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Torbay's shocking new working class — the work they do no longer pays

By Herald Express  |  Posted: July 03, 2012

Adrian Sanders

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TORBAY has tens of thousands of working people living on the edge of poverty — one big bill away from destitution.

A new survey puts Torbay top of the list in a national table with more than one third of all households falling into the 'at risk' category.

Many of the 22,000 households are working families but, because Torbay has the lowest wage economy in the country, many have no savings, no equity in their homes and no assets to cover any financial setback.

The shocking league table shows Torbay has 37 per cent of at risk households, seven per cent ahead of Hyndburn in Lancashire which has 30 per cent of people living on the edge of penury.

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Teignbridge is placed 13th in the league, with 28 per cent at risk, and the South Hams is 110th with 18 per cent of households at risk of falling into poverty.

The families at risk are described as a 'traditionally proud, self-reliant, working people'.

Bruno Rost, head of Experian Public Sector, which carried out research to identify those belonging to At-Risk Britain, said: "These are the new working class — except the work they do no longer pays.

"These people say that being forced to claim benefits or move into a council property would be the worst kind of social ignominy and self-failure."

Following news that Torbay is the area most at risk of rising poverty in England, MP Adrian Sanders has called on the Government to refine its economic policy.

Mr Sanders (pictured) says it is a result of the lack of high quality, full time jobs in the Bay.

He says that in the current recession Torbay has been relatively insulated from the high unemployment levels of previous recessions but this has masked the pressure on living standards as the cost of housing, fuel and food rises while local wages remain comparatively low.

Mr Sanders has urged the Government to concentrate on investing in skills, affordable housing and better transport links to help reduce the danger of poverty to these 22,000 families.

Mr Sanders said: "We already have the vital investment for the bypass which will encourage investment locally and work is progressing well on the skills agenda because of our excellent colleges and schools.

"The new bypass is already having a positive impact with more people wanting to grow businesses here and wanting to invest on the back of that."

But he said the biggest problem now is the lack of affordable family homes.

"It's a vicious cycle. We have the skills and the transport but if you cannot house your family, you will have to move away.

"What is now needed is a clear strategy for revamping the housing market.

"Housing costs in Torbay have rocketed compared to wages while demand for low cost housing has increased enormously.

"It's not being tackled by the local authority. Direct Government investment in good quality family homes will be the simplest way to rectify this problem and reduce the danger of poverty locally and I will be encouraging ministers to look at this closely."

He said: "We have the lowest wage economy in the country.

"There is also a failure to understand that anti-social behaviour problems are not linked to areas where there is social housing.

"It's in places where there are higher numbers of private sector rented accommodation with absentee landlords and inadequate accommodation for families with children.

"It's a problem that has been creeping up on us for decades."

Liberal Democrat group leader on Torbay Council, Steve Darling, said: "The figures released by Experian are very worrying and highlight the problems facing the residents of Torbay within an economy based on low-wage, seasonal jobs.

"The future of Torbay's economy must lie in better quality, year-round employment which gives its residents the chance of a better quality of life, not simply struggling to keep their heads above the line."

He says mayor Gordon Oliver (pictured right) needs to re-think his strategy of pushing Torbay further down the tourism route and look for alternative job creation schemes.

A Torbay Council spokesman said it 'recognises the issues affecting Torbay' and had 'many measures and strategies in place to try and reduce poverty and social deprivation in the Bay'.

He added: "We are working closely with our partners to address inequalities but it is a complex issue heightened by the fact that we are experiencing financial constraints.

"We do adopt a 'first and most' policy which targets resources at the areas and people that are most at need.

"Torbay Council is also committed to creating opportunities for the community through job-led regeneration, creating an environment that encourages inward investment and raising skills levels in the Bay.

"All these things will help improve the prospects of Torbay's economy to prevent more people from experiencing financial and social problems and to help more people escape poverty."

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  • maninmuffti  |  July 02 2012, 7:32PM

    torbay is a lifeless , back water reliant on hotel trade and the odd service industry a town of retired people who have moved here from citys with there pensions it is a place of have and have nots stuck in a time warp where the retired want no change , who in there right mind would want to invest here

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  • Pingu007  |  July 02 2012, 5:13PM

    Remind me, someone. Just how long has Adrian Sanders been "our" MP? And what, precisely, has he done for us in all that time? It's telling, too, that in all the time he's been "our" MP, the LibDems have never actually given him anything of note to do. Yet he has the brass neck to come on here and pontificate. And let him live in or nearby a Signpost development or house ... and then tell us that anti-social behaviour has nothing to do with social housing.* Instead of bleating about how it's all someone else's problem, why doesn't he actually come up with any practical ideas about how to get out of this mess? * Yes, there are some nice people who live in Signpost places. I even know one.

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  • reiwruwiou  |  July 02 2012, 1:12PM

    Torbay should attempt to broaden its economic base and not rely soley on poorly paid service industries. People in the south west have been paid rip-off wages for too long, which is why our brightest young people all head up the M5 to where the pay and prospects are substantially better.

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  • Karen362  |  July 02 2012, 12:48PM

    We really needed to have this political debate a long time ago, rather than allow things to fester like they have done for years now. It's not just that there are no quality jobs or viable work that pays anymore. Torbay also suffers from a deeply embedded cultural impediment to any kind of progressive change. This is because any erstwhile exponent of good practice is invariably accused of either being 'left-wing' or 'anti-statist' by small-minded hegemonists who continue to profit from the status quo here. It's what Joseph Heller would have described as a classic 'Catch-22' or 'no win situation.' In his novel of the same name, the MP says: "Catch-22 states that agents enforcing Catch-22 need not prove that Catch-22 actually contains whatever provision the accused violator is accused of violating." Another character explains: "Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing." Yossarian comes to realize that Catch-22 does not actually exist, but because the powers that be claim it does, and the world believes it does, it nevertheless has potent effects. Indeed, because it does not exist, there is no way it can be repealed, undone, overthrown, or denounced. The combination of force with specious and spurious legalistic justification is one of the book's primary motifs. The motif of bureaucratic absurdity is further explored in 1994's Closing Time, Heller's sequel to Catch-22. This darker, slower-paced, apocalyptic novel explores the pre- and post-war lives of some of the major characters in Catch-22, with particular emphasis on the relationship between Yossarian and tailgunner Sammy Singer... source: http://tinyurl.com/bouv6f9

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