Sunday, 24 March 2013

Child Poverty claims a Myth?

For several weeks now, I have been finding it hard to believe the claims that child poverty is on the up, especially as I have a distinct view of what I think 'poverty' is.

I accept that there are 2 types of poverty - one that we see in third world countries and in times of troubles, such as what we are witnessing in places like Syria. This breaks my heart and brings tears to my eyes. I give to organisations that help children in such terrible places, on a regular basis. But what I am not willing to do, is get caught up in the hype that 'relative poverty' as spouted by the likes of Polly Toynbee, is the only way to measure it.

First let me take you back a few decades. My mother barely had soles on her shoes and had to walk 3 miles to school and back again, up a mountain in Italy. She witnessed the war and how a shiny pair of boots on a young girl probably meant she gave some 'favours' in return, to a resident German soldier. Yes, bad times, but then let's go forward to my childhood, where I lived on the 5th floor of a block of council flats and the same wonderful mother fed us, kept us warm and gave us a holiday to Italy every year by doing several jobs. We didn't have a car or many luxuries but I had the best childhood anyone could have, despite constantly being in fights when I stood up to the bullies in my school. My mother is a force to be reckoned with and I, thankfully, adopted her traits. She had her priorities right. First came rent, food and warmth and then came nice clothes. I made do with hand me downs.

In the end my parents wanted out of East End and away from some of the unsavoury characters, one of whom was violent against my mother for speaking out. This gave them the motivation to save hard for a house and get us out of there. We moved to Romford (and then 5 years later moved to Ipswich). Things changed after that. I went to grammar school in Romford and my parents started earning a decent wage.

My husband, was one of six children living in London. His mother became a single parent in the 60's, held down 3 jobs to feed and house them and would walk to all of these jobs because she didn't have enough for bus fares. They have all grown up to be successful, loving, happy people and recall their childhoods with laughter and some great stories. Money is not the root of happiness in their book. They, like me, have been happy or unhappy with or without money.

Go forward again and we get into more recent times, where children demand computers, Ipads, games. designer clothes, mobiles, Nike trainers (sorry if I'm out of touch, I don't do designer necessarily) and make their parents feel guilty if they cant keep up with the Jones'. Why on earth should the criteria for poverty be measured against this?! Please don't tell me that children are getting poorer than my generation when we were children! Just don't. I know what I saw when I was small and it looked nothing like the picture we have now.

I have always been grateful for what I DID have, not what I didn't have. Life is wonderful once you can do that. My happiness does not depend on other people or events because I measure things in a way that reframes negative and focuses on the positive. The Left are doing great damage to this country by constantly giving misinformation for political gains. Child poverty is one of them.

I have used an article by Paul Ashton, a former social researcher at Greenwich University, for some of the facts and figures that follows:

He states that the most widely used figure below which poverty is defined is 60 % of median average income, adjusted for the size of the household and does not include housing costs (classed as BHC-before housing costs).

He goes onto say that the term 'child poverty' is actually incorrect because what we are measuring here is 'family poverty'.  But not only that, the figure of 60% is arbitary and decided upon by the EC without any back up calculations - so it could easily have been 40% or 70% as there was no logic or any sort of relevant maths applied to this figure - how ridiculous is that?

Child poverty in some circumstances, is not a myth, but the figure of 27% of our children being in this category, based on this measurement, must surely be a myth. It has no credibility, if, as he says is just a figure plucked from the air.( I bow to his superiority on this, as he is the expert).

If we use these figures then child poverty is rife in even those households where the income is the national average. In 2010/11 a couple with 2 children could be earning £ 384 net income per week and the child would still be classed as 'poor'. This is truly mind blowing as it is the equivalent of £ 19968 net per week (BHC) or to put it as Paul Ashton did, A couple with 2 children with one partner earning £ 27000 a year with the other partner staying at home would be classified as living in poverty, once account is taken of taxes, benefits, and housing costs.

I challenge the EC's chosen level and I also challenge the view that children in this country can go without food because of the cuts, given the levels of our benefits, unless the parents have issues such as addiction problems, spending on non essentials, borrowing from loan sharks, bad budgeting or not claiming for benefits that they are entitled to. Perhaps they have a lot of credit debt, lost their job and don't know how to rebudget but I do not believe that it is because our welfare is not generous enough.

He states - welfare is now much higher in real terms than it ever was. Even those in work on £ 18k per year get around £ 145 per week in child benefit and tax credits. Wish I'd had that when I was a single parent. Wow!

Our focus needs to be on helping the vulnerable and ensuring that the money we give for children is spent on the children - until we stop arguing about this, we will not address the underlying issues.

To expect our government to have all the answers is naive and we are wasting energy on Tory v Labour v UKIP v LibDems, when it comes to our needy, by rubbishing the ability of our leaders.

Just as I think, as a country, we could all be blamed for the credit crisis (how many wanted something non-essential now and pay later? Weren't the banks responding to their customers wants?) A simplistic view perhaps but the point I am making is, I also think we will all be to blame for neglect of our children, if we do not knuckle down and find out what really needs to be done. Having things like food banks is a plaster. Of course eligible people will go to get free food, even if they don't need to, because that will be the nature of some. Then this just leaves the very needy to fight again amongst themselves.

Instead we should be eradicating the problems that parents have when they are unable to spend the money on whom it is intended - their children.

I will conclude with Paul Ashton's conclusion. I quote;

'Given the level of financial support the state provides for low income families, it seems we should perhaps be looking elsewhere for evidence of child poverty. The most likely candidates are poor housing, poor schooling and poor parenting'.

Note to clarify- this article is in Mensa magazine April 2013 and not available online as far as I can see. Paul Ashton is currently co-editor but was formerly an economics researcher at University of Liverpool and a social researcher at Greenwich Uni. He has written about poverty and income distribution for various publications.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Work Hard and Succeed

A Budget for People who aspire to work hard and get on ..... That's how Mr Osborne outlined his Budget this week. And I was pleased to hear that the theme was Aspiration.
Personally, I wanted to see something that would help business owners. There has been a lot of debate about welfare benefits, cuts, the EU and people who are on the poverty line. These are important issues but they are not the only ones. We need to be able to attract and build businesses to continue the upward trend of employment in the private sector and to give hope to thousands of youngsters. Under Labour the youth unemployment just kept going up and up, so this is not a recent problem. There is so much more to do, so much more to help young people. These 4 things are a good start.
1. Reduction in the Rate of Corporation Tax. Company taxation has been in the headlines a lot recently with anger directed at some large organisations that seem able to avoid paying tax in the UK. But now we have the Chancellor trying to attract international Companies by reducing the Tax Rate to 20% by 2015. The benefit of this is reliant on making money in the first place but is much needed.
2. A new employment allowance. From April 2014 - employers will receive an allowance that will cut the first £2000 from their National Insurance bills. In real terms this means that 450,000 - a third of all employers won't pay any NI at all. And this one move will benefit up to 1.25 million employers overall. This is an effective way for the government to support Entrepreneurs as they grow their business. 
3. Fuel Duty. Mr Osborne announced a Fuel Duty freeze, scrapping a petrol duty escalator that had been planned for the autumn. Fuel affects all of us whether it’s running a haulage firm, driving to work or just buying food in the shops. This is really good news.
4. Infrastructure. George Osborne also announced that an extra £3bn will be pumped into infrastructure projects such as road, rail and power station building from 2015–16 - He said investing in the "economic arteries" of the UK will get growth flowing to "every part of it".. 

I didn’t expect the budget to blow us all away but overall it felt quite positive and in line with an Aspiration Nation. Much  better  than One  Nation  Notion.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Latest from SIT on Windfarms and court actions

I have been collating the latest completed surveys from residents and in fact will be delivering further survey forms this week in the final areas of Stoke Park.

In the meantime Stop Ipswich Turbines latest e-mail is full of good news and gives me renewed hope that we are spending good time in fighting the Thorington proposal

Thanks to jenny, I quote here

I'm sure you saw or heard something of the news about the National Trust winning their case about wind turbines close to Lyveden New Bield. In case you didn't catch it all, here's a clip from the ITV news

Although it is not comparable to our situation, it is an implicit acknowledgement that there needs to be some restraint and consideration given to each local situation. The more important case for people like us is the Milton Keynes Council action, about setback distances and the right of a council to determine them. That still awaits a decision.

Here's a story that was carried in the EADT and the BBC about the transport issues at the construction phase. We have been told very little about this by PfR, except the route. I hope to have some more news on that soon. Mail Thursday 7th March - page 13. Incidentally this is a smaller turbine than those under consideration here.

Finally, to give us all a little encouragement, there are people in high places who share our point of view about appropriate siting of wind energy projects.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Politics and the Higher Purpose

I have been tweeting and e-mailing a new social media friend whose politics seem very removed from mine. Something connected us up, borne from a mutual respect that we were both able to debate, disagree in a calm, politeful way and the fact that we use our intuition to guide our decisions and actions..

I especially appreciated that she blocked someone who has continually harassed me, to the point of bullying, for many months now and it was reassuring that she agreed, without any prompting from me, that he was indeed behaving unacceptably. I had blocked him many months ago but he refuses to ignore me and her strong stance against a fellow Lefty was much appreciated.

But I digress. To cut a long story short, my new political friend and I have been e-mailing and have found many things we have in common but we also know we will never change our minds about our political choices in making things happen for the better. She is an intelligent, kind person who I trust totally with any information I may give her privately and I know that we will learn from each other.

In one of her blogs she has mistakenly suggested that I think all Left are full of envy about wealth. This is not true. I know many well off left leaning friends and aquaintances. The point I was actually trying to make is that the left are too obsessed with individuals having more than they could possibly want whereas I do not have any such problem. I believe in equality of opportunity but outcomes can never be equal and nor do I want them to be. I believe in freedom of the individual to be, have, do whatever they want, as long as it's legal and it's not for anyone else to say it's too much. These people take risks with their own money usually before they become wealthy. Richard Branson was made bankrupt a few times before he became so successful. Many do good with their wealth as the likes of Branson and Buffet have proved & they employ millions of people all over the world. I like and admire them!

It's not anyone's business why they might want more or whether they can ever need it. It will get shared out across the community in one way or another, whether it's spent, left in a will or ends up in government coffers.

My income has reduced drastically in the last year but the one thing that has kept me afloat, along with others is that I saved in the good days and did not use a credit card. if Labour had adopted this same mindset instead of racking up the debt, we might not need to be having this discussion. However I have also reduced my spending, which is a must. Labour have no answers or policies, admitting that they did have an open door policy that damaged this country. Blame them! Not the wealthy who create wealth by spending their money on services and products and employing people.

But the one thing I understand when I communicate with those that have a different idea to me about policies, is that we do all want the same things ultimately. It's more about what those higher purposes mean to each of us and how we define the value.Nothing is more important to me than family and communities and yet somehow my new Left friend has missed this completely. I didn't become a councillor to tell everyone they need to be selfish. I became a councillor because I value all the different communities in my life, from the football crowd I meet up with every fortnight, to the voluntary associations who do so much good work, to people in my street. With my Italian upbringing, top of my list is family and I will put them above everything and anything including work, wealth and my council work. And I make absolutely no apology for that.

I also think that individuals need to look after themselves first before they can look after their family or others. Sometimes we need to be selfish first in order to give our all, going forward.

As I am a visual person, I thought I would explain that in picture form.

We do not fight for 'things' we fight for values and emotions like happiness. Humans want the same things and ultimately it's to be happy and secure.

I have given just some examples of the shared aims most of us want but there are many others. Freedom, justice, security and peace are top of the tree.

I believe that we have to strive as individuals as well as groups. If we don't meet our family's needs then someone else has to. If we don't look after our own health and wellbeing, then how can we care for others?

Yes I do believe in aspiration and confidence of the individual because it's confidence that enables them to help others see their full potential. I do believe in the good of the whole and that will inevitably mean that some will be sacrificed along the way in order to achieve that.

It's impossible for everyone to have everything and so we know, for instance, that driving cars will bring deaths each year but we don't ban it, because of the good of the whole. Policies must always be thus. As labour and this country found out, when you try to do everything for everyone - you go bust!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Thorington Windfarm Survey 2

The following is the latest survey for residents in Stoke Park from Ben Gummer MP and myself.

After the last survey which showed a resounding 92% against the windfarm on Thorington, Ipswich, and the campaign by SIT (Stop Ipswich Turnbines), PfR responded by consulting with the public again showing new positions of the turbines.

Only one turbine will be on Ipswich land now and it is slightly further away from Stoke Park residents with the second turbine to be situated on Aldous land and now on the other side of the railway line about 400 mtrs further away from Ipswich.

What we do not want, is the survey results to become a moot point because of the new position so we feel that residents need to give their opinion once more.

Please do not think that because you responded last time, we do not need your input now - because we do. We need an up to date consultation response from the residents of Ipswich.

Feel free to print out the survey and respond. Do not worry about 6/3 deadline - we can hold off for a week or so until I have collated them all.