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In Defence of Dignity

Paul Dennett, Salford City Mayor

Salford is ranked as the 22nd most deprived local authority in England, 302nd out of 326. One in thirty eight households in Salford sought help from food banks last year. Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world.

The new Work and Pensions Secretary has indicated that pensioner benefits may also be cut after 2020 as he pledged to tackle “intergenerational fairness”. Being employed doesn’t protect families against poverty any more. Despite so called record employment rates, poverty levels haven't shifted in recent years.

Employment may help some to improve their living standards but slow wage growth, a squeeze on the value of benefits and years where the cost of essentials rose faster than incomes means that working full time is not necessarily enough to live on.

A million workers are exploited through the use of zero

hour contracts while 1.4 million people are stuck in part-time work but want a full time job. Many are forced to become self-employed sub contractors in order to get work - but with no employments rights.

The unemployment statistics the Tories feed us by do not reflect the true picture. We still have record numbers of unemployed people being sanctioned, people being economically inactive, working in the black economy and evidence has been found of people who feel they have been so stigmatized by being unemployed that they just won’t sign on. These people are not recorded in the statistics. The Tories keep on blaming Labour for the financial crash, that is simply not true. “ Bankers caused the crash and got away with it, they should pay a higher price” claimed Mark Carney, Bank of England Governor, “despite facing some limited social embarrassment – they are still on the best golf courses”. They have faced no sanctions, and the press are reporting record levels of bonuses again!!

“Poverty, which we once thought was relegated to the distant past, is back.

Bringing with it malnutrition, hunger, fuel poverty and homelessness. I was contacted by Salford Central Foodbank saying that their stocks were the lowest they had ever been. That’s why we are creating a city-wide Anti-Poverty Strategy, linking together services from the council and other organisations to build a cohesive anti-poverty plan for Salford.

There are the wider ramifications of a social policy that pins all the blame for unemployment on people not finding work. The reality of the situation is that many of the skilled jobs that used to sustain cities like ours simply don’t exist anymore. And on top of that, many of the new jobs the government talks about are insecure, low-paid and low skilled. They aren’t enough to provide the bare essentials.

That’s why we’ve seen a drastic rise in inwork poverty, foodbank usage and homelessness. Once-forgotten forms of poverty are becoming standard again in 21st Century Tory Britain.”