Dismay as Conservative councillors walk out during cost of living discussion

September 28, 2022 5:01 PM
Originally published by Tim Farron

The empty Conservative benches at today’s meetingThis afternoon, every single Conservative Westmorland and Furness Councillor decided to walk out of a council meeting rather than discuss the cost of living crisis.

At a meeting of Westmorland and Furness Shadow Authority at County Hall in Kendal, Conservative councillors refused to take part in a vote on a Lib Dem motion on tackling the cost of living.

The motion called on central Government to:

  • take immediate action to freeze the price cap at April's rate, stop further increases in the price of fuel, including solid fuel, LPG and fuel oil as well as electricity and gas prices, and to tax energy firm's profits.
  • immediately reduce VAT, including VAT on energy bills.
  • bring back the supplement to Universal Credit.
  • implement for immediate financial help/relief for small businesses to prevent imminent closures and job losses.

It also called for a local Cost of Living Emergency Summit building on the work of, for example, the Cumbria Poverty Working Group, with stakeholders, including Citizens Advice, Food Banks, Local Trades Unions, town and parish councils and Chambers of Commerce and local MPs to explore how more local help can be provided for those struggling with the cost of living.

The motion was passed with every single party voting in favour apart from the Conservatives.

Just before this, Conservative councillors had also failed to back a motion put forward by Liberal Democrat Councillor Giles Archibald which would have committed the new Westmorland and Furness Council to:

  • reducing its own carbon emissions to net zero as soon as possible
  • working with others to target a net zero carbon Westmorland and Furness by 2037
  • increasing biodiversity by, for example, restoring natural habitats, restricting invasive species and reducing pollution.

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Kirkby Stephen and Tebay John Murray, who put forward the motion on the cost of living said: "For so many of our residents, the rising cost of living is a massive issue that affects their lives on a daily basis.

"Many people are understandably concerned about being able to heat their homes and provide enough food to feed their family this winter.

"I'm glad that our motion passed but I'm stunned to see Conservative councillors choose to walk out on mass rather than discuss how we can help our residents.

Local Lib Dem MP Tim Farron said: "Our country is facing the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation - politicians of all stripes need to work together.

"For Conservative councillors to abandon the meeting is an appalling dereliction of duty and sadly shows how out of touch their party is with the needs of people in Westmorland, Furness and Eden."