Budget 2021: Leeds charity Zest says Chancellor Rishi Sunak needs to address inequality
Chancellor Rishi Sunak reveals his 2021 budget today (Wednesday) - here Dominic Charkin from Leeds charity Zest outlines why addressing inequality should be at the heart of the announcement...
Inequality was increasing well before the Covid 19 pandemic struck.
In Leeds, the effects of ten years of austerity had meant the gap between the richest and poorest areas had got significantly wider, with an increase in the number of people living in areas classified as deprived from 150,000 to 186,000 today.
That equates to one in four people in Leeds.
This has a negative effect on the life chances of residents in those areas. Covid has exacerbated those socio-economic inequalities.
People living in deprived areas have increased susceptibility and vulnerability to the virus due to a higher burden of poorer health as well as an increased risk of exposure to Covid due to being less able to work from home and more likely to be reliant on public transport.
In late 2019 I argued that rising inequality is not an issue that temporary sticking plasters can solve, and that long term, realistic and targeted investment was needed in our poorest
That remains the case today.
On a visit to Leeds Boris Johnson claimed we, as a city, could eradicate our inequality in ten years.
If we really are to stand a chance of being able to do this then we need to stop cuts to valuable services, such as the 10 per cent budget cut to our Ministry of Food Leeds project.
A project that teaches people budgeting, healthy eating and cooking skills and supports long term behaviour change is of more long term value that handing out emergency food packages, yet from April 2021 this budget cut means we have to lose a member of staff and reduce the number of people we can support.
While I recognise that local authorities have to make difficult decisions on how money is spent, these kind of cuts directly impact on the city’s chances of reducing inequalities and increasing resilience to events such as pandemics.
So If Leeds really is to be able to build back fairer from ten years of austerity and the pandemic then it is my sincere hope that the budget on Wednesday provides long term sustainable funding for the city, giving our leaders the freedom to invest in services that will help achieve the ambition of improving the health of the poorest fastest and make the city a place where we all have the same opportunities.
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