In a wide ranging discussion with the local listening group a number of concerns were raised about the economy, household finances, engagement with voters, the impact of Government policies and social issues.
The cost of living remains the number one priority facing local families with Asda’s Mumsdex report finding that nearly three quarters of mums want the Government to focus on solving the cost of living crisis, with eight out of ten stating it will impact the way they vote.
As I mentioned in this column last week, I am very concerned about the impact of this government’s changes to Individual Electoral Registration, which it is estimated will see almost thirteen thousand mostly poorer people in East Durham disenfranchised. It is vital for our democracy that people register to vote and do not lose their right to have a say on policies that effect their everyday lives.
The Tories and Lib Dems claim they have fixed the economy but things are still tough with the benefits of economic growth not being felt by people and families in East Durham.
The Coalition Government have presided over the slowest recovery for 100 years, on average wages have declined by £1600 a year, while energy bills have increased by almost £300 since the election. The number of households in fuel poverty has risen to over 6000 households in East Durham alone. There is a growing fuel poverty gap, the difference between income and what people can afford to pay, which is approaching £500.
The Government have amassed a remarkable list of disastrous policies which are hurting communities in the North East and worsening inequalities.
Even more worrying the NHS has been put on the road to privatisation with waiting lists rising, access to treatment restricted and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see a GP. Royal Mail has been privatised resulting in huge profits for the city while the taxpayer was short changed by £1.4 billion. There has been tax cuts for the richest in society, while VAT was increased hitting the poorest in society, who have also seen cuts to Tax Credits helping families with children and on low incomes. Community services have been decimated with disproportionate cuts imposed by central government on local government that has cut Durham County Council’s budget by over forty percent.
The sick and disabled have been penalised through the bedroom tax, as well as thousands being wrongly found fit to work by Atos through the discredited Work Capability Assessment.
The Government continue to work with corporate giants like Serco and G4S, awarding them contracts worth billions, despite repeated failings and defrauding the taxpayer of tens of millions through overcharging on tagging contracts for prisoners who were back in prison, overseas, or dead. G4S is the same company that botched the Olympic security, but are to be allowed to take over privatised probation services.
It seems so long ago but it was this government that tripled tuition fees and abolished Educational Maintenance Allowance, which led to mass demonstrations.
Three years ago we saw the total breakdown of law and order with riots on the streets of London, and other UK cities, and while chaos reigned the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London were forced to return from holiday.
This is far from an exhaustive list but highlights how in the last four years the public have been attacked, ignored and treat with distain by a Government who seem to represent a very small and privileged minority.
The next election will be vitally important in shaping the future of our country, and I would ask you to consider a simple question – Can you afford another five years of David Cameron?
No Vote, No Voice – make sure you have your say at the next election. The way you register to vote has changed. To register online please visit: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote