I know everything there is to know about poverty in this country don’t you? We are lucky it bypasses Walton and Hersham aren’t we? Well, actually no it doesn’t. I thought I knew everything, after all the media keeps telling me it’s all to do with inner city problems. Then I started researching and was shocked by what I learned – I expect you will be too.
The Posh Duo and their hangers on keep banging on about how they are the party to look after the hard working people of this country. Reinforced by the Tory supporting aggressive media they propagate this lie as fact. Our borough is a good example when looking for a few home truths.
True Elmbridge is one of the wealthiest areas in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet. True there are plenty of residents of the borough who would appear in the top 20% of earners in the country. True it has some of the most expensive properties in the country. True that 8.7% of under sixteen year olds in Elmbridge live in poverty. True that the level of poverty in Walton North ward is over 21%; don’t take my word for it, as if you would dear reader, check it out. (Eagle Radio 24th November 2015 http://www.964eagle.co.uk/news/local-news/1802010/report-reveals-gap-between-rich-and-poor-in-elmbridge/).
House prices in the borough are 14 times the average earnings in Elmbridge compared to the national rate of 6.7% times. No wonder our young people can’t get on the housing ladder in the borough. What does this ‘one nation’ (their description) government do? To square its books, rather than chasing global corporations for the tax they owe, it cuts Elmbridge’s subsidy from £1.77m last year to £670,000, a reduction of 62% and will cut it to zero by 2018. And yet the wretched Tory council of Elmbridge spent all of the shortfall and more, well actually £866,000 of taxpayers’ money, on the absurd and unwanted cycle lane which disrupts Walton’s centre. The Tory Government also cut the subsidy to Surrey County Council by £50m and the Tory leader of Surrey County Council forecasts an increase of Council Tax of 3.9% or a vast reduction in services; the current rate of inflation is 0.2%.
Councillor Tim Oliver, who will soon be Tory leader of Elmbridge Borough Council claimed ‘It’s a massive surprise; we weren’t expecting that at all… (doesn’t he speak to anyone in his party’s hierarchy?)… it’s going to have a significant impact’ (Surrey Comet 15th January 2016). You bet it will but not on him – or Osborne – or Cameron. These posh Tories won’t have the humiliation of queuing for a voucher from the Citizens Advice Bureau to use in one of the four Food Banks in Elmbridge – oh yes, I forgot to mention them, two of which are in Walton, one, appropriately, is in the Walton North ward (see above). I don’t think there’s any in Councillor Oliver’s home patch of Claremont.
According to information I have received from the Public Affairs Officer of Trussell Trust which runs food banks all over the UK, including the two in Walton, over 100 people a month in Walton on Thames need the food bank to survive. Every fifth person in Walton North lives in poverty. It’s not easy being honest about this because we don’t want to believe that poverty is our neighbourhood companion. But the facts are that the cruel austerity programmes this callous Tory government has imposed is causing grief within our once proud, comfortable locality.
Why is this happening in one of the wealthiest areas in the world? Is it because this Tory Government is so blinded by its own ideology and so intent on imposing it on the rest of us, whether we support it or not, that it cannot see, or just ignores, the misery which its callous policies of austerity are creating? In a word – Yes.
The local Tories have been surprisingly quiet on this direct effect of their austerity policies (austerity for whom?) whilst Cameron scuttles around Europe desperately trying to pacify his own backbenchers and blinkered Osborne waddles around China offering them any part of the UK they want to buy at a knockdown price. Making sure Google, Starbuck and Amazon shareholders are not burdened with paying their fair share of tax is seemingly more important than some single mum queuing up at a food bank.
It’s an uncomfortable truth that we live in a ridiculously unequal society; uncomfortable for those of us who have a conscience. We have options of course; we could be grateful it isn’t us living in poverty and waiting for the food bank to open and simply cross the road or we could listen to that conscience and work to rid the country of this immoral Tory government and their devastating ideological-driven austerity policies.
If you are one of the 21% living in poverty in Walton North, having to listen to lectures on austerity from the Posh Duo must be a bit rich.