On the 20th October, I will be joining thousands of people supporting the TUC march for A Future That Works in London.
Over the summer I have spent most weekends canvassing in wards around Brighton and Hove. On the doorstep people told me some hurt-rending stories. One woman struggled to hold back tears as she described the impact on her family when ill health forced her to give up work. Cuts to benefits and the rising cost of living left her bereft of hope. Another woman was angry and frustrated that two of her sons hadn’t been able to find work since they left school.
Under the Coalition government, these experiences are far from unique. The long term sick and disabled face an uncertain future with a £2.17 billion reduction in support. There are now more than a million young people under 25 unemployed in Britain. They also make up the majority of the million under-employed. Combined with the loss of EMA and the closure of many Connexion services, the outlook for many young people is bleak.
In Brighton & Hove, wages have actually fallen below the national average. Many are now struggling with some of the highest rents in the country while cuts to Housing Benefit have put most accommodation out of the reach of most claimants. Residents too have also been hit hard with rising utility bills and a huge rise in train fares. The lowest incomes households have suffered a significant decrease in household income since the Coalition came to power. For most families, changes in the personal allowance have wiped out by changes to tax credits.
In July growth dropped and economists predict borrowing could overshoot the planned £92bn for this fiscal year by more than £30bn if public finances keep deteriorating at the current rate.
It is clear the Coalition has no plan for growth or jobs yet George Osborne refuses to change course. Coalition policies have led to a decline in tax revenues, which, combined with a rising benefits bill, have actually led to a rise in the deficit.
The government need to end its policy of austerity and spending cuts or we face a lost decade.
The country urgently needs a strategy of economic investment. Infrastructure projects such as house building and the investment in the low-carbon economy will boast growth, reduce unemployment and under-employment. Training and jobs for our young people should be paid for by a tax on bankers bonuses. And government departments and banks should play their part in supporting small businesses by increased lending and more favourable procurement.
What we need now is a future that works.
Caroline Penn is a Member of Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party Executive, Chair of Brighton and Hove Coop Party and a member of the GMB. You can follow her on Twitter @thePennyDrops.