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JEREMY CORBYN castigated the Tory government today for a litany of failings as official figures revealed that almost a third of British children live in poverty.
Launching his party’s campaign for the May local elections in Tory-controlled Trafford, the Labour leader went on the offensive against Conservative cuts and tax rises, arguing that privatisation and austerity are destroying the fabric of the country.
The latest government figures show that 4.1 million children now live in poverty, a number which equates to more than 30 per cent of Britain’s youngsters and represents an 100,000 increase on last year.
The statistics were branded “shocking” by shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood, while charities and anti-poverty campaigners said they were a sign that government policies have failed.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “If you work hard, you shouldn’t have to worry about making ends meet, but today’s figures show that, despite rising employment, millions of people in working households are trapped in poverty.
“Unless government reverses its planned cuts to universal credit, things will get much worse.”
Mr Corbyn accused the Tories of demanding that voters “pay more for less” by imposing a 6 per cent rise in council tax.
He pointed out that, since 2010, over 400 libraries, 600 youth centres and a fifth of all women’s refuges have been closed.
On top of that, 1.2 million elderly and disabled people are failing to receive the necessary care they are entitled to.
“Decent people who have contributed all their lives have been turned into an item on a spreadsheet, sliced and diced into 15-minute units of care because of Conservative cuts and privatisation dogma,” Mr Corbyn said.
“Labour in government would do things very differently. And Labour councils across the country are doing things very differently right now.”
Mr Corbyn noted the difference between Tory and Labour local authorities in Greater Manchester, where Salford’s Labour council pays staff the living wage and Tory-controlled Trafford council does not.
In London, the same is true for Conservative-controlled Westminster, which Mr Corbyn contrasted with the neighbouring Labour councils of Lambeth and Camden — both living wage employers.
Mr Corbyn excoriated the Tories for allowing homelessness and house prices to soar on their watch, while holding up Birmingham’s Labour council as an example of how his party does things differently.
The municipal trust set up by the latter authority to aid its construction of council houses showed a commitment to ensure that developers build more good-quality and affordable housing, the Labour leader argued.
He singled out the Conservatives’ disastrous record in local government in Northamptonshire, saying that a “slash-and-burn” model of cuts and job outsourcing had been implemented, only for the council to run out of money.
Mr Corbyn also attacked the hypocrisy of Chancellor Philip Hammond, whose proclamations about “light at the end of the tunnel” were contradicted by official predictions of a “weak growth” in earnings and “even weaker growth” in disposable incomes.
This “stark reality” is reflected by the empty shops on every high street in Britain, the Labour leader said, adding the problem would not be helped by the dramatic increase in business rates under the Tories.
As well as attacking austerity, which he called a “political choice” made by both the Tories and Lib Dems, Mr Corbyn urged the country to reject “failed privatisation and falling living standards.
Encouraging his audience of Labour supporters to fight for real change, he insisted: “It is Labour councils, with their spirit of public enterprise and practical municipal socialism, that are finding solutions even in the toughest of times.
“Labour will give dignity and support to those in need, rebuild our communities and transform our country for the many not the few.”
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