Social Mobility and Child Poverty: the impact of cuts in Waveney

When considering the effect of cuts to the Waveney area, two key points are often missed: firstly, the attack on local democracy at Waveney District Council by the unsustainable reduction in funding from central government; and secondly the on going effect of cuts on the social mobility of Waveney children and young people.

Whilst the Conservative government is busy beguiling leaders of  Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils with big picture concepts of ‘Devolution’ at District level Councils like Waveney will be forced in the near future, through lack of central government funding, to merge with other councils to survive financially.

As a consequence there is a real danger that local decisions made by your local council could be under threat.

Secondly, the life prospects of the poorest children in Waveney are among the worst in the country according to the report of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission – an all party group that published its findings earlier this month. Waveney is ranked at 318 out of 324 Local Authorities in England based on ‘how well the poorest children did at school,university and in the job and housing market’.

The Chair of the Commission, Alan Milburn, said: ‘If social mobility is to take off, much more will need to be done if there is to be a level playing field of opportunity in our country.  The gulf between the ambition of a One Nation Britain and today’s reality of a divided Britain is far too wide’.

It is important to note here that Suffolk County Council is among the lowest spenders on primary pupils’ education in England. This is in stark contrast to Hackney, which spends almost double per pupil and is at number 6 in the Social Mobility Index for poorer children.

This is one of the many reasons why the Suffolk Labour Group put forward a Budget Amendment at the SCC Full Council meeting last month, to challenge the ‘geography of disadvantage’ that cuts to so many services in Suffolk will make worse, despite positive initiatives such as ‘Lowestoft Rising’.

All the Opposition parties (Labour, Liberal Democrats. Greens, Independents and UKIP Councillors) supported it – one of the Green Councillors said it was the best Budget Amendment he had seen for thirty years – but sadly it wasn’t passed at 32-36 votes.

Within the Labour Amendment was a modest increase in spending to support the recruitment of teachers in Suffolk, as well as measures to ensure that access to rural bus services for both the young and the elderly are sustained.

Baroness Shephard (former Norfolk Conservative MP) and Vice Chair of the Commission highlighted “You can have job creation schemes, mentoring schemes and work experience schemes, but if young people can’t get to them because there isn’t a bus, they are going to miss out.”

This shows that Labour Councillors both at Suffolk County Council and  Waveney District Council level are holding both Conservative administrations to account and offering positive alternatives to the very harsh cutbacks being inflicted by the Conservative government in Westminster.

Sonia Barker

District & County Councillor for Pakefield

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