Poverty divide set to widen, warns city MP

Cat Smith and Andy Burnham outside the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
Cat Smith and Andy Burnham outside the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

Cuts to welfare will place hundreds of already struggling families in the Lancaster district into further deprivation, says the city’s MP Cat Smith.

A government study has revealed the Lancaster district’s richest and poorest neighbourhoods, with parts of south Lancaster enjoying some of the highest standards of living in the country.

But a bleaker picture is painted for other areas of Lancaster and Morecambe, where income, employment opportunities, access to education, skills and training, health deprivation and crime makes them some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country.

The government’s Index of Deprivation shows the West End of Morecambe to be the 80th most deprived area in the country, with parts of Ryelands at 158th, and parts of Skerton at 430th out of 32,844 neighbourhoods. In comparison, parts of south west Lancaster around the Ashton Road, Aldcliffe, and Haverbreaks Road areas are some of the least deprived, falling into the top 10 per cent in the country.

Areas around Hest Bank and Coastal Road, and Standen Park and Fenham Carr Lane in Lancaster also enjoy high standards of living. But Labour MP for Lancaster Cat Smith said the gap was set to widen with families already struggling to pay their rent, and buy food and clothes for their children facing further income reductions in April next year.

Ms Smith said 17.9 per cent of children in Lancaster and Fleetwood constituency were classed as living in poverty, with the figure standing at 19.2 per cent in Morecambe and Lunesdale.

She said: “The reality for many of the families in our city is one in which work doesn’t pay enough.

“I’m contacted every week by families struggling to pay their rent, buy food or clothes for their children and as winter approaches I expect fuel poverty will also be hitting these families hard.

“Last month I voted against government cuts to working tax credits which will mean hundreds of local families losing up to £1,300 from their tax credits from April 2016. I fear these cuts will lead to an increase in deprivation in our district.”

Tracy Kohl, from West End Impact, a charity that helps people in difficulty in the West End, said people were having their benefits sanctioned for “ridiculous reasons”.

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said: “It will be interesting to see the statistic in the next five years after the road is up and running and the area has been restored.”