Green Party councillors call on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to visit Cambridge to see the devastating impacts of underfunding and inequality

9 December 2021

Cambridge was in the national news today (9 December 2021), but it makes for sobering reading: Aditya Chakrabortty writes in the Guardian profiling the inequality in Cambridge. He visited Abbey, Cambridge’s most deprived ward, and witnessed the important work Abbey People do to run food banks and provide citizens’ advice. Cambridge is the most unequal city in the country.

Responding to this article, Green Party Councillor Hannah Charlotte Copley who represents Abbey ward said: “In Abbey we have a strong community identity of which we are proud. The decisions made by Boris Johnson (Prime Minister), including cutting Universal Credit benefits, have devastating impacts on many people in our community. To have so many people reliant on the support of Abbey People to be able to eat, in one of the wealthiest parts of the UK, is a criminal failure by our government. They are also favouring Conservative donors with PPE contracts and laughing about parties during lockdown - when the rest of us were following the rules.

“I invite the Prime Minister to visit Abbey Ward with me and face up to the reality of his decisions which have made people choose between eating or heating their homes, which are in desperate need of proper insulation. The Conservatives have under-funded councils and schools for the last ten years, and the NHS has been brought to its knees with people who need operations having to wait longer than ever before.”

Councillor Naomi BennettGreen Party Councillor Naomi Bennett also represents Abbey ward and is very conscious of these issues. She says “It is a huge privilege to represent Abbey, which is the most friendly and neighbourly ward in Cambridge. However, over 20 years, I have watched our city get wealthier while Abbey, Arbury and Kings Hedges get poorer. This is no coincidence. As more companies relocate to Cambridge, housing costs go up but wages for many ordinary workers have not. We have also been hit hard by the Right to Buy legislation.

“We had a lot of residents who were just getting by and then the pandemic came. It hit us in so many different ways. The city as a whole had a high proportion of residents who were able to work from home or get some furlough pay. Not so in Abbey. We have a large numbers of residents who fell through the slats of the Covid financial help schemes for no fault of their own. The pandemic showed how much we need Universal Basic Income (a longstanding Green Party policy) rather than an unfair and patchy benefit system that is expensive to run, leaves people who desperately need help confused and demoralised and fails to provide an effective safety net. Elderly residents who needed help with shopping or simply someone to talk to suffered because their families have been forced out of the area by high housing costs.”

Cambridge Greens Campaigner Matt Howard points out “High heating costs and fuel poverty are also a big problem locally. Many of our local homes are older properties and poorly insulated.” Matt Howard worked with councillors Bennett and Copley on a motion which was amended and successfully passed in October, urging the City Council to seek funding from the national government for a National Retrofit Fund to speed up the home insulation work needed.

Speaking to the Guardian, Rachel Karniely, manager of the food hub said “More visitors ask for further support … or even just for someone to talk to.” People she supports now ring her “crying down the phone, expressing suicidal thoughts, because they’re scared they’re going to become homeless because they can’t pay the bills”.

While the Conservative government continues to “level down”, the Green Party has always campaigned against austerity and advocated for sufficient local funding so that councils can provide decent public services and build a fairer economy.

Cllr Hannah Copley and Community Lead Matt Howard


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