Levels of deprivation and so many low income households are struggling across the UK that Trafford Labour councillors have called on central government to urgently produce a UK poverty strategy.
The politicians are also pressuring Tory ministers to provide more financial support to those families surviving on low pay alongside making the £20 Universal Credit uplift permanent.
Cllr Graham Whitham, Executive Member for Communities and Partnerships, says past gains made on combating poverty have been disregarded by a government that has no plan for addressing the national crises.
Cllr Whitham was speaking during Wednesday’s Full Council meeting where he tabled a motion declaring a Poverty Emergency.
Trafford Council is one of the first councils in the country to take this step given the high levels of poverty seen across the UK.
“One would think the Tories just don’t care about this issue. And we know they don’t because they have been scrapping and cutting multiple sources of vital support aimed at tackling poverty for years,” said Cllr Whitham.
“Over the last decade, and this is far from an exhaustive list, we have seen:
• Educational Maintenance Allowance scrapped.
• Child Trust Funds scrapped.
• Benefits such as Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit restricted to the first two children a family.
• Working Tax Credit cut.
• Working age benefits frozen between 2016 and 2020, taking millions of pounds out of the pockets of low income families.
• Even support provided through the government’s own flagship welfare policy, Universal Credit, has been cut back since it was first announced.”
“The consequences of this government’s failures are clear for all to see,” added Cllr Whitham.
“Pensioner poverty is on the rise and child poverty is projected to reach levels not seen since the early 1990s over the coming years.
“On our streets, scores of people sleep rough and thousands more are in temporary accommodation or sofa surfing.
“Appallingly, we find ourselves in a situation where millions of food parcels are being given out to people each year because they don’t have enough money to put food on the table.”
Labour councillor Ben Hartley, who represents Ashton Upon Mersey, echoed his colleagues concerns arguing the effects of poverty on physical and mental health are debilitating.
“We can see the inequalities starkly in Trafford with those in the most deprived areas having a life expectancy of eight years lower and suffer around 10 years more poor health than those living in more affluent parts,” said Cllr Hartley.
“And we cannot blame the pandemic for poverty. But we can blame this and recent Tory governments, as too many people were impoverished before covid.
“Many of those struggling to keep their heads above water before the health crises, have seen themselves pulled under.
“But why were they left to struggle in the first place? If Labour’s progress in government to reduce child poverty had continued, it would have been eliminated by now.
“We are in a poverty emergency, but this government has no strategy in place to address it.
“Thankfully here in Trafford, under Labour, we do.”
The Labour administration recently signed off a local strategy for tackling poverty. This sets out steps that can be taken locally to address the issue.
However, the main drivers lie with central government, and hopefully by declaring a poverty emergency will pressure the government into taking poverty seriously.