Food for thought

The Government would have us believe that everyone is paying a price, we’re all in it together for austerity and that those with the broadest shoulders will contribute the most.

They will also say that the job losses and the welfare cuts won’t be as bad as people like me claim and that the private sector will take up the slack and create the wealth and jobs needed to mitigate the impact of the ill thought out and politically motivated cuts on cities like Liverpool.

We would therefore, if Government’s predictions were true, expect to see more queues at our shops or restaurants because of this.

The reality is that the only queues forming are those of our food banks and those at the Magistrates Courts as people across the country battle every day to just survive.

Here in Liverpool there are three food banks feeding over 10,000 people between them. Alarming as that figure sounds, for me the bigger issue is that each number represents a real story – and that the numbers are increasing literally every week.

Tragic stories of children going hungry and people suffering from anxiety and depression even contemplating suicide as one Liverpool resident did just recently. This is not an exaggeration. This is happening in Liverpool – right now. People are now asking not just for food but assistance to help pay for gas and or electricity keys to pay for the fuel to cook it. This is not the 21st century Britain I expected to be part of.

Someone you walk past in the street today will be struggling to keep a roof over their head and food in their cupboards. Some children are going to school on empty stomachs, and some are not going to school at all because parents can’t afford to send them.

As a result of government cuts we are cutting a further £140 million from our budgets over the next three years, following on from £172 million we have just cut over the last three years.

We are spending less and employing less. As a result of this our local economy is £219 million lighter.

The effect of the welfare reforms, already put in place, takes a further £227 million out of our economy. People, who already face a daily struggle, will have less to spend in local shops and businesses.

The net effect of these twin blows is the equivalent to wiping out 5% of Liverpool’s total economic output (£9.1bn in 2011) or 72% of our manufacturing sector (£620m GVA) or cutting 52% of the value of our financial and insurance sector (worth £869m of GVA in 2010). That’s a loss of £1,032 per head in Liverpool while Authorities in the South remain relatively unscathed by comparison. This is the equivalent to 7,000 jobs lost or to put it another way two Jaguar Land Rover plants closing in our City – one after the other.

But this won’t make the national news. Local people won’t complain they will just hurt and, I am not expecting a government minister to promise with any conviction or credibility that something will be done any time soon.