above water.”
The findings of the report stated that Welsh clients with Council Tax debt rose to almost a third last year, with the average debt at £762. Also, that the proportion of Welsh clients in water arrears has almost doubled since 2011, from 14.8% to 28.8%. The average amount owed in water arrears is £714, and finally, that the proportion of Welsh clients who rent their home and have rent arrears stood at 23% in 2014, with 13 of the 22 unitary authority areas having higher than average levels of renters in arrears. It also found that a third of Welsh clients were paying more than 25% of their income towards servicing their debts at the time of contacting the charity.
In response to these figures, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We understand the challenges facing families across Wales who are struggling to meet the rising cost of living. To help people manage their finances and get out of debt, we have provided £4 million for free advice services which include specialist face-to-face financial advice and support.”
A Pembrokeshire County Council was keen to explain what help they offer those struggling with debts, saying: “In cases where customers appear to be experiencing difficulty with Council Tax payments, there are a number of options available to help. In the first instance, we can offer to extend their payments from 10 instalments to 12. Customers will be invited to apply for a Council Tax reduction based on their income and personal circumstances. Additionally, if there is the potential to award a discount (for example a single person discount) that will be discussed to assess eligibility.”
Conservative politicians were keen to extol the virtues of programmes they believe are helping those struggling in the UK. AM, Angela Burns said: “Under David Cameron’s long-term economic plan, there are more people in work than ever before, inflation is at a record low and interest rates are keeping mortgage bills down.”
Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart said: “There is always further to go but I hope the combination of falling unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates are seen as signs of real lasting recovery from the dark days pre 2010. And for the first time we are seeing wage levels increasing at a faster rate than inflation.”
Paul Davies, AM for Preseli Pembrokeshire also added: “Like the Conservatives in England, we would freeze council tax – which means putting money back in people’s pockets.”
However, Plaid Am for Wales Mid and West, Simon Thomas, said in response: “There is no wonder that more people in Wales struggle to meet the cost of living. Independent think tank The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has called it astonishing that seven years later, incomes are still no higher than they were pre-recession and that for working age people, they are still lower. The IFS’s analysis pins the blame on the UK’s woeful productivity performance. Plaid Cymru has said from the beginning that deep and damaging cuts to public spending is not the way to turn the economy around. The way to increase productivity is to increase activity. We need to get people out spending their disposable income, increasing activity on high streets and our town centres, increasing output from manufacturing and construction and driving up profits for the private sector which in turn will lead to higher wages.”
Kwarteng gambles on rush for growth
CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled his and Liz Truss’s economic vision for the UK on Friday morning.
The headlines are straightforward.
There will be £45bn in tax cuts by 2027; however, the largest cuts – national insurance cuts, the abolition of the cap on bonuses and the highest income tax rate- benefit only high earners.
Cut in the basic rate of income tax to 19% from April 2023;
National Insurance will not rise as scheduled, and the Government will reverse the current year rise as of November 6;
New Health and Social Care Levy to pay for the NHS will not be introduced;
The top rate of income tax was cut from 45% to 40%;
Cancel the rise in corporation tax which was due to increase from 19% to 25% in April 2023;
Rules around universal credit tightened by reducing benefits if people don’t fulfil job search commitments;
VAT-free shopping for overseas visitors;
End of the cap on bankers’ bonuses;
Planned increases in the duties on beer, cider, wine, and spirits cancelled;
Government to discuss setting up investment zones with 38 local areas in England.
Alongside the above, the Chancellor announced plans to remove environmental safeguards for building developments and reduce the regulatory burden on financial institutions.
KWARTENG LEAVES LABOUR AN OPEN GOAL
In an interview with Rishi Sunak during the Conservative leadership contest, Nick Robinson observed that it would be a nasty surprise for the former Chancellor when he found out who’d been in power for the last twelve years.
Kwasi Kwarteng followed Liz Truss’s preferred method of operation: he pretended they hadn’t happened.
The Chancellor comprehensively dumped on the policies pursued over the last dozen years by successive Conservative governments, for a decade of which Liz Truss has been a member.
His statement was, as one ministerial colleague said, “a game changer”, although perhaps not in the way he envisaged.
So complete was the change of economic policy that it leaves an open question about how Mr Kwarteng and his Cabinet colleagues ended up in the same political party as most of their backbench colleagues and served under the last three Conservative leaders.
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves did not miss the open goal. Even as Mr Kwarteng and Ms Truss shook their heads on the government benches, she hammered home that the Chancellor’s statement was an admission the record of Conservative governments since 2010 was one of a failure to deliver growth or a viable economic plan.
THE SUPPLY SIDE FIX
The Chancellor and Prime Minister’s rationale is that cutting taxes for the already well-off will benefit all citizens as they are incentivised to invest and act in entrepreneurial ways. In addition, reducing regulation for businesses will encourage increased commercial enterprise.
They believe the growth stimulated will make up for any loss in tax revenues as increased economic activity, encouraged by lower taxes, leads to increased government revenues.
That approach is called supply-side economics, which focuses on increasing the supply of goods and services through growth.
In every developed nation where the Government’s brand of economics has been tried, two things have happened: a cataclysmic bust has followed a short-term burst of economic activity.
In addition, wealth inequalities – and the UK is already grossly unequal – are embedded and made worse.
Low taxes on the wealthiest do not distinguish between those who generate wealth through their industry or create economic activity through business investment and those who inherit wealth or sit on capital without producing anything.
“THE RICH WILL REJOICE”
Wales’s Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans MS, responded: “Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said: “Instead of delivering meaningful, targeted support to those who need help the most, the Chancellor prioritises funding for tax cuts for the rich, unlimited bonuses for bankers, and protecting the profits of big energy companies.
“Instead of increasing funding for public services in line with inflation, we get a Chancellor blithely ignoring stretched budgets as public services find their money is not going as far as it did before.”
Plaid Regional MS Cefin Campbell said: “This Budget will see the rich rejoice as their bonuses rocket and their tax bill sliced, once again it will be the poorest and most vulnerable bearing the brunt of the disastrous cost of living crisis.”
Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, added: “Tax cuts for the super-rich will do absolutely nothing to drive growth in the Welsh economy.
“I urge the UK Government to recognise that our Government in Wales must be given the fiscal tools to unlock our economic potential ourselves. That is the only way to improve the lives of people across Wales.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Finance, Peter Fox MS, said: “Today shows that the UK Conservative Government has a comprehensive plan to provide a sharp boost to the economy by putting cash back into people’s pockets. Labour in Wales has the power to cut taxes in Wales but chooses not to.
“Mark Drakeford needs to take a leaf out of Liz Truss’ book and take immediate action to support hard-working people and struggling businesses, stimulating the Welsh economy rather than stifling it.”
Scott Corfe, Research Director at Social Market Foundation, said: “The Chancellor is taking a very high-risk gamble with the economy.
“If his package of enormous tax cuts and ‘supply side reforms’ fails to translate into significantly higher economic growth, we risk further falls in the pound and surging gilt yields as investors lose confidence in our ability to pay our way in the world.
“That, in turn, means higher inflation, an unsustainable trajectory for the public finances and steeper interest rate rises – potentially deepening rather than alleviating the cost of living crisis.”
The world watches HM Queen Elizabeth II laid to rest in state funeral
THE QUEEN’S state funeral is taking place with ceremonial processions in London and Windsor today. This is the latest update at 12:40pm.
The UK’s longest-serving monarch will be laid to rest after a state funeral.
The Royal Family, world leaders and dignitaries have descended on Westminster Abbey to honour the life of Queen Elizabeth II, after her death at the age of 96.
At 10.44am, the Queen’s coffin travelled from the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) to Westminster Abbey for the state funeral.
This is a very short journey, and was not be part of the public procession.
The state funeral service
The state funeral service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster and The Sermon and the Commendation will be given by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
During the Service, the Prime Minister and the Secretary General of the Commonwealth read Lessons.
The Archbishop of York, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the Free Churches Moderator said prayers.
The Procession from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch
At the end of the Service, Her Majesty’s coffin wase borne to Wellington Arch, via The Mall on the State Gun Carriage.
The King’s Guard gave a Royal Salute as the Coffin passes the Queen Victoria Memorial.
All processions and services are being broadcast on near-all national television and radio channels.
Once the coffin reaches Wellington Arch, it will be placed in the State Hearse. The parade will give a Royal Salute and the National Anthem will be played as the State Hearse begins its journey to Windsor.
Procession from Albert Hall, Windsor to St George’s Chapel
When the Coffin reaches Windsor, the State Hearse will slow to join a Procession to be formed up on Albert Road to travel via the Long Walk to St George’s Chapel. Members of the Royal Family will join the Procession in the Quadrangle at Windsor Castle. Minute Guns will be fired on the East Lawn, Windsor Castle by The King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, and Sebastopol Bell and the Curfew Tower Bell will be tolled throughout the Procession.
The Procession will halt at the bottom of the West Steps of St. George’s Chapel where a Guard of Honour, found by the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, will be mounted. The Queen’s Coffin will be borne in Procession into the Chapel.
The Committal Service
The Committal Service will begin at 4pm, and alongside His Majesty The King and Members of the Royal Family, the congregation will be made up of past and present members of The Queen’s Household, including from the private estates. Also in attendance will be Governors General and Realm Prime Ministers.
The Service will be conducted by the Dean of Windsor, with prayers said by the Rector of Sandringham, the Minister of Crathie Kirk and the Chaplain of Windsor Great Park. The Choir of St George’s Chapel will sing during the Service.
Prior to the final Hymn, the Imperial State Crown, the Orb and the Sceptre will be removed from Her Majesty The Queen’s Coffin, and placed on the Altar. At the end of the final Hymn, The King will place The Queen’s Company Camp Colour of the Grenadier Guards on Her Majesty’s Coffin. At the same time, The Lord Chamberlain will “break” his Wand of Office and place it on the Coffin.
As The Queen’s Coffin is lowered into the Royal Vault, the Dean of Windsor will say a Psalm and the Commendation before Garter King of Arms pronounces Her Majesty’s styles and titles. The Sovereign’s Piper will play a Lament and The Archbishop of Canterbury will pronounce the Blessing. The National Anthem will be sung at the conclusion of the Service.
Not seen on the streets of London since the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, the State Gun Carriage will be pulled by 98 Royal Navy sailors, with a further 40 marching behind acting as brakes. The King and Members of the Royal Family will again follow The Queen’s Coffin in Procession. The Procession will include detachments from the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth, as well as detachments of the British Armed Forces who held a special relationship with The Queen.
A Private Burial will take place in The King George VI Memorial Chapel later that evening, conducted by the Dean of Windsor.
The Queen is to be buried together with The Duke of Edinburgh, at The King George VI Memorial Chapel.
Arrangements for the Funeral of Her Majesty The Queen
THE TRAGIC death of Queen Elizabeth II set into motion an intricate period of mourning across the country, which will close with her State Funeral on Monday, September 19.
Arrangements for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch’s funeral have been carefully detailed for many years. The Queen herself signed off on every detail before her death. The details were kept private until King Charles III gave his final seal of approval.
The State Funeral of HRH Queen Elizabeth II will take place at Westminster Abbey on Monday (Sep 19) at 11.00am.
Following the Queen’s death, her oak coffin—draped with the Royal Standard for Scotland and a wreath of flowers—sat in the ballroom at Balmoral, where estate staff had the chance to pay their last respects.
On Sunday morning, gamekeepers carried her coffin to a waiting hearse before she left Balmoral for the final time.
The first stage of the Queen’s journey saw the royal cortege travel to Edinburgh and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.
An honour guard made up of the Royal Regiment of Scotland greeted the hearse in Edinburgh with a royal salute before the coffin was transferred to the Throne Room by a military bearer party.
On Monday, September 12, a procession was formed on the forecourt of the Palace of Holyroodhouse to convey the coffin to St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh.
The King and members of the Royal family took part in the procession and attended a service in St Giles’ Cathedral where they received the coffin.
Queen Elizabeth’s coffin was laid in St Giles’ Cathedral, guarded by Vigils from The Royal Company of Archers, to allow those in Scotland to pay their respects.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, September 13, The Queen’s coffin travelled from Scotland by Royal Air Force aircraft from Edinburgh Airport. It arrived at RAF Northolt on Tuesday evening. The coffin was accompanied on its journey by The Princess Royal.
The Queen’s coffin was then conveyed to Buckingham Palace by road, to rest in the Bow Room.
The coffin was received by her family in a small private ceremony before her official lying in state.
On Wednesday, September 14, the coffin was borne in procession on a gun carriage of The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster.
The Procession travelled via Queen’s Gardens, The Mall, Horse Guards and Horse Guards Arch, Whitehall, Parliament Street, Parliament Square and New Palace Yard.
After the coffin arrived at Westminster Hall, the Archbishop of Canterbury conducted a short service assisted by The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster, and attended by The King and Members of the Royal Family, after which the Lying-in-State began.
During the Lying-in-State, members of the public will have the opportunity to visit Westminster Hall to pay their respects to The Queen.
Members of the public were able to file past the Queen’s coffin during its first full day of lying-in-state at Westminster Hall on Thursday.
Brass plaques in the 11th-century hall mark the spots where Edward VII lay in state in 1910, George V in 1936, George VI in 1952 and Queen Mary a year later. The hall, which is 900 years old, is also where wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill lay in state in 1965.
The Queen was laid-in-state in Westminster Hall until 6.30am Monday (Sep 19) morning. The coffin will then travel in a procession led by King Charles III and his family when it is moved at 10.44am from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey.
He will walk with the Princess Royal, the Duke of York and Earl of Wessex and behind the quartet will be the Queen’s grandsons, Peter Phillips, Duke of Sussex and the Prince of Wales.
The Queen’s coffin will be carried during the procession on a 123-year-old gun carriage towed by 98 Royal Navy sailors in a tradition which dates back to the funeral of Queen Victoria.
The procession will be led by a massed Pipes & Drums of Scottish and Irish Regiments, the Brigade of Gurkhas, and the Royal Air Force.
It will arrive at the west gate of Westminster Abbey at 10.52am when the bearer party will lift the coffin from the gun carriage and carry it into the Abbey for the state funeral service.
The service will begin at 11am and will be conducted by the Dean of Westminster.
Westminster Abbey has a capacity of approximately 2,200 people.
Heads of state and dignitaries from around the world are expected to be invited to the British capital to join members of the royal family to celebrate the Queen’s life and unwavering service to the nation and Commonwealth. The majority of leaders were asked to take commercial flights to London for the funeral.
Many members of royal families across Europe are expected to attend the funeral. The White House has confirmed the attendance of President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden.
Leaders from across the Commonwealth, of which the Queen served as head for the entirety of her reign, are expected to attend. Many other world leaders are also expected to attend the funeral.
At approximately 11.55am the Last Post will sound, followed by two minutes of silence to be observed in the Abbey and throughout the UK.
Reveille, the national anthem and a lament played by the Queen’s piper will bring the state funeral service to an end at around noon.
After the service, the Queen’s coffin will be returned to the gun carriage by the bearer party and a procession will travel to Wellington Arch at Hyde Park.
At Wellington Arch the royal family will watch as the Queen’s coffin is transferred to the new state hearse, before it begins its journey to Windsor Castle.
At 3.06pm, the state hearse will approach Shaw Farm Gate on Albert Road, Windsor, and join the procession which will be in position.
At 3.10pm the procession will step off via Albert Road, Long Walk, Cambridge Gate, Cambridge Drive, George IV Gate, Quadrangle (South and West sides), Engine Court, Norman Arch, Chapel Hill, Parade Ground and Horseshoe Cloister Arch.
At approximately 3.40 pm the King and other members of the Royal Family who are walking in the procession join it at the Quadrangle on the North side as it passes into Engine Court.
At 3.53pm, the procession will halt at the bottom of the West Steps of St George’s Chapel in Horseshoe Cloister.
The Queen will be laid to rest following a committal service at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, which will begin at 4pm.
She will be interred with the Duke of Edinburgh in King George VI’s Memorial Chapel in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, in a private service at 7.30pm on Monday.
The burial service, conducted by the Dean of Windsor and attended by the King and royals, will remain entirely private.
Britain is projected to spend an estimated £78 million on Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.
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