Yvette Cooper: Poverty figures are grim for old and young

editorial image

For pensioners and children in Yorkshire, the latest poverty figures are grim.

Across the country 14 million people are now stuck living in poverty - including an increase of 400,000 children and 300,000 pensioners in the last few years as a result of the Tory government’s policies. A major report this week said that this is the worst statistic for children and pensioners in decades.

Locally we’ve seen more and more families depending on food banks. Thank goodness for the generosity of local people, donating food or volunteering to help. But it is truly shocking that in 21st Century Britain so many families are being forced to turn to charity to put a hot meal on the table. Cuts to universal credit and tax credit are hitting families hard, but the poorest pensioners are being hit too.

The recent Budget did nothing to help. Indeed it was a damning verdict on seven years of Tory austerity as it showed that the pay squeeze is going to continue for years to come.

The Chancellor has admitted that economic growth, productivity and business investment have all been downgraded because the economy is so weak.

It doesn’t have to be like this. The government should be setting out a real plan for growth and investment in every region not just in the south.

We need proper infrastructure and investment in jobs in our towns not just in our biggest cities.

Manufacturing needs support - including making sure that the Brexit deal supports our exporters and doesn’t undermine trade. It’s also time to give workers a pay rise, instead of cuts to corporation tax for the biggest companies or inheritance tax cuts for the richest families.

Britain is becoming more divided and more unequal. That’s not fair on anyone - especially for children growing up.

Ten years ago in Parliament, I brought in a new law to force governments to take action to stop child poverty. But a few years later the Tories abolished it. I think it’s time to bring it back so we make sure all our children get the very best start in life.

On a different note, there’s been some good news for a local pub - for a change.

Too many of our much loved local community pubs have closed or gone into decline. But thanks to everyone’s strong local campaigning, the thriving Railway Inn pub in Pontefract has been saved from demolition. The developers have accepted our arguments that this pub by Monkhill station should stay open and the landlady, Maggie, who has worked so hard, has finally been offered a five year lease.

The developers claimed the pub was failing but anyone who had ever popped in would know how ridiculous that was when the truth is it is a busy pub at the heart of the community.

Now we are going to keep up the campaign to make it a community asset so it has stronger protection in future too. Pubs are really important for our communities - it’s time we stood up for them.