North Liverpool MP Dan Carden writes exclusively for the SKWAWKBOX on the horrendous impact of Tory cuts on his home city and many parts of the country – and asks, if Theresa May’s constant claims of a strong economy are true, just where is the benefit for ordinary people
A shameful record
The Tories’ long, shameful record in Liverpool continues with this week’s figures revealing that Liverpool is the city hardest-hit by austerity – with an £816 cut in day-to-day spending per head since 2010.
I was born in the 80s, when Tory ministers lobbied for the “managed decline” of our city, destroyed industry and job opportunities. I grew up in a family affected by unemployment and my early life and my outlook on issues of social justice were shaped by the poverty inflicted by 18 years of Tory attacks on our communities.
Liverpool has never fully recovered from the damage done by Thatcherism. Insecure and low employment rates have blighted the city for generations – a situation which has improved during times of Labour investment but has been pushed to breaking point under successive Tory governments.
Dragged back to the Victorian era
Fortunately, Scousers have long memories. Today there are no Tory MPs in Liverpool and not a single Tory councillor sits on the local authority. At the last General Election, Liverpool delivered its best ever election results for Jeremy Corbyn’s revitalised Labour.
But under Theresa May’s government, we’re being dragged back to bygone dark days. British workers have endured the longest pay squeeze since Victorian times, with wages lower today than ten years ago. As a result, 40% of children in my constituency are growing up in poverty. The full roll-out of Universal Credit, the Government’s botched welfare reform, is piling even more pressure onto an already desperate economic situation.
We know that government cuts are not only deeply unfair, but politically motivated. Labour councils are hit five times harder on average than Tory ones – and, as these latest figures show, Liverpool has been hit hardest of all.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Liverpool now has the second highest level of destitution of any city in the UK – that means a lack of basic essentials, including food, shelter and toiletries.
In this climate, the local authority has been forced to act as a sticking plaster over the worst side effects of Tory cuts. But with 64% of its budget slashed and 3000 fewer staff since 2010, council services are stretched the the limits.
My constituency casework is loaded with people struggling with the consequences of austerity – a political project to make them pay for a crisis they did not create. When people walk through the door of my constituency office, some of the stories I am told are absolutely harrowing, of people trapped in a cycle of poverty they can’t escape.
Excuses and denial
When I bring these stories to Parliament, seeking a commitment to change direction, the best I get from Ministers is excuses and, more often than not, flat-out denial.
Indeed, following his 12-day visit to the UK, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights described how Ministers are in a “state of denial” about the “social calamity” their policies are inflicting on the poorest and most vulnerable. This should’ve been a wake-up call. Instead, this government ploughs on with its toxic and discredited agenda.
A strong economy? For whom?
Week after week, we have to listen to Theresa May spouting employment figures as evidence of a “strong economy”. But the rosy picture she paints simply doesn’t match the reality faced by people across our country. Today most Britons in poverty are from working households, but the context of low pay, precarious work, and zero-hour contracts rarely gets a mention from Tory Ministers.
The British economy isn’t functioning. From the perspective of the communities of north Liverpool it is broken and completely rigged against them. So when Conservatives boast of a strong economy, my constituents rightly ask: strong for who?
Only wholesale change can help
The UK is the most regionally unbalanced economy in Europe, and deeply entrenched inequalities are getting worse still. All of this is down to political choices. The Conservatives chose to cut frontline services – our schools, our hospitals, children’s services, social care – at the same time as handing tax giveaways to the very richest and biggest corporations.
Remember when the Tories used to try to kid us that “we’re all in this together”? It was never true and it never will be under a Tory government. The austerity regime introduced by George Osborne and pursued eagerly by his successors was a calculating political choice to shift wealth away from the poorest in our society and towards the richest.
Piecemeal change is not enough. We need to fundamentally rebalance our rigged economic system. That will only happen with a socialist Labour government in office. For the communities I represent in north Liverpool, that day can’t come soon enough.
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