In a few days’ time, most of us will be enjoying Christmas. Lots of food and drink with family and friends will be the order of the day.
While I wish all my constituents a happy Christmas, I make no excuses for devoting this column to the desperate state of affairs that means so many families will be having a miserable Christmas.
I’ll use statistics from my own constituency to highlight how bad things are. Over a quarter of children in Hartlepool are living in poverty. This is a scandal and a damning indictment of the Government’s low wage, low economy, austerity-driven agenda.
Worse is that over 1,000 of these poverty-blighted kids have no access to free school meals, despite the obvious implications that has on their health and well-being.
Free school meals should be fully provided for by the Government and extended to all low-income families, including those hit by the implementation of Universal Credit.
To emphasis how bad poverty and deprivation has become, a report yesterday from the Public Accounts Committee says homelessness in England is a “national crisis” and describes the government’s attitude to tackling it as “unacceptably complacent”.
I’d go further and say they are incompetent, callous and uncaring.
The effects of the Government’s failed and discredited austerity agenda has resulted in a 134 per cent increase in rough sleepers since 2011. There have also been huge rises in families living in temporary accommodation, with tens of thousands of children without a permanent home this Christmas.
This sorry state of affairs in the sixth richest country on earth damns the Tory government and shames us and we should feel worse about it at this treasured time of the year.
After seven years in power it’s obvious the Conservatives don’t give a damn – at Christmas or any other time of the year.
We are all familiar with the phrase “it’s grim up North” and treat it as a bit of fun. But according to an article in The Times this week, it’s true.
According to a study by Dr Jason Renfrow from Cambridge University, Hartlepool was used as an example to draw conclusions that our industrial past is responsible for so many of us being downright miserable.
The ridiculous Dickensian like descriptions of the North used in the report shows a true disconnect between the academics and the people in this particular case.
To attribute current psychological problems of the people of the town to a genetic link to 19th century workers migrating out of poverty to the nearest industrial place and settling there with the only ambition being to survive is just plain stupid.
I’ve lived in Hartlepool for almost 20 years and simply don’t recognise that description.
I remember when I first moved here and being so pleased that people were friendly, open, honest and supportive.
I notice it even more these days and always look forward to the train journey back from London to the “grim North”.
Merry Christmas to you all.