Local Elections: Restoring ambition and inspiration

Only last month, our current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said during a BBC interview that the burden on hard-pressed households is “starting to ease”writes ​Katy Cole, Labour councillor for Dogsthorpe.
Labour's cllr Katy ColeLabour's cllr Katy Cole
Labour's cllr Katy Cole

In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth!

I am a proud Peterborian. I was born here, educated here, live, work and raise my family here, in the city that I love.

I, like other parents and carers across this city, want the absolute best for my children but for so many families at the moment, the ability to provide their children with even a basic quality of life is beyond their means.

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The Conservatives love grabbing headlines when it suits but we have seen some in recent days that they have not been so eager to grab. Reports such as, according to Department for Work and Pension, a quarter of children are now in absolute poverty. Or, according to The Institute for Fiscal Studies, rates of food insecurity have increased to 11%, meaning that 5.2 million more people nationally are struggling to put food on the table since the last election.

As a teacher of over 20 years, I have had the privilege of sparking the flame of enquiry, wonder and imagination in our city’s young people.

I tell my students that, when they grow up, they can be anything they want to be; a doctor, a dentist (goodness knows we need them), a lorry driver or a footballer. What has stopped me in my tracks recently when discussing future careers with a child is when one remarked “What’s the point in dreaming? It won’t happen”.

Writing this, even now, fills me with deep sadness at the injustice endemic within our society. After the last 14 years of Conservative Government and 23 years of a Conservative administration in Peterborough, why is it that so many families are no longer ‘just about managing’ but are now ‘just about surviving’?

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Why is it that children don’t believe in their future? And why is it that the use of services like food banks is at an all-time high?

Cuts to essential youth services like the closure of Sure Start and youth centres, and the reduction in funding for local safeguarding teams and other early intervention services have meant that the opportunities to help families in need at an early stage are being missed. I am seeing more children turning up to school hungry, in dirty clothing and with behavioural issues as a result.

The Conservatives’ decade of austerity has left one in four children living in absolute poverty.

I am relieved that families with children eligible for free school meals in Peterborough will be getting supermarket vouchers during the Easter holidays. But I am also reminded of how the footballer, Marcus Rashford struggled to get this provision from the intransigent Conservative government just four years ago.

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I am proud that Barnardo’s have opened one of the first Family Hubs in Peterborough, close to Welland Academy in my Dogsthorpe ward. They offer support and play sessions and a safe space for parents to chat and receive help and advice.

It’s a great resource but it should not be the responsibility of charities to pick up the pieces from this government’s failings.

A Labour government will listen to the people. A Labour government will focus on helping people to make a real difference for struggling families across our city.

A Labour government dedicated to seeing economic growth which helps all of society, rather than just making the rich richer. Above all, a Labour government will restore ambition and aspiration to people from all backgrounds, enabling young people in our city to feel that there is a real point in dreaming – at long last.”