Figures released yesterday by the National Debtline show shocking levels of people using the helpline each year due to unmanageable debt. In Feltham and Heston, where I am standing for re-election, 800 people have called the helpline in the last year. And National Debtline estimate that only one sixth of the people who need advice seek it.
We know that the use of payday loans skyrocketed under the Tory-led government. Figures released in 2014 by the debt charity Stepchange showed at increase of 82 per cent in a single year, as government policies pinched across society. Equally in the period between 2010 and 2014 the number of people who were seeking help from Stepchange because they could not afford to pay their council tax went up 372 per cent.
And it is not difficult to see why. The Conservative policies of the last five years are a grim litany for working people and families struggling to make ends meet. The cost of living crisis with average families £1600 worse off, the bedroom tax, cuts in child benefit, an increase in tuition fees to £9,000, the explosion of exploitative zero hours contracts, youth unemployment at 587,000, and the encouragement of punitive sanctions for those on jobseeker’s allowance. The lack of housing has led to a property boom in London where first-time buyers are taking out large mortgages that put them immediately under enormous financial pressure.
The Tory-led government has made life harder for hard working families with children too paying a heavy price. And, of course, not all not all areas are impacted equally. Feltham and Heston is in the top 20 per cent nationally for calls to the Debtline.
This is because the Conservative party is the party of the few, for the few. Labour has a better plan: an end to exploitative zero-hour contracts, a raise in the minimum wage to £8 an hour, guaranteed apprenticeships for young people, and an end to the bedroom tax. And that is why voting Labour and supporting our measures to help families avoid falling into debt will make a huge impact on the welfare of families and communities across Britain. Politics does matter – the story of rising families in debt is just one reason why.
Seema Malhotra is parliamentary candidate for Feltham and Heston
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