47% of children in my constituency of Manchester Central live in poverty. That’s 47% too many. With the highest child poverty rate in the country Manchester Central is on the front line in the fight to improve children’s futures and get parents into work that pays. You would think that figures like these would be a powerful spur to action for Government but in reality, the opposite is true.
Whilst local organisations and local authorities are coming together to come up with plans to tackle child poverty through the Greater Manchester Child Poverty Commission, this Tory-led Government is dithering disgracefully. Rather than take action to tackle child poverty, the Government is consulting on how you measure child poverty, despite the fact the experts have spent the last 40 years developing accurate poverty measures. We don’t need more wrangling on measurement, we need real action on poverty pay, the childcare crisis facing families and a tax credit and welfare system that works.
Services matter too of course. However, these figures come on the back of a Local Government Settlement which saw the ten most deprived local authorities having their spending power per head of population reduced by eight times as much as the ten least deprived local authorities in England. Indeed, Manchester City Council is facing the highest level of cuts of any local authority at a time when nearly one in four children in the city (and nearly one in two in my constituency) are in poverty. Manchester also has the highest number of people affected by the bedroom tax. Contrast that with the Prime Ministers own West Oxfordshire local authority which will actually gain spending power over the next two years and his Witney constituency where child poverty is just 7% and you can see starkly where this Government’s priorities lie.
These devastating poverty figures are not just numbers either. They are children without adequate shoes or coats, living in households where parents in and out of work are struggling desperately to put food on the table – often missing out themselves – and heat their homes. These families are at breaking point as they are pushed into poverty by a Government hell bent on making the least well off bear the brunt in a perverse austerity drive which sees tax cuts for millionaires at a time when children’s futures are on the line. I’m concerned this toxic mix of Tory-led Government measures, supported by their Lib Dem cheerleaders, will create a child poverty time bomb which will get worse, not better.
What the 11,669 children in poverty in my constituency deserve to know is, why are the Government singling out Manchester to bear the worst of these cuts when figures like these show we can bear it the least. Labour has a strong record, lifting millions of children out of poverty. We need to work together to formulate a One Nation response to child poverty which leaves no child or family in any part of the country behind.
Lucy Powell is MP for Manchester Central