29 November 2018
By Simon Cross
(MP for Rochford & Southend East, James Duddridge and the Southend Storehouse Foodbank)
In the same month as the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty published the results of his 12-day tour of the UK, condemning the Government for its failures...
Southend Council published its Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy detailing how child poverty in the borough has increased from 19% to 29% and how more than 30% of new families are unable to afford the cheapest private-rent, now often spending a third of their monthly income on rent alone.
MP for Rochford & Southend East, James Duddridge weighed into the conversation commenting in today's Echo (29.11.18) about how he felt that the very-real struggle felt by families across Southend was 'relative,' adding that the report was "offensive and misleading."
"I have seen poverty around the world. A billion people living in the third world living on less than a pound a day. Whole communities that have no jobs and no access to water. I have held babies that are half the size they should be that are prescribed emergency medicine to try to stabilise them. I have seen people on camps little more than a bag of bones."
“By definition, any measure that is relative will include people that are not within the measure – that is the nature of relative measures. We should be more careful how we use these words.”
It has become very clear that local MP James Duddridge is completely out of touch with the community he so often fails to represent; blindly supporting every cut and poverty-inducing measure introduced by his Conservative government.
His failure to recognise real poverty in Southend is simply down to his lack of understanding of the town's issues, and what drives them.
Southend has an average weekly income of £413 per week, £126 below the national average of £539 per week.
For comparison, Doncaster (with a comparable population) earns £473 per week.
The average monthly rent in Southend is £895, compared to just £517 in Doncaster.
In Southend, the average house price is £303,493, compared to just £158,887 in Doncaster.
While we're all considering moving to Doncaster, remember that Doncaster also falls in the bottom 15 of the lowest paid towns in the UK alongside Southend. Doncaster is by no means doing well, yet it's staggering to see how far behind we truly are.
The issue is not just nationwide, it's very, very specific.
Call it what you will Mr Duddridge; Southend is being left behind.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the UK's Poverty charity, defines UK-relative poverty as:
"When a person’s resources (mainly their material resources) are not sufficient to meet their minimum needs (including social participation)."
Based on the above information combined with;
I think we can say with some confidence that there are very high levels of poverty in our town, despite what our glorious MP says.
Nobody would argue that poverty is not relative.
To simply dismiss the real crisis many families in our towns and cities face -families having to choose between eating and heating and children suffering malnutrition - purely because you take issue with what to call it, then I'm afraid we've got an issue.
If you don't think poverty exists in Southend, then I'd kindly suggest you walk through the streets of Southend and speak to the poorest families that I speak to every week.
These statistics are not an invention.
The issues we in our town and across the UK see owe their existence in large part to the ongoing policies of the current Conservative Government;
It is pretty clear that Mr Duddridge, who has unerringly and consistently voted in favour of every single measure which has resulted in this situation, is fully aware of the way in which the poorest have been forced to pick up the bill for government profligacy.
His pompous indignation should be the final straw for the people of Southend whom he has never lifted a finger in support of.
It is not incumbent on elected public servants to use lies and misrepresentation to push personal ideologies. When presented with FACTS as stark as these I would fully expect a representative to either roll their sleeves up and work for the people to help bring about a solution, or to admit their faults and stand aside.