Last week, the UN released a report that slammed the government’s record of inflicting ‘great misery’ on its people with ‘punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous’ austerity policies.
It pointed out that after eight years of Tory rule, 41 million people, a fifth of the population, now live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials. These figures are appalling but don’t come as a surprise. I’ve seen first-hand the terrible impact of austerity on people and services in Sheffield.
I’m constantly hearing from people struggling to deal with an unjust social security system and the introduction of Universal Credit is set to make this situation even worse. Five separate food banks now serve Sheffield Heeley and volunteers have told me that demand is still rising. On Tuesday, I pointed out in Parliament that life expectancy for the poorest women in Sheffield has fallen by four years since the Tories came to power in 2010.
Amber Rudd, in her new role as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, responded to the UN report in a disgraceful manner. Rather than seriously addressing the important points raised by the UN, she focused on attacking the ‘political nature’ of the report’s language. But, of course, austerity is a political choice.
Only a Labour government will provide the investment that our economy and public services so desperately need. In the meant time, I’ll continue to speak out against the Tories’ ideologically-driven cuts and do all I can to defend those hit hardest by austerity.