Amber Rudd graffiti in Hastings. Photo: Chrissy Brand Amber Rudd graffiti in Hastings. Photo: Chrissy Brand

As the effects of austerity make Hastings look more like a warzone than a seaside town, Amber Rudd looks on idly, reports Chrissy Brand

Amber Rudd MP Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has now admitted that Universal Credit has led to an increase in people using food banks. The MP for Hastings and Rye was in denial when she started in the post but even she was eventually unable to ignore national and local campaigners and organisations that were pointing out the obvious.

There has been a 106% increase in the use of foodbanks in Hastings since the introduction of Universal Credit. The main foodbank in the town now distributes a tonne of food a week to those in need. Those applying for Universal Credit face a minimum wait of five weeks before receiving their first payment. Few can survive for that long without major implications which can include starvation, increasing debt and a massive detriment to wellbeing.

Natalie Williams, community engagement manager at King’s Church, which runs Hastings foodbank, told the Hastings Observer that

“We are concerned there are so many people still to come on to Universal Credit with the impact if will have on poverty in Hastings. Not just food bank, but homelessness has gone up and I think that is a stretch on local services, and there’s the cuts not only at a local government level but at county government level.  It’s also the pressure it puts on volunteers at other charities. When you see people who are distressed and suicidal, it obviously has an impact on you too.”

There are 14,000 people in Hastings waiting to be moved over to Universal Credit, including 7,000 who have long term health conditions which have put them out of work.  Universal Credit has to be scrapped now.

Theresa May announced a supposed end to austerity some months ago but, of course, that was merely another untrue statement fed to the public and for the mainstream media to use as propaganda.

A walk around Hastings and thousands more towns around this disunited kingdom, would make even the most hardened pro-austerity supporter, realise that nine years of cuts have had profound effects in society, destroying the lives of millions of ordinary people.

Obviously, it is these endless austerity measures and savage cuts, implemented by Tory governments since 2010, that have led to the increase in food bank use. Universal Credit is just one of the more recent ways that the Tories MPs like Rudd successfully drive ordinary people further into poverty.

Presiding over unaffordable housing, massive annual hikes to utility bills and public transport costs, increasing food costs, while freezing or driving wages down and creating widespread precarious employment, is what the Tories excel at.  

The Trussell Trust accurately states that major changes must be made to Universal Credit and other benefits to stop child poverty reaching record levels. Action needs to be taken now before more families are forced to use foodbanks while waiting for their first payment.

Amber Rudd, just like all of her fellow Tories is, and I am being exceedingly overgenerous here, far too slow to react. She is completely out of touch with the majority of her constituents. The long-standing rumours of her being moved to a safe seat in a nearby constituency along the southeast coast, continue. She is unlikely to be able to successfully defend her wafer-thin majority of a mere 346 votes, at the next general election. The local Labour candidate and current Leader of Hastings Borough Council, Corbynista Peter Chowney, deals with the impact of Tory devastation on a daily basis. The mood on the streets of Hastings is getting angrier and something is going to give.

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