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GENERAL ELECTION: David Morris challenged on 'falling child poverty' claims

David Morris

David Morris has been challenged on his claims that child poverty is falling in Morecambe and Lunesdale.

Mr Morris, who will be defending his MP seat in the general election on July 4, was speaking during a candidates' debate on Beyond Radio.

LISTEN: Morecambe & Lunesdale 'Beyond the Ballot' debate - Beyond Radio

The Conservative candidate said that: "Child poverty now in Morecambe and Lunesdale has gone down below the regional average and the national average.

"That has happened because more investment has come into this area and more opportunities have come in.

"The link road is literally driving prosperity into Morecambe. There are more businesses being set up in the area. There are more houses being done up. More people are moving to the area."

But Gina Dowding, Green Party candidate, said to him: "Child poverty is soaring. Overall child poverty has been increasing.

"Yesterday I was at Citizens' Advice in Morecambe and they are overwhelmed by people in desperate circumstances, with no roof and no food. People who are desperate. You had the opportunity to address these issues."

Mr Morris replied: "I've done that."

According to the latest HMRC (His Majesty's Revenue and Customs) and the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) figures on child poverty, updated in March 2024 at the House of Commons Library, there were 3805 children aged 15 and under living in relative poverty and 2762 in absolute poverty in Morecambe and Lunesdale in 2022/23.

This compares to 3248 and 2128 respectively in 2021/22, when the constituency rate was below the UK's.

In 2014/15 the numbers were 2264 and 2654.

The figures show the 2022/23 constituency rate was below the regional average, but above the national.

Here is the table showing levels of relative child poverty in the constituency going back to 2014/15.

This table shows the level of absolute child poverty year-on-year in the constituency dating back to 2014/15.

The DWP advises using additional caution when comparing data for 2020/21 and 2021/22 with other years and comparing across constituencies, as data collection during coronavirus lockdowns affected data reliability.

Relative poverty means households with income below 60% of the median (middle) household income, while absolute poverty is households with income below 60% of the (inflation-adjusted) median income in 2010/11. 

In these statistics, income is measured before housing costs are taken into account. The median is the point where half of household incomes are higher and half lower.

Mr Morris was speaking as the Morecambe and Lunesdale candidates were asked how they would 'clean up Morecambe' of crime, poverty and empty rundown shops and buildings.

All five politicians, also including Lizzi Collinge (Labour), Peter Jackson (Lib Dem) and Barry Parsons (Reform UK), said they would be committed to putting more police on the streets in Morecambe.

A man was arrested at a council meeting

"We have a lot of drug dealing here and the police are actually doing a very good job of (tackling) this," said Mr Morris.

"That is one of the main issues that I'm seeing. You find this in most communities. The only way you bring people out of that is to bring prosperity to an area, and bring opportunities to an area. That is starting to take effect."

Barry Parsons said: "The real problem I have is when they took the PCSOs (Police Community Support Officers) away to some extent. It really has damaged the impact the police does have on the street.

"There's nothing better for a community than to engage with their police. We want more police back on the streets."

Barry Parsons and Gina Dowding are pictured below during the debate.

Gina Dowding said: "There's absolutely no doubt that crime and poverty are linked. I find it astonishing that Labour are not even committing to ending the two-child benefit cap.

"We need to redistribute wealth more fairly through the taxation system. It's how we get those community police officers back on the beat. Youth services, they've been decimated through years and years of austerity. We need to bring in a wealth tax on the super-rich."

Lizzi Collinge (pictured below) said Labour won't be ending the two-child benefit cap because "we need to make sure that we are in the right economic position to be able to do that".

"All the other policies we're going to bring in will support those families. I also went to Citizens' Advice and the stories they told there were absolutely horrendous.

"In terms of empty shops, we will reform business rates to make sure we level the playing field between brick businesses and online businesses. We will support small businesses with our Small Businesses Plan. 

"In terms of crime, we want to get back to proper neighbourhood policing. So every town centre wil have a policing plan. Every area will have a named officer. They will enforce the law.

"On poverty, we are going to grow the economy, get some stability back, get the costs of living under control, get energy bills under control. We're going to insulate 5m homes in the first Parliament. We're going to ban zero-hours contracts.

"Drugs are far more likely where there is poverty and where there is trauma. We need to tackle that right from the very beginning. When people are taking drugs we need a route out for them."

Peter Jackson of the Liberal Democrats (pictured below) said: "A lot of work has been done through Morecambe Town Council about the physical look of the town, about dealing with weeds.

"The empty shops problem is private landlords and regeneration is the only solution to that. Having a better economy in Morecambe which gives the people who own those properties the incentive to do something with them.

"When we come to crime and anti-social behaviour, drugs to some extent, we definitely need community policing.

"We also need a prison system that rehabilitates people. If we don't use the opportunity to improve their life chances, then we just send them out to commit more offences. We have to stop doing that."

Read more: GENERAL ELECTION: David Morris and Gina Dowding clash over housing in Morecambe & Lunesdale - Beyond Radio

GENERAL ELECTION: All five Morecambe candidates vow to honour Eden Project funding - Beyond Radio

GENERAL ELECTION: Morecambe and Lunesdale candidates lay out their visions for the future - Beyond Radio


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