#Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 24th March 2013

Politicians like to talk in extremes; it makes it easier to put a point across and tends to sound more convincing. Before the election George Osborne was keen to stress that if the UK lost its AAA credit rating it would be a ‘disaster’ for Britain — how things change — while Labour likes contrasting the Tory tax cut for millionaires with the increasing burden the Government is putting on the poorest in our society.

Yet one of the biggest issues facing Crawley today isn’t at the extremes, it’s in the middle: the squeeze on living standards faced by average families across the town. It has been estimated that over the course of this Parliament the average household will have seen their income drop by 6.6%. Inflation, the rising cost of housing and childcare and Government tax changes all take their toll.

Unfortunately this means more families are dependent upon the state for support just at the time that local services are being cut back. The Government can fudge the statistics all it wants; people can see the economic reality in their wallets.

Thanks to Gatwick, Manor Royal and the Town Centre, Crawley hasn’t seen unemployment rise as high as in some parts of the UK but it’s well known that where new jobs are being created they’re much more likely to be part-time, poorly paid and with poor working conditions. This is the reality that doesn’t show up in the unemployment figures, the declining quality of work in the UK. Far more has to be done to ensure that a hard day’s work means a decent day’s pay, it is one of the reasons Labour has locally been pushing for the introduction of a Living Wage.

Ultimately if we are going to reverse the decline in living standards we need growth, while the Government have been following a plan to reduce the deficit — although debt is still rising — they haven’t ever had a plan for growth and this year’s Budget has again failed to deliver. If the best the Government can offer is £10 back on every 1,000 pints people drink they really are in trouble.

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