UK Politics

Ed Miliband in new year cost of living pledge

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Media captionIn his New Year message, released by the Labour party, Ed Miliband speaks of a "cost of living crisis"

Labour has a "credible and affordable" plan to help families struggling with the cost of living, Ed Miliband has insisted in his new year message.

The opposition leader said the issue of living standards would again be his focus in 2014, accusing ministers of wanting to "change the conversation".

While not "promising the Earth", he said Labour pledges on energy bills and childcare would help family budgets.

The government said Labour's economic predictions had been proved wrong.

Chancellor George Osborne has said signs of a strengthening economic recovery - with growth forecasts for 2013 and 2014 revised sharply upwards and unemployment steadily falling - show his plan is working.

But Labour says the UK is still in middle of the "biggest cost-of-living crisis in a generation" and, with prices rising faster than wages for most people, the majority continue to feel worse off.

"People are thinking they have made the sacrifices and the government keeps telling them that everything is fixed," Mr Miliband said in his traditional end-of-year message to activists.

"But it does not seem fixed to them."

Mr Miliband signalled he wanted the squeeze on living standards to remain the major political backdrop in 2014.

"The Tories want to change the conversation from the cost of living crisis. They will talk about anything else. Inherent in their vision is not a solution to the crisis but the problem.

'More free childcare'

"I have a much more optimistic vision about what the country can achieve."

While he was not promising people "easy answers", Mr Miliband said Labour's plan to freeze energy bills for 20 months from June 2015, expand free childcare and crack down on payday lenders would "tip the balance towards hope" for many families struggling in the current climate.

"People do not want the Earth. They would prefer some very specific promises, specific things about what a government will do," he added.

"All of this is adding up to a programme for how we can change things. It is clearly costed, credible and real."

The government has said Labour is in denial about the size of the deficit that it left in 2010 and that its plans would result in more borrowing and rising debt.

In response, the opposition says borrowing has risen far more since 2010 than Mr Osborne had planned.

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