Blog: UK government can – and must – act on cost of living

HMRC mileage rates are woefully out of date and sorting this out is just one way to help struggling workers

arrow shooting up through a bag of groceries showing rising cost

Inflation figures out this morning are another clear indicator that workers are being left out of pocket because of soaring fuel prices. The 7% CPIH inflation rate is the highest for 30 years and was affected most by the cost of fuel, which rose by 12.6p per litre from February to March – the highest monthly rise since 1990.

Just last week, I wrote about the cost of working for public sector workers – especially those who use their cars for work. Many of our members are covered by HMRC approved mileage allowance payments (AMAP) rates because employers rely on those rather than designing their own.

For local government workers, mileage rates are set in the NJC terms and conditions (in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland). For police staff, essential vehicle users use the NJC local government rates and casual users rely on the HMRC rates. And NHS staff mileage rates are those agreed under the Agenda for Change.

All of these are massively out of date – HMRC rates haven’t changed since 2011/12, NJC rates haven’t been reviewed since 2010 and NHS rates were last changed in 2014.

Sorting out HMRC mileage rates so as to reflect the record rise in fuel prices is one obvious way the government can help workers. Struggling households can no longer make their money stretch to cover the basics – let alone to cover the cost of using their vehicle for work.

The other intervention that UNISON always advocates for is a decent pay rise for public sector workers. This would ease financial hardship for employees and protect essential services by ensuring experienced staff stay, and that public services can attract new recruits.

The prime minister’s gold wallpaper reportedly costs £840-a-roll, and the chancellor is upgrading his own mansion with £250k worth of renovations.

This is a different world to the one most UK people live in. As the cost of living crisis deepens every month, the Westminster government continually fails to take the urgent action needed.

Presumably, this is because they have little idea of what living on a tight budget in the UK is like.