WE are only weeks into 2011 but already many families are beginning to feel the pain of measures imposed by the Tory/Lib Dem Government.

VAT was hiked to its highest ever rate of 20 per cent on January 4.

This is terrible news for thousands of hard working families in our area who will be forced to pay more on the high street and at the petrol pumps. As a consequence of this tax rise, petrol and diesel prices have risen to a record level. This represents an outrageous broken promise by the Tories and Lib Dems.

They both deceived voters before last year's General Election - the Tories saying they had no plans to rise VAT and the Lib Dems actively campaigning against it. It it local families who are paying the price for that deception through being forced to pay more.

WHAT is even more galling about the Tory/Lib Dem Government's VAT rise, as well as the cuts which could cost 1,700 jobs in our area, and could destroy local services, is that while doing all that they are letting the banks - who caused the economic crisis - off the hook.

Last year, Labour imposed a bonus tax on banks which raised £3.5bn.

This year the Tory/Lib Dem Government will take only £1.2bn from them through a watered-down bank levy.

Put in context that means that through measures like cuts to Child Benefit and tax credits, children and families are being forced to pay more than the bankers to pay down the deficit.

That is outrageously unfair. People who are struggling to get by will be furious that the Government is not only protecting bankers' bonuses but have rewarded them with a huge tax cut. The coalition should repeat Labour's £3.5bn bank bonus tax. That money could help pay for job creation and work training schemes to help our local unemployed back to work.

I HAD the opportunity to contribute to my first full debate in my new role as the shadow Veterans minister recently.

The coalition Government has introduced an Armed Forces Bill.

The Bill is on the whole a good one and I will support it. It builds on work done by the previous Labour Government to make the operation of the Armed Forces more effective and to make the lives of our individual service personnel safer.

But the debate was an important opportunity to hold the Government to account for the promises they made to our brave Armed Forces heroes before the election.

Despite the progress made by the previous Government in areas like accommodation for service personnel, delivering fair pay for all our forces, and introducing Armed Forces Day and the Veterans Badge to recognise the contribution of all our soldiers, sailors and airmen, the Conservatives say the Military Covenant was left "shattered" and they promised to rebuild it.

But so far there's been a huge difference between the Government's rhetoric and their action. The scrapping of essential planned reforms to the system for investigating military deaths has angered bereaved service families.

The coalition owes our Armed Forces better than they are delivering now. In my role, I will continue to demand that they do.