#Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 24th July 2013

Did you know that statistics show that people who eat porridge are more likely to end up in a car accident? It’s true, but before you reach for the cornflakes it’s worth asking why that might be the case. Could it simply be that people most frequently eat porridge during cold weather when, coincidentally, ice on the road makes accidents far more likely to happen? Statistics show us a glimpse of what is going on, the rest is down to us to work out.

It’s something which regularly crosses my mind when I read the headlines, particularly when it comes to the economy. We all hope that unemployment will start to drop from its current high and when figures appear to show that happening we should take heart, but the picture is often far more mixed with long-term unemployment continuing to rise.

Various groups of people, particularly young people still living with their parents, aren’t even included in the statistics because they are in a position where they can choose not to sign on. While they don’t tend to count towards the government’s figures they are out of work and not contributing to the economy.

For those in work the situation is hardly much better. Many of the jobs which are created are either low-pay or part-time with pay increases small and far between, so even when people get a job their household income is much lower than it was in the past.

Meanwhile the cost of living continues to grow and grow, particularly housing costs. All this adds up and by 2015 it is estimated that the average household will be £7000 worse off than they were in 2010. We are seeing record levels of families in work who need help from the state just to meet the most basic costs of living. Government needs to step up.

Up and down the country Labour councils are finding ways to help households tackle the cost of living. From working to tackle rip-off rents and the cost of childcare to energy switching schemes and local Living Wage campaigns, Labour councils are offering practical help in difficult times. It’s time Crawley followed their example.

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