green and white labeled plastic bottle on brown wooden shelf
Photo by Aaron Doucett on Unsplash

The Borough of Amber Valley sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? And to be fair for many it’s a great place to live with easy access to the countryside, some well-thought of local employers, and with access to some very well-paying jobs in engineering in the East Midlands. But you don’t need to scratch too deeply beneath the surface to find families that are struggling.

During my political formative years in the 1980s years, lorry loads of food parcels travelled up the M1 to Derbyshire in support of the families of striking miners. Never in a million years would I have thought we would see food poverty institutionalised. Nearly every community in Amber Valley now has had to set up their own food bank – the pandemic has exasperated the already deep inequalities within our society even further.

With furlough finally ending in September, the removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift planned for October, likely inflationary costs from Brexit, and rapidly rising energy costs it feels like we have reached a crunch point. For those who need to budget for everything down to a T, everything is finely balanced, and I know that in Amber Valley there will be those who will be forced in the coming months to choose between heating and eating.

Levelling up? With these changes, it feels more like many are being pushed down. Research from the Trussell Trust shows that 1.2m people fear that they will be forced to skip meals if the cut goes ahead, that 1.3m people fear being unable to heat their homes this winter, and that 1.9m Universal Credit claimants in the last 30 days already had one or more days where they either did not eat at all, or only had one meal.

The Government has showed an ability to find and spend money quickly when it needs to. As the National Audit Office has found, between March and July 2020, new contracts worth £10.5 billion were awarded without competition. Maintaining the uplift could cost around £6 billion annually according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. It could and should be done.