Cambridge City Councillors are set to consider a draft anti-poverty strategy that will focus on improving the lives of Cambridge residents who are struggling in the current economic climate. The report, which was published this week, proposes measures to help households that are feeling the strain in a city where the cost of living is high.

While the Cambridge economy has continued to thrive despite the economic downturn, the benefits of prosperity have not been shared by all residents in the city. Evidence shows that a significant proportion of people are experiencing poverty, while others may be at risk of poverty due to factors such as low wages and rapidly increasing housing costs. For example:

 one in ten households in Cambridge earn £16,518 or less each year

 average wages in the city have fallen by £31 per person in real termsii, which is amongst the highest drops in the UK

 more than one in ten Cambridge residents live in households receiving Housing Benefit or Council Tax benefit, with this figure rising to more than one in five residents in some wardsiii

 Cambridge City Foodbank helped 4,710 people in financial crisis in 2013/14, almost double the number helped in the previous yeariv

 life expectancy for women is 10.0 years lower in the most deprived area of Cambridge than the least deprived, and 9.6 years lower for menv

 the lower quartile house price was £216,500, which was 14.08 times the lowest quartile of earnings

Cllr George Owers, Executive Councillor for Finance and Resources, said: 

“Although Cambridge is a prosperous city overall, not everyone has a stake in the city’s success story. Sadly, it is a tale of two cities. In the midst of great wealth, there are increasing numbers of households in this city suffering from genuine

hardship: no-one willingly resorts to a food-bank. Many others may not look like, in the media stereotype, ‘the kind of person’ you’d expect to fall into poverty, but due to the triple-whammy of declining real pay, rocketing housing costs and ever-rising bills, they are also at real risk of doing so.”

“The overriding priority of this administration is to start tackling the inequality of two-tier Cambridge. We are already putting through a series of policies to kick-start the process, but through this strategy we hope to identify a number of further measures that will ensure that prosperity is shared more fairly by all in the City, including by working through the City Deal, and in partnership with organisations such as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and the Living Wage Foundation.”

The city council will continue to support existing programmes and services which help residents living on low incomes, such as building new social housing and discounted entry to leisure facilities. The anti-poverty strategy will identify areas where the council can have even greater impact, including new initiatives such as:

 Helping the development of credit unions which will enable vulnerable residents to avoid loan sharks and have the use of a bank debit card;

 Expanding advice services to ensure that residents know the benefits they can claim and get expert advice on money and debt management;

 Promoting the Living Wage to employers within the city;

 Increasing the number of apprenticeship opportunities at the city council and encouraging other employers to follow suit;

 Promoting schemes that can reduce people’s utility bills, including energy and water saving measures, and a collective-energy switching scheme.

This programme is supported by Rahima Ahammed in her campaign to be elected as City Councillor for Queen Ediths

In developing the draft anti-poverty strategy, the council has listened to the views of community groups and partner organisations. The publication of the draft strategy will be followed by a period of extensive public consultation, which will feed into the final strategy in early 2015.


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