As I read Henry Smith MP’s tweet regarding Crawley’s low youth unemployment, I can’t help but wonder if anyone in Government actually understands the reality of working class life in the UK.
Every day I get calls and visits from residents concerned about the future and their prospects of getting a decent, well paid job. I hear from people like George, who was made redundant from his career in the aerospace industry. He ended up with a minimum wage job and zero hours contract, and was then laid off again as his employer shed a few hundred staff, leaving him long-term unemployed. He told me that at over 50 years of age, he is struggling to get interviews, despite his experience, willingness to work hard, pleasant manner and considerable enthusiasm.
I heard from a family in Langley Green, who can’t find a new home to rent because they rely on a small amount of housing benefit. Both parents have jobs and a family to feed, yet they find themselves perilously close to becoming homeless.
We can’t really blame the private landlords either. If you are struggling to pay your rent, the council won’t even consider your case until you are several months in arrears, merely transferring the problem to landlords who still have mortgages to pay. The only beneficiary seems to be the council, who avoid having to find and fund emergency accommodation or pay housing benefit.
I struggle to understand the logic of a government that borrows money in order to give it away in Foreign Aid whilst we have a record number of homeless people, food bank use and children in poverty. Many of you will be staggered to hear that we donate £23m a day in overseas development and have just passed a law to commit us to paying 0.7% of our GDP annually. We donated around £11bn in 2013, which is set to rise by £1bn by the end of the year because national income has risen. In Queens Square recently, I noticed several people braving the freezing temperatures and sleeping rough in shop doorways. I stopped to chat with one lad who looked to be in his late twenties and spoke with the kind of public school accent that you would associate with someone from a privileged background. I asked him how he ended up on the streets, and he said that he had recently split with his girlfriend and had no savings or family support to fall back on. He warned that although some homeless people had themselves to blame, his predicament could happen to anyone. In fact, the charity organisation Shelter recently stated that a staggering 8 million people in the UK are one pay cheque away from homelessness.
Perhaps its fear of losing their homes that is driving so many local people into taking zero hours contracts and minimum wage jobs. The unemployment figures for Crawley may be low, but in many cases, so are the wages. I wonder why we pay £55m a day in membership fees to the EU if we cant get large companies to pay tax in the UK and employ our workers on a fair contract with a decent wage?
Charity starts at home and I think it’s high time we started looking at how we could use some of that foreign aid budget to help our councils fund their vital local services.
Chris Brown, UKIP Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Crawley