Gordon Brown uses North East visit to call for ‘war against poverty’ and end of the Universal Credit £20 cut
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According to Mr Brown, who served as Labour’s Chancellor from 1997 to 2007 before succeeding Tony Blair as Prime Minister, child poverty rates in the North East had risen “so fast” since 2015 and that around 40% of youngsters in the region now lived below the poverty line – “a really big figure that has got to be dealt with”.
And he branded the issue an “evil” which council leaders in the region must continue to push for more tools from the government to address.
He said: “We need an anti-poverty strategy, we need what America talked about in the 1960s – a war against poverty.
“I was looking at the figures before I came on and the estimate is that in the three regions of the north of Britain, a young child born today will have a life expectancy six years less than in the three more prosperous regions of the south.
“We cannot allow this discrepancy, this disparity in life chances to continue.”
The ex-PM, now a United Nations special envoy for global education, was speaking at a policy cabinet event hosted by Newcastle City Council.
He added he believes the British people have “changed their views” on the role of welfare and “want more fairness in our society”, but that the Government “still works on some of the assumptions of the poor house, the workhouse – that people are lazy, that they are indolent, that they are not to be trusted to work hard”.
He also warned rising food and energy bills, likely to be further exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are “going to savage many people’s standards of living”.
But there was also a note of optimism among the gloom, in the 71-year-old’s prediction climate change could become a “huge job creator” on Tyneside through the development of renewable energy.
He added: “[The North East] suffered so much from the loss of shipbuilding and heavy industries, but at the same time you could be leading the second energy revolution. You lead the first, you could lead the second.”