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SHARON HODGSON: Tory neglect continues to widen the North-South divide

As the Government places Northern regions under experimental lockdown measures, without the financial backing to help them through, the North-South divide has never been so apparent.

By Sharon Hodgson
Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 12:18 pm

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street.

But as people in our region know all too well, Tory neglect of the North predates Covid-19.

Local Authority budgets in our region have been savaged since 2010, exacerbating long-term regional inequalities between the North and South.

Shocking statistics from the End Child Poverty Coalition show that some of the largest increases in child poverty have come from Northern towns and cities, with the North East seeing the largest jump of any region in England.

In my constituency, 35% of children are growing up in poverty, an almost 9% increase since 2014/15.

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This is before we even take into consideration the consequences of Covid-19, which has left the North East facing economic turmoil not seen since the days of Thatcher.

Families face significant economic uncertainty, and need reassurance that support will be there to help them care for their children and stop them from slipping into poverty.

However, the Government is threatening to slash the safety net even further, by scrapping the £20 uplift to Universal Credit in April, which will only make it harder to make ends meet and plunge our children into further hardship.

Tackling poverty and addressing its root causes needs to be at the heart of any Covid recovery plan, to ensure this pandemic does not commit a future generation to a life of deprivation.

The Government must urgently reform the social security net, and retain the £20 uplift in Universal Credit (UC) and apply this to other legacy benefits.

In the face of already unacceptable levels of child poverty, our country’s children are now at severe risk of being swept even deeper into deprivation. Reforming UC and maintaining the £20 uplift would put much-needed cash into the pockets of Britain’s poorest families, helping them through this crisis, and would put us back on path to a fairer, more just society in the aftermath of this pandemic.