Conservative Hexham candidate defends record on cost of living ahead of General Election

Guy Opperman is a Conservative and Unionist Party candidate in Hexham constituency
-Credit: (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

A Conservative candidate standing again in the Hexham constituency has defended his party's record on the cost of living crisis.

Guy Opperman, who has served as the area's MP since 2010, admitted there had been families who were struggling due to rising costs. However, he insisted the Government was moving in the right direction.

But other candidates, speaking at a hustings event at St Mary Magdalene Church in Prudhoe on Thursday, were not convinced. The comments came following a question from the public asking what the respective parties would do to help working families who are struggling.

Mr Opperman said: "There are families who are struggling. We have had the Covid pandemic and the impact on national finances, the cost of inflation was a massive problem.

The Prudhoe hustings event at St Mary Magdalene Parish Church
The Prudhoe hustings event at St Mary Magdalene Parish Church -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

"The two most important things we needed to do were get inflation down and get taxes down. The £900 reduction in national insurance was massive for families.

"In September, we are bringing in a 30 hour child care regime and we are raising the minimum wage. We also have to make sure there are jobs and opportunities."

But SDP leader William Clouston argued the issue went back further than Covid and the Ukraine war.

SDP candidate and leader William Clouston
SDP candidate and leader William Clouston -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

He said: "The first thing we need to do is diagnose the problem properly. The cost of living crisis has been a problem for 30 years of neglect down stream of a failure to invest.

"A big part of household budgets is consumed by energy and housing costs. The state has been knocked out of the housing market and the private sector has never achieved enough.

"Housing has become very expensive to buy and to rent. We shouldn't be surprised, we don't build enough houses.

"We haven't bothered to invest in energy properly. We didn't build nuclear stations and have begged China and France to build them for us.

"We need to invest - that is the key."

Labour's Joe Morris also felt issues went back further than the war.

Labour candidate Joe Morris
Labour candidate Joe Morris -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

He said: "We're living in a historic and unfortunate cost of living crisis that pre-dates the Ukraine War. We have the first parliament in history where living standards will be lower than they were at the start.

"When you think of what happened throughout the 20th century, that is a stunning failure of the Conservative Government. Does anyone feel better off? That's the real question in this election.

"We need to make sure we look after those families that are struggling. The Tories have allowed poverty wages to develop."

Mr Morris added that Labour's Great British Energy plan would bring down energy bills and that the party was committed to providing "high tech jobs".

Liberal Democrat candidate said the problem was a "very complex issue". He continued: "It's one which has developed over a long period of time.

Liberal Democrat candidate Nick Cott
Liberal Democrat candidate Nick Cott -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

"At Newcastle City Council I was portfolio holder for children's services, and I connected with a number of parents with children because of the connection to child poverty. The difference now is it has become far worse.

"We have parents in full time work on low incomes - that's a more recent development. That is a real issue.

"We need to take quite a lot of action. We need to make policy decisions around fuel poverty."

Independent candidate Chris Whaley added: "Sixty years ago when I was born, just one family member worked and it was usually the man - but now both are having to work.

Independent candidate Chris Whaley
Independent candidate Chris Whaley -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

"Why? Because our Government wants more money to spend. Where is all this money going?

"For every pound you earn, the Government ends up with about 70p through taxes, VAT - the Government gets a whole lot of money.

"There are hidden taxes that we don't see and they should be looked at. We need to change things."