How to be cruel in one effective blow – fining the poor for being poor is Shropshire Council’s latest proposal (updated)

That’s what Shropshire Council is planning to do. Unable to balance its budget, and that is the fault of the government as well as this Conservative led council, it plans to tax some of the poorest people in our county. Yesterday, 14 December, the council voted in favour of making some of the poorest and most vulnerable in Shropshire pay 20% of their council tax bill. One member argued: “It is only fair that everyone shares the burden.” I disagreed saying: “It is not fair that the poor share the burden.”

Surely our job as a council is to protect vulnerable people, not tax them?

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It’s shocking and wrong that so many people rely on food banks – but you can help

It’s an ugly truth of our sometimes ugly age. Acccording to the Trussell Trust, the number of people making use of its 400 food banks has topped one million (but see this cricisim of the 1 million figure, its perhaps only half a million people a year).

I can’t find any data on the total number of food banks in the UK. A lot are run by voluntary organisations, including here in Ludlow. So the number of people in desperate need of food is well over half a million. And yet, the IMF says we are the fifth largest economy in the world.

Five years ago, none of us would have expected the need for food banks to have grown so quickly.

children_helped_by_ludlow_food_bank_2014

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New report on Ludlow in a time of cuts says: “The situation is getting critical”

In a packed Methodist Church on Thursday night, Churches Together Around Ludlow launched their latest report on troubles facing Ludlow. The report gives great credit to the community volunteers who are working hard to mitigate the impact of cuts, but offered no support for Shropshire Council’s approach in hard times.

Ludlow_under_pressure Continue reading “New report on Ludlow in a time of cuts says: “The situation is getting critical””

“Surely there are no poor people in Ludlow?” Oh, yes there are!

It was a private meeting so I can’t name the Tory councillor that asked: “Surely there are no poor people in Ludlow?” I suspect that she had never been beyond Mill Street [1]. Those of us that know this town intimately recognise that affluent people live cheek by jowl with people who struggle to make ends meet. That’s part of the character of the town. It’s a place where we have the wealth to keep our historic buildings in good order but also need to run a food bank. The seventh most deprived area in Shropshire is here in Ludlow, but other areas are rated as among the least deprived anywhere in England.

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How old is the Ludlow population?

Recently a local councillor told a meeting that more than half of the residents in Ludlow are aged 65 or over. A short while later, a resident said that two-thirds of people here are over 65.

Neither of these statements is anywhere near the truth. The true statistic from the 2011 census is that 27% of residents were 65 or over. That’s not much above a quarter of residents.

Now a question. Which area in Shropshire has the oldest population?

It proves to be my division of Ludlow North by a long way. In the graph below, the higher the bar, the higher the proportion of people 65 years of age or older. That’s us on the right, the most elderly electoral division in Shropshire. (Click the graph to get a bigger image, which is from LGA Inform).

Shropshire_%_over_65_by_division_bar_chartMore than a third of people in the Ludlow North area are 65 or over (33.5%). That’s much more than Ludlow as a whole (27%), Shropshire (21%) and England (16%). But, again, it’s nowhere near half the population.

This data is important when it comes to health policy and a whole range of decisions. It also explains why we have such an active volunteer community – the dedicated people who staff charity shops and the Assembly Rooms, who help people in difficulty, who record the town’s heritage and who do so much to help the town in their ‘retirement’.

I’ll come back to the question of whether there are poor people in Ludlow. You already know the answer to that, but I’ll dig out some numbers that show that we have some of wealthiest areas in England here in the town standing cheek by jowl with some of the poorest. I’ll also look at the youth profile of the town, crime data and much more.

If we get the data right, we might just get the policies right.