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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Fighting Poverty and Rejecting Austerity

Friday, 22 October 2021

Last Sunday was International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, a time to recommit ourselves to ending persistent poverty wherever it may exist in the world. It is an issue that has become particularly significant since coronavirus spread across the globe. It’s estimated that the impact of the pandemic is likely to have pushed between 143 and 163 million people into poverty this year alone, the single worst setback in the fight against global poverty in the last three decades.
 

As part of that effort, we’re working with Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA), a not-for-profit organisation bringing together the public, private, voluntary and community sectors, to launch a “Poverty Truth Commission” in Tameside. A new and innovative approach to social justice, the Poverty Truth Commission operates on the assumption the best decisions about how to eliminate poverty are made by getting the views of people who face the reality of poverty every day of their lives.

Following the formal launch event next month, the Poverty Truth Commission will get to work bringing decision-makers and vulnerable residents in Tameside together to share knowledge and explore what poverty actually looks like in the borough. It is my hope that, in time, this will help us to create realistic and effective plans to end the scourge of poverty locally.

Now more than ever, we need to start treating rising poverty as the national emergency that it is. We’re beginning to see glimpses of the damage that the pandemic, combined with government neglect, has wreaked upon our economy and society.

The first alarm bell has been sounded by the influential think-tank The Resolution Foundation, who have warned that British households will be £1,000 worse off next year. Much of this has been caused by the impact of the cost of living crisis, including higher energy bills as a result of surging wholesale gas and electricity prices and more expensive weekly shops due to inflation and continuing disruptions to supply chains.

While you can certainly argue how much the government is to blame for these, the fact remains that many households and businesses will also be affected by cuts to Universal Credit and increases to National Insurance, decisions that can be laid squarely at the feet of Downing Street.

That means that the Autumn Budget, due to be announced next week, will be pivotal in deciding what our national recovery from coronavirus looks like. If the government truly wants to build back better, fairer and greener, then they need to invest to make it happen. The alternative, which I fear they are more likely to choose, is returning to the false logic of austerity which has already done incredible damage to our country.

 

It’s no exaggeration to say that lives will hinge on this decision. Research from the University of York has shown that cuts to health and social care between 2010-15 meant that 57,550 more people died earlier than they would have had funding levels been maintained. Worst hit were urban areas in the North in England, including right here in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Blackpool. Perhaps not coincidentally, these were some of the areas that also suffered the most during the coronavirus pandemic.

Poverty is not a natural consequence of life. It is created by the decisions of governments and societies, and it can be overcome if we choose to make different decisions. As we begin to rebuild from the past eighteen months, we must make it clear that there can no return to the dark days of austerity, and no return to the unfair and unsustainable status quo of the past.

On everything from housing and employment, to education and infrastructure, we need to demand that the government shows they are willing to make up for a year and half of time lost to the pandemic, and a decade lost to austerity before that. I fear that we will all end up paying the price if they are found wanting.  

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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