Kate Ewert, Cornwall Councillor for the Rame Peninsula and St Germans.
I am fortunate enough to represent the beautiful coastal and rural community of the Rame Peninsula and St Germans division on Cornwall Council. We have miles of stunning coastline, rolling fields, beaches galore and an extraordinary amount of second homes and holiday lets, extortionate rents, a housing crisis and a very unhealthy dollop of hidden poverty – we are also predominantly off the national grid for mains gas which means that the cost-of-living crisis is already hitting us particularly hard. Residents in my area have been, like everywhere else, receiving their bill estimates for the upcoming year when the price cap on electricity is lifted – but for a lot of homes here they are either reliant on electricity for all their needs or their heating and hot water comes from oil fired heating systems. I have had contact from residents that are terrified about what the next year holds, they were managing to get the minimum delivery amount of oil for around £100, this has now risen to around £700. I have families here that are already making the choice between hot water and eating, it is like we are back in Victorian Britain and is simply unacceptable!
Added to this, of course, is the fact it just costs more to live in rural communities – we have to travel further to access healthcare, libraries, banks, education, work, and so much more, all the while our bus services are being cut so a car is a necessity not a luxury adding even more expense to strained budgets. We have much lower-than-average wages and much higher than average rents and house prices. The entire situation is untenable. But so much of this is political choice, there is so much more that this Conservative Government could and should be doing, yet these communities keep returning Conservative MPs. The issue is, the Conservatives take rural voters for granted so offer us nothing, and up to now Labour hasn’t been seen as a serious voice for rural communities. I truly believe that is changing however, we hear of electoral successes for Labour in previously considered unwinnable areas, like the area I won for Labour in 2021. Residents are seeing the positive impact of having Labour representation, and that story spreads and trust grows. There should be no “no-go-areas” for Labour – we can and should be the Party of Rural and Coastal Communities, they are still made up of working people after all.