Sam Davies

False Economy

I was planning to write this week about growth, productivity, place and people. It would have been long and detailed. But some conversations with visitors to the Queen Edith’s Food Hub yesterday have helped me simplify my message.

Place

Government rhetoric around UK competitiveness and the need to attract inward investment is intensifying. Cambridge and the ‘tech corridors’ which radiate out from it (OxCam Arc, the UK Innovation Corridor, the Cambridge-Norwich Tech Corridor, etc) will inevitably be cited as the kind of high-wage, highly-skilled, highly-productive economy which is sought. But let’s match that vision with the reality of this week’s local headlines:

For as long as our local government is chronically underfunded and only able to retain a tiny fraction of the huge wealth generated by economic growth here, social and environmental failures will intensify. How does that make this place more attractive – to anyone?

People

On top of the cost of living crisis, we’re now being briefed – by the new Secretary of State for ‘Levelling Up’ no less –  to expect a further round of significant cuts to public spending next month, including benefits cuts for those who don’t seek “more and better paid” work. But it doesn’t take many conversations with our weekly food hub visitors to see the obstacles which get in the way of them doing that. They have health conditions and are waiting for treatment; they are caring for elderly relatives with dementia; they have a child with additional needs who requires a one-to-one teaching assistant if they are to be able to attend school, but the statementing process has already taken 18 months.

Are we going to see any positive measures to help those people be more ‘productive’? Or will they just be sanctioned harder?

Because we already have front-line services – primary school family workers and mental health practitioners – directing their clients to a community-funded volunteer-run food hub so those clients can get some food in their cupboards.

In Cambridge. One of the UK’s economic success stories. In 2022.

We need some of that wealth to start trickling down the way we’re told it will. And fast.

Addendum: re the proposed Stagecoach bus cuts, you might be interested in this demonstration from South East Cambs MP and newly appointed Transport Minister Lucy Frazer that the relationship between national and local government is now through the looking glass.

Sam Davies

1 comment

  • Yes, all this, with additional plans to penalise every resident who dares own a car.