Viewpoint: How the other half now have to exist

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Child poverty figures have shone the spotlight on the frightening disparity between the quality of life for Sheffield’s youngsters, depending on where they live.

A family is classed as living in poverty if its income is less than 60 per cent of the national average income - £359 per week.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam constituency had the least poor children in the country. In contrast to well off Hallam’s less than 5 per cent in poverty, Sheffield on the whole, is the 56th most deprived local authority in the country with over 24 per cent, or 27,000 children living in poverty.

In Sheffield central ward, currently constituency of Labour’s Paul Blomfield, 43 per cent were judged to be living in poverty.

A strategy report published in 2011 by Sheffield City Council said poverty is not just about money, it is also about health, education, community and aspiration.

The statutory child poverty needs assessment for Sheffield showed that there are seven wards in the city with noticeably higher levels of child poverty – Central, Manor Castle Firth Park, Burngreave, Darnall, Southey and Arbourthorne.

The report also highlighted families with certain characteristics are more likely to live in poverty.

Families from ethnic minority backgrounds, families with a single parent, and families with more than three children are all more likely to be in poverty. Rather than a cross-party effort to alleviate this shocking disparity in the lives of people who live a stone’s throw apart, many politicians are more interested in self-promotion and political point- scoring.

The Liberals retained their seat in the recent local election in Fulwood.

During the run-up to the election I contacted councillors and candidates to ask what the main concerns of the people of Sheffield were on the doorsteps.

The answers differed, highlighting perfectly the massive gap between the city’s haves and have nots.

While those representing the more affluent areas told me they were hearing discontent at Sheffield City Council’s perceived failures, and issues such as same sex marriage, those from the poorer areas struggled with issues such as bedroom tax and cuts to incomes.

This chasm between the few at the top and the masses at the bottom is a mirror image of what is going on in Westminster. While the big political debate of the moment is once again immigration, thanks to the rise in popularity of Nigel Farage’s UKIP, the majority of the country worries about feeding their families and whether or not they will have employment in the coming months.

The well-off electorate of Fulwood or Dore and Totley are not concerned about bedroom tax because it simply doesn’t affect them.

Ask the voters of Manor or Firth Park in Sheffield’s poorer estates what they care about and it is unlikely to be same-sex marriage and double-yellow lines near the coffee shops and bistros. It is likely to be education, antisocial behaviour, crime, drugs and benefits cuts.

The average number of teen pregnancies in Dore is almost zero while in Arbourthorne the figure is around 15 per cent.

This is the problem with modern politics. So many of the politicians have their own agenda and spend too much time playing party political games and spouting ideological propaganda and too little time talking to each other about how to make it a better place to live for the many instead of the few.

Money and effort is put into attacking each other and talking in riddles so politics becomes irrelevant to many people not inside the Westminster bubble.

Sadly, people still buy into the lies and vote in their numbers for candidates with no links to or feelings for the city who are simply opportunist political prostitutes. What Sheffield needs is a plan for prosperity.

It needs politicians that want the whole of Sheffield to be a place we can be proud of and the rest of the country can aspire to.

We have a great history of industry and yet commercial properties have stood empty for years. The city centre has gone from a vibrant array of shops to rows of boarded up dilapidated empty units.

We need people who will attract investment to the city and who want the city to rise from the rubble, not people who want to line their pockets and move on, or come from out of town to contest a winnable seat in order to use Sheffield as a stepping stone in their political career.”