. Local communities bear the brunt of the Con-Dem agenda | London Progressive Journal
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Local communities bear the brunt of the Con-Dem agenda

Fri 28th Oct 2011

The joy of being a parent shall always have it's trials and tribulations. Regardless of whether one is a single parent, or part of a parenting team, challenges are guaranteed. Should I be so lucky as to win the lottery this Saturday I doubt life would suddenly become so unbearably simple that I would be longing for the good old days of juggling rising food and fuel bills with trying to enrich my child’s life as much as possible.

Arguably, it is possible to entertain and educate a child to some extent without a large disposable income. However, when your disposable income is non existent, we find ourselves struggling for inspiration. Life was not perfect for the single parent under the Labour government. Knowing that at times I would be better of financially by not working, which would also give me more time with my child, left me disillusioned and bitter in my darker moments. I comforted myself by knowing I was setting an example and teaching my child that working for one’s pleasures is a pleasure in itself. Recently this has not been the case. Not all blame can be laid at Cameron's door, however a chunk of shame is certainly his due.

Local sports clubs in the area have found no option but to increase membership fees as a result of rental increases for local authority buildings. This will have a long lasting effect on children unless things are remedied quickly. In my local sports club, the hike was £75 per hour per court (about a quarter of the sports hall). Local sports clubs are amazing resources, providing exercise and social contact for both parent and child. Children who are part of clubs and teams are less likely to resort to petty crime such as vandalism and shoplifting, less likely to try drink and drugs at a young age, and are better equipped members of society. When one struggles to afford the twice weekly club, these increases leave many parents with no option but to withdraw their children.

The ConDem's latest advise to those struggling with financial hardship was to recommend we all shop around for a new energy provider: Good advice and the ‘U Switch’ website is not a resource to be sniffed at. Despite the refusal of energy companies to make their tariffs easy to understand and compare, U Switch can help make savings. However, anyone in debt on their energy bills is restricted in moving providers as one cannot leave until their debt is paid. The energy companies solution usually comes in the form of a prepayment meter. Prepayment meters can cost on average an additional £195/year for gas and electricity. So if you can't afford to pay your bill, please accept this higher bill and a more inconvenient way to pay.

I won’t be bringing Christmas into this article. Christmas is a luxury and we'll be managing as best we can. My concern for single parents living under a ConDem government is not for the luxuries that cannot be afforded, but for the simple life enhancing experiences that children in poverty cannot, yet should, experience: clubs and hobbies, music lessons, day trips to museums. Children in poverty often attend schools that on average perform lower than the national average (house prices being a reflection of the local school’s performance). These extra curricular activities provided by parents enrich our children as people and prepare them for life as part of a society.

Single parents are not the be all and end all. Many other sections of society are finding life a financial struggle, job losses are rife and few are hiring. Cameron’s solution of getting everyone into work isn’t valid. There isn’t enough work for everyone. The odd story from the Daily Mail about the one job that had no applicants does not a policy make. Fairness would dictate that big companies would be made to pay their share of tax to support local services and those who are unable to find work are not forced to live in poverty and fall into unmanageable debt.

I do not accept that cuts must be made to local authorities and fuel taxes raised to fill the coffers when 98 companies from the FTSE 100 do not pay tax here in the UK. Tax evasion eclipses benefit fraud to an obscene amount. Tax on the rich is high, but if we all paid our fair share the amount could be lowered. We are not all in this together, Cameron. Not at all.

I quote Cameron in a pre election article from The Telegraph 2008 "The difficult economic climate makes it all the more important that we don't neglect those who deserve help but have no voice." There is also a nod to those who are working but in poverty, the solution being "plans to eliminate the couple penalty in the tax credits system will be a big step in the right direction because they will lift 300,000 children out of poverty."

Here the crux of Cameron’s personal views on the poor come out: single parents need to get off their bottoms and work, lovely working couples will get more help. What about the single working parent who does not get a single mention in the whole article. Are we a mythical creature invented by Labour, or are we the awkward truth? Single parents do work, we do want to contribute to society, but we don't fit the Conservative family template. Helping us doesn't satisfy the right wing, so we will remain ignored, paying our taxes from our small wages for services that are not provided, whilst paying into the pockets of companies who do not pay their due.

Deborah is a single mother living in the North East of England. She works two jobs and is studying for a BSc via the Open University.
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