Dawn Primarolo challenges Bristol Mayor on Child Poverty

Bristol is booming, new high tech companies are desperate to move here and we are at the forefront of the digital age. Our global profile continues to rise, we are a hub for new ideas and Bristol has become a byword for cultural innovation.

That is one image of Bristol, one that you will often read about in the Post or even be part of if you are young, reasonably well off and live close to the city centre.

But just as the “Swinging Sixties” were only really about a handful of people in London, so the day to day reality for thousands of Bristolians is very different.

The truth is that we live in a fundamentally divided city. A recent report has found that in some parts of Bristol more than half of all children live in poverty, across the city the figure is 1 in 4. Every week hundreds of families in our city depend on food banks to survive. This is truly shocking in the 21st century and it is getting worse.

Like many readers I welcomed the very strong words in the Post Editorial last week calling on Mayor George Ferguson to take action. The Post is absolutely right that tackling child poverty is much more important than projects such as the arena or residents parking schemes. Along with many I enjoy the spectacle of Make Sunday Special, but I cannot be alone in wondering why this seems to have such a high priority. How many of the children in poverty are able to participate and enjoy these events?

Clearly the policies of the current Government are much to blame for child poverty getting worse. I know from my constituency casework that changes to social security such as the Bedroom Tax, plus cuts to both child tax credit and child benefit are having a huge impact.

But there are simple steps which can be taken here in Bristol, today, to help deal with this problem.

I have no idea why the Mayor continues to drag his feet over the introduction of the Living Wage. Private companies and councils up and down the country have found a way to do so, why can’t Bristol? The extraordinary pressure of housing costs demand a higher and higher share of household incomes, so where are the new homes promised by the Council’s Affordable Housing Framework? What was the Mayor thinking when he proposed cutting Children’s Centres in his budget, surely all our children need the very best start in life.

We need a drastic change in focus in Bristol if we are not to let down vulnerable individuals and families in our City.  We need an inclusive not divided City.

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