Poverty gap just keeps on growing

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St Helens families are ranked among the worst affected in the region in terms of financial distress, new research has found.

Analysis from consumer think-tank Which? has revealed that families in the borough are struggling more than others around the country.

In a survey taking into account factors such as defaulting on bill payments and using savings to cover household spending, St Helens North scored 85 and St Helens South 80 on the financial distress index, out of 100.

These are higher than the regional average (63) and the scores of nearby areas Wigan (77) and Warrington North (63).

Dave Watts MP said: “The figures do not surprise me, as there is a massive gap between the Prime Minister’s and Nick Clegg’s rhetoric and people’s experience on the ground.

“When they claim that the economy is improving inflation has continued to outpace wages and benefits, which has resulted in higher levels of poverty and debt.

“The government has spent the last four years transferring millions of pounds of public funding out of St Helens and other northern towns and has increased the levels of public funding that it provides to its heartland areas in the South.

“It has also taken the decision not to cap energy costs and also to allow energy companies to continue to make massive profits and to reduce the level of funding that energy companies are required to provide to help low income families to insulate their homes.”

Last month the Reporter revealed that more than 7,500 households in the borough were classed as living in fuel poverty, having to spend 10 per cent of income to maintain an adequate standard of warmth.

Head of economic analysis at Which?, Matt Oakley said: “Our individual measures are based on a five point scale that ranges from a low level of distress that captures households that are ‘cutting back on essentials’ to the highest level of distress, where households have ‘defaulted on a loan, bill or housing cost’ in the last month.

“Within the context of recent discussion of a quickly growing economy, the research provides a much needed reminder of the diversity of experiences for families.

“The results tend to reflect the varied picture of economic wellbeing across the country.

“They provide a much better depth of understanding on how consumers are experiencing deprivation and poverty. At geographic levels below this we see clusters of financial distress around our main cities and in old industrial towns.”

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