Unions: Help the poor pay fuel bills – or lose election

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Indy Politics

Britain's most senior trade unionist has warned Gordon Brown he will face a disaster at the polls unless he helps families to cope with soaring fuel prices.

The Prime Minister has so far resisted calls from Labour MPs to offer cash to people struggling in the economic slowdown, and to impose a windfall tax on energy suppliers.

But Brendan Barber, the TUC general-secretary, said: "Millions of ordinary people are looking to the Government to help them through this time of very significant economic uncertainty and they need to see the Government demonstrating that they are doing that in practical ways.

"If that isn't achieved by the Government, it risks badly losing public and electoral support."

Mr Barber called for a cut in interest rates and appealed to ministers to lift the cap on public borrowing to pour cash into the sluggish economy. The tax burden on high earners should be increased, he added.

Delegates at the annual TUC Congress in Brighton next week are expected to voice concern about Mr Brown's ability to protect workers from the slump. In his opening speech on Monday, Mr Barber will say: "Millions of households in Britain are already in recession as wages fail to keep up with energy and food costs."

Tony Woodley, joint leader of the Unite union, told the BBC that ruling out help for families in fuel poverty was "a downright disgrace".

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