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Poverty: the scourge of modern Britain

sign reads "homeless & hungry - god bless you"

Paul Dennet's speech to Salford & Eccles labour Party

Poverty is the scourge of modern Britain, with low-wage, low skilled jobs becoming the norm as a product of the Tory economic ‘recovery’.
Insecure working patterns and in-work poverty are becoming the norm, as working conditions worsen and our economic model provides little other than unskilled service sector jobs.

In Salford, as we all know, our rates of poverty are well above the UK average.

  1. Over 11,000 households in Salford live in fuel poverty
  2. 28.5% of Salford children live in poverty – English average, 20.8%
  3. 12,730 of Salford children live in low-income families
  4. 28,000 Salford residents claim benefits, 20% of population

These figures are shocking. We all know that poverty impacts the life chances of our population in scores of different ways.

We know that children who grow up in poverty have poorer diets, have a harder time concentrating at school, and achieve worse results on average in exams.
We know that elderly people who live in poverty suffer more from social isolation, loneliness and depression. We know that poverty is linked to mental illness, poor health and criminality.

As a Labour Party, and as socialists, we are committed to fighting for a world where each individual has the resources they need to reach their full potential.
We are committed to a world where your job doesn’t get to define everything about who you are, or what you want to be. A world where you have the free time and resources spare to be a full human being, with a full social existence.
Real freedom does not just mean legal equality. Real freedom has to include freedom from want. Even more than that, real freedom must include access to the best that society has to offer.

When you have no money, even walking down the street is a harsh reminder of the restrictions society has placed on you. The shops and businesses you walk past become inaccessible. The cultural and commercial services on offer are no longer for you. The entire world becomes out of reach, untouchable.

Our socialist vision is one with real freedom. One where the best things society has to offer are within reach of everybody, and an accident of birth doesn’t define you forever. Looking around on the streets of Britain today, it is heartbreaking to see how far away from that vision we are. In a country that all but eradicated homelessness after the war, there are now bodies slumped in every doorway, shivering and cold as the wet winter weather sets in.

We have children going into school still hungry. We have malnutrition admissions to hospital on the increase. We have increasing numbers of people living in shoddy and shared accommodation, and queues lined up outside food banks across the country. Social mobility is retreating, and where you come from is more and more becoming the main predictor of who you will become.

And whilst so many struggle, those at the top keep getting richer. Runaway board-room pay is at record levels – higher now than at the start of the financial crash.
Those responsible for our economic woes are rewarding themselves again, while general wages stagnate and working conditions decrease.
And our Tory government continue to push forward policies which make that situation worse. Policies which, even by their own measure, are failing our economy and our society.

Budget cuts to local councils are destroying vital local services which cushion the worst effects of poverty and low pay.
Cuts to our healthcare system have left the NHS in the worst situation it has ever been in... addled by debt, with a hugely costly internal market draining ever more resources from essential frontline healthcare services.
And national-level austerity is suppressing our growth, dampening wages and increasing our national debt.

In the 5th largest economy in the world, it is simply unacceptable for this to be the case. And in Salford Labour, we are fighting back.
We are building housing. As a City-Mayor I am committed to building new council homes outside of Right to Buy, to provide accommodation for the most vulnerable people in our city.

We are developing an anti-poverty strategy for the city, to bring awareness of the issues of poverty and bring them to national government attention.
We are bringing in new jobs to the city – well-paid, skilled employment for local people. The expansion of MediaCity, the development of Port Salford and attracting national employers will provide good quality employment for Salfordians.

We are a Living Wage employer, the first Living Wage employer in Greater Manchester. We are setting the bar high with ourselves as the standard.

And we will continue to bring our issues in Salford to the attention of the local and national media, campaigning hard to make sure that the impact of their austerity is clear for everyone to see. As Salford Labour, we should be proud of ourselves and our achievements, but there is always more to do. The people of Britain deserve better than this Tory-led cruelty. It is down to us to make their hopes and aspirations a reality.