Cameron has presided over an astonishing and avoidable rise in poverty

2nd November, 2013 1:29 pm

Working parents are simply not earning enough to escape poverty. That was the recent, damning verdict of the Social Mobility Commission which found that two-thirds of children growing up in poverty have parents who work. Highlighting an army of low paid mums and dads who earn less than the living wage, the Commission’s chair Alan Milburn argued that while the Government (supposedly) focuses on the fiscal deficit, they have missed the growing fairness deficit in the UK.

This deficit is felt in communities across the country. Britain is in the middle of the biggest fall in living standards since Victorian times. Price rises continue to outstrip wages and the failure to tackle this cost of living crisis has left parents working long hours only to find they can’t make ends meet at the end of the week. As a result the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts more than a million children will fall back into poverty by 2020, wiping out a decade of progress under Labour.

The report highlights that children and young people are paying the highest price with nearly 1 million young people out of work and long-term youth unemployment on the rise. The Coalition often justify their disastrous economic plan on the basis they’re protecting our children from future debt. They should look at what’s happening to those children right now as a result of their political choices.

Those young people who are able to find work are often trapped on exploitative zero-hours contracts which come with little pay and no security. During the recent strike at the Hovis factory in Wigan, one baker told me that whereas in the past zero-hours contracts had been a short term trial, they have now become a permanent feature of the workforce. As Milburn’s report confirms, too many people are now trapped in poverty, with the daily stress, indignity and anxiety that goes with it.

And yet the Coalition has stubbornly refused to act. Last month Ministers refused to heed Labour’s call for action against exploitative zero-hours contracts. The Prime Minister this week again refused to acknowledge that too many people in work are trapped in poverty and job insecurity. And the Government continues to ally itself with the big six energy companies, whose profits continue to grow while bills continue to rise.

By contrast Labour has promised to abolish the bedroom tax, crackdown on payday lenders, help families to access affordable credit, cap energy costs and extend childcare. Up and down the country Labour Councils, including my own in Wigan, have signed up to the living wage, helping money to flow back into local communities. Newcastle City Council has brought in its own city wide Education Maintenance Allowance to ensure talented young people can stay on at college regardless of their family’s circumstances while Islington Council introduced free school meals to help families struggling with the cost of living.

Two years ago Cameron said the UK would not “balance its books on the backs of the poor.” Not only has he failed to balance the books, he’s presided over an astonishing and avoidable rise in poverty. At the Class conference today activists from across the country have come together to tackle this huge social injustice. They, like me, believe that Britain can do better than this.

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  • Daniel Speight

    Lisa you are quite right to point out the pain and suffering suffered by the less well off in society under this government. And it’s also good to point out Labour policy proposals to alleviate some of the worse examples of Tory government. Today we had more good news in that Ed Miliband is prepared to use corporate taxation to persuade companies to pay a living wage. (Do you think Ed or his bag carriers read LL where I, amongst others, have called for tax to be used as weapon to persuade companies to change their culture?)

    Still it is just first aid bandaging unless we also tie it to Labour’s core beliefs, in other words its ideology. Now I don’t mean we all have to stand with clenched fists and sing the International. All it would take is to say that these policies are proposed because Labour would like to build a more equal, fairer society. (Something it failed to do in the Blair/Brown governments.)

    Such a small thing in way, but just those few words would represent a total break with New Labour’s adoption of neo-liberal economics. That is because the one thing neo-liberal economics cannot provide is a more equal society. Its very basis is that inequality and greed are good. Out the window would go Mandelson and his liking of the filthy rich. Who knows if Labour will get this chance again to pull back from the brink of being just another centre-of-road party destined for mediocrity and falling public support like its sister party Pasok in Greece?

  • swatnan

    Research has shown that if you pay workers a decent wage then you’ll get the most out of them, and they’re loyalty. This is what the Unions are campaigning for, and for decent terms and conditions. We need to extend unionisation into the private sector, and bring back collective bargaining. Being active in a Union makes sense. Of course its absolutely true that foreign workers are better workers, so employers keep telling us all the time, but for measly wages, because they have no alternative; hence British workers don’t go for those kinds of jobs. We should be campaigning for a decent living wage in all sectors of the economy, and unionising all foreign workers.
    Great speech Lisa by the way at yesterdays CLASS Conference, only to be outdone by a barnstorming performance from Owen Jones. I’m glad he’s on our side and not theirs.

    • treborc1

      I cannot see Tesco or Asda or the other retailers doing and how about those that hardly pay any tax here. I think the min wage will need to be increased to the living wage or again you will have a two tier work force. Those with and those without.

      Again it’s just not enough for voters we all want decent wages but telling people well you may be lucky with a few companies paying or getting a tax break for a year is simple not enough

  • John Cunningham

    The attitude of management has to change,A ccording them we are very lucky to have a job. They don’t believe in paying people decent wage’s because according to them and there weird philosophy we are lucky to have a job so that should be rewarding enough.Society in general has crumbled because of greed of big business and also very poor management [or lack of] skills.

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