The figures today that have been released by the End-Child poverty report are sadly not a surprise to most who have seen the government make cut after cut to local services. The report shows that 47% of children within in Bradford West are living in poverty. We are the 8th highest in the entire country and poverty has increased by over 10 percent in the last 2 years alone. The rate of increase is the third highest in the country and we must ask how long can they let this continue?
If we stop to consider these numbers for a minute then it is a grim reality that nearly half of all children growing in Bradford West are growing up in poverty. In comparison, some parts of the country only 1 in 10 are suffering the same fate.
The rate of increase is down to several factors but clearly at the heart of it, is the scandalous decision by this government to freeze child benefit without offering anything in its place. It is imperative in the short term that the Government reverses its freeze. The freeze has directly taken money away from those families that need it the most. With families, anywhere between £300 and £450 worst off a year. It has clearly pushed people into further and further difficulties.
The Tory Governments austerity programme has also contributed to a decline in living standards by sucking money and investment out of our city. They have done this while at the same time taking money out of the pockets of those who need it the most.
The lack of investment is evident by the cuts to our council, hospitals and schools. While we have seen northern transport projects cut and things like the relocation of the HMRC from Bradford to Leeds. It is easy for the government to decide on paper to move jobs from Bradford to Leeds. The reason I fought so hard and continue to fight to keep these jobs in Bradford is simple. These are exactly the types of jobs we need.
Our city has a tremendous spirit, and long term we can turn around the fortunes of our city. The average weekly wage in Bradford West is still £65 a week lower than the national average, and we are struggling to create the long term, medium to high skills jobs that young people need.
Low wages are a direct result of this government’s lack of vision, and they choose to compound this by ensuring that our children are forced into poverty, locally we are changing our economy but it needs support.
The tory Government continues to remove resources from the North and Yorkshire more specifically. We are still no closure to a devolution deal that would allow us to allocate resources where we need them most. Without devolution either Yorkshire wide or through a Leeds City Deal we are being left behind by other northern regions and do not have the same control or finance that they are currently enjoying.
Bradford is a young city, we have the human resources we need for growth, we need to keep our skilled young people here by offering them connectivity and good jobs. We all see the fantastic entrepreneurial spirit and the number of start-up businesses are high. What we need now is to find a way of helping these businesses to grow and flourish.
Child poverty is an issue that cannot be solved overnight. But even recently when I was helping in local food banks the spirit of the community is flourishing. We must get through what is an extremely difficult period before we have another generation growing up knowing poverty. The government must help to ease this suffering by reversing it damaging changes to child benefit.
It is not good enough to allow our children to be raised without even the basic security we all need. It is also not acceptable that to get good decent employment young people are having to leave the city, leave their community and their families. This situation cannot continue in to the long term and I am calling on the government to undo the damage they have done and invest in cities like ours.