For economic growth to mean anything it has to mean an improvement in the living standards of ordinary men and women not just the few at the top, and that’s where the UK has run into problems.
In Crawley the situation is particularly bad. Thankfully unemployment hasn’t hit us as badly as in many places but work no longer pays in the way it used to; in fact Crawley has endured one of the UK’s largest falls in pay in a country which has seen a longer period of shrinking real wages than under any previous Prime Minister.
At the same time, Crawley has suffered from some of the fastest rises in prices with the opportunity to buy a house moving even further out of the reach of young people. When comparing the cost of living to average pay, Crawley is now the sixth most unaffordable place to live in the UK.
Yet, while increasing numbers of people find themselves stuck on zero-hours contracts those at the top seem to get away with paying zero tax. Tackling inequality isn’t just about helping those in the most dire straits, it’s about creating an economy that works for the many and not just a privileged few.
At the council we’re trying to address these issues with the tools available to us, focusing on building the housing we need, engaging with local employers on the Living Wage and working to address the skills gap we have to close if Crawley residents are to benefit from better job opportunities.
However, if local people are genuinely going to see an improvement in their quality of life the change we now need to see requires government action on a national level.
Labour has pledged that if it wins the next election it will work to create an economy that benefits all of us, freezing energy bills, creating extra apprenticeships, building significantly more housing, raising the minimum wage, ending exploitative zero-hours contracts and turning the NHS back in the right direction.
By building an economy that produces for ordinary people, economic growth really can mean something again.