Jane Aitchison is Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Pudsey and on International Women’s Day writes about how the Conservative’s ideological austerity is hitting women in Leeds.
You’ve probably seen the statistics that show women have borne the brunt of austerity. Women have suffered cuts of £79 billion since 2010 compared to £13 billion for men. The cold statistics are scandalous, but the actual impact on real women’s lives are truly heart wrenching.
Take Margaret. I met her in Pudsey market. She saw my red rosette and came over to tell me she hoped Labour would win. She told me she was a 79–year–old widow. Her daughter has severe mental health problems and her benefits had been stopped because she had missed an assessment. She’d been to the Citizens Advice Bureau who said she had a good case. She was waiting for a tribunal date, which could take months. In the meantime she was giving her daughter half her pension every week. Margaret looked terribly thin and worried.
Under austerity British women now have the lowest life expectancy of the 20 leading countries. It is a year lower than that for Leeds women.
I met Chloe at the foodbank. She had left her abusive partner and fled with 3 small children. She had claimed Universal Credit but had been forced to take out a loan to bridge the five–week waiting time – and of course she would have to pay this back. She was anxious because she didn’t have enough to live on, and was beside herself because her toddler had lost a shoe while she was pushing him in his pram. She did not have enough money to buy him another pair of shoes.
Food bank use has more than doubled in Leeds since Universal Credit was rolled out.
I met Julie while out campaigning in Horsforth. She and her husband are both very hardworking public sector workers in Leeds. They have a lovely family including a child with profound disabilities. The cuts mean Julie has had to fight for every bit of support her child needs. And because of the continuing cuts her battles are endless. The public sector pay freeze means they haven’t had a holiday for a couple of years. They need a new car and a new three-piece suite but that isn’t happening. She feels drained. Julie says she can’t wait for a Labour government and a tear rolls down her cheek.
73% of those affected by the public sector pay cap are women. On average everyone’s pay is £24 a week lower today than it was in 2008.
Austerity is a political choice.
To choose to continue austerity in the 6th richest country in the world is a conscious act of cruelty.
I’ve changed these women’s names to protect their identities, but they are real Leeds women and sadly their stories are real too. I’m standing to be Pudsey’s next Labour MP to change these women’s lives and give their families the support, security, dignity and opportunities they need and deserve.
You can find out more about Jane’s campaign to be the next MP for Pudsey on Facebook at “Jane Aitchison for Pudsey Labour”