Day seven of the austerity uncovered tour and we find ourselves in the beautiful West Yorkshire town of Halifax.
Halifax and the surrounding Calder valley were once at the heart of the UK’s woollen trade. Nearby Dean Clough Mill was one of the largest carpet factories in the world before it ceased production in the 1980s.
The process of de-industrialisation that accelerated under the Thatcher regime has left its scars on the region and they are still being felt today.
As Tim Roache, GMB Yorkshire Secretary, explains: “We are seeing virtually no job creation and those in work are having their wages driven down.
“When areas lose their industries this is what happens and it is young people who are paying the heaviest price. There is no work for them and they have no chance of getting on the housing ladder. With increased tuition fees, University isn’t an option for many either.”
Matters have been made worse by cuts to local authority funding, which has disrupted local services in Calderdale and left many public sector workers fearful of losing their jobs.
As one council worker explains: “I constantly live with the fear of being made redundant because at any minute funding for the service I work for, which helps provide rehabilitation, could be cut. This is not the way I want to live my working life.”
Half an hour on from Halifax is the equally picturesque town of Todmorden. Waiting to meet us is nineteen year-old Nelson, a student back home staying with his parents over the summer.
The Todmorden that Nelson knew growing up has changed. Local shops and businesses have closed down and the town now has its own food bank.
Nelson, who is training to become a lawyer at Queen Mary University, is a victim of the government’s policies too. He is amongst the first wave of students to have to pay the new £9,000 annual tuition fees and fears that he will be in debt for the rest of his life.
“Even if I get a good entry job in law I am still going to have to pay loads of money back on top of London rental prices. My parents are thinking of re-locating to London to rent a place with me and my sister who also studies there.”
Nelson’s family are making this sacrifice as they want a better future for their children and this government isn’t doing anything to support that.