Chairman, if anyone genuinely believes that Norfolk residents are struggling today, solely because of Covid and Vladimir Putin than they are either deluded, or not paying attention.
Residents in my division have been struggling for the past decade as the austerity measures from the Conservative Government have removed support and safety nets and made people’s lives more difficult. Cuts to services from this Conservative Council, as it has sought to balance its books in the face of cuts and rising cost pressures, have added to the misery.
In Thetford our youth service was closed, along with the Youth Centre, so too Connexions, our Adult education Centre on Tanner Street shut and Priorsmead care home gone. In Thetford schools, children wait for their educational health care plans and schools are unable to meet children’s additional needs. Preventative services like drug and alcohol support have been reduced, and do not get me started on mental health support.
So many preventative support services have been removed or reduced, it is little wonder that pressures have increased at the other end with the police stretched, hospitals full and ambulance wait times increased.
As one local aid charity said to me recently, those that have been struggling for some time are coping with these new challenges rather well, they’re very resilient, they are used to going without. But, these latest pressures are forcing a whole new load of people into making tough decisions, a whole new cohort worrying about how to survive.
The Wednesday sessions at Thetford Foodbank are normally the quieter day – seeing just 6-10 clients per session on average. Two weeks ago there were 19 through the door and last week it was 22. At a time when their donations have dried up and their own costs are increasing.
I’ve seen more people cry in the corridors of the community centre where I work than in the past 6 months than in the past 8 years.
And what is our new Prime Minister’s response to this? To lift the cap on bankers bonuses, to propose to remove the 45p tax rate and ponder not increasing benefits in line with inflation. Heaping yet more misery on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.
Six local authorities in Norfolk ranked in the bottom 65 nationally for poor levels of social mobility. My own district of Breckland ranked worst, at 300 out of the 324 authorities in England.