Three ways to help people facing hardship
As we approach the by-election in Clifton with Maidenway, the Labour Candidate Andy Symons has set out three policies that would have an immediate impact on low-income families in Torbay.
Andy said, “In my role as an advice worker, I see the impact of poverty and low pay every day. All the statistics tell us that debt and money worries are the biggest cause of family break-up. It has a domino effect on life chances from housing through to children’s education and health.
Dealing with poverty issues will always be my number one priority because in one way or another it affects all our lives.
If elected on 6th May, I will call for three immediate policy changes which will help those in greatest need and all can be done within existing budgets.
- We should introduce a 100% reduction on the Council Tax for those on the lowest incomes. Currently, they have to pay 30% of their Council Tax. Other local authorities have demonstrated that this can be done, so why not here? You will not be surprised to learn that those on the lowest incomes are also those who default on Council Tax payments. If you calculate the cost of recovering these debts and the costs to other services that support those in greatest need, you quickly realise that this policy is a no-brainer. It makes economic sense.
- Over the past decade, Torbay Council has reduced funding to a range of voluntary organisations which help people in debt. Many of whom will also have Council Tax arrears. We need to increase financial support to these organisations. We should also follow the lead of some other Devon Councils and write-off previous debts where the ratepayer can demonstrate that they are now sticking to a payment plan.
- Every day I see people who are struggling financially but many are not claiming all the help they are entitled to. Despite what we read in the media many people, particularly the elderly, still feel stigmatised by money issues and do not claim the benefits they are entitled to. Many others simply do not know about the support available. I will call on the Council to run a massive benefits take-up campaign aimed at families and the elderly.
Torbay has the highest deprivation levels in the South West, with 7,000 children living in poverty, so if this is not a priority there is something very wrong. These three policies, combined with using current savings from the Children’s Services budget to support families in need, would go a long way to helping some of the most vulnerable in our local community. These are practical, common-sense solutions that should be implemented immediately.
We have considerable admiration and praise for the work of volunteers in Torbay who are helping those in greatest need. Most will agree that it simply does not make sense to take legal action against people for Council Tax arrears and then direct them to food banks so that they can feed their families.
We know these changes can be delivered, because it is being done elsewhere. When you combine the cost of support services, these policies make considerable economic sense.
Andy lives in Paignton and is the current Chair of the Torbay Labour Party. He works for a national charity that provides advice and support on issues such as debt, housing, benefits and employment rights.
Andy has also volunteered and helped local charities and community interest groups that deal with poverty and homelessness in the Bay.
At the launch of his campaign, Andy said, “The voters of Clifton with Maidenway have an opportunity to send a clear message to the Libdem/Independent coalition that currently governs Torbay, as well as the Tory opposition. For too long both groups have failed to make a positive difference to the residents in the Bay, cutting services while raising council tax, failing to invest in the long term future of Torbay.
If I’m elected in May I will provide a strong voice for the people of Clifton with Maidenway and provide constant scrutiny and challenge to the policies of the current administration, as well as providing a positive and radical alternative, with policies aimed at improving the lives of both my constituents and people across the Bay.“
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