Let’s talk about Lincoln

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the ongoing crisis in living standards which I know is affecting many people in Lincoln. I was pleased that last week Lincoln MP Karl McCartney responded to my article.

It was, however, disappointing that Mr McCartney offered only criticism of the last government, rather than any policy solutions to help people bridge the gap between prices and wages.

Unfortunately, a failure to concern himself with the problems of many in his own constituency is a common theme for our Tory MP but, as I appear to have his attention, let’s talk, very specifically, about Lincoln. I’ll keep it to five main themes:

1. Incomes: The average income in Lincoln is lower than both the UK and the East Midlands averages. I wrote that working people in the East Midlands are an average of £1,404 worse off a year since 2010. For Lincoln, this figure is even greater because Lincoln has seen lower wage increases than the regional and national averages.

2. Unemployment: Lincoln has a significantly higher unemployment claimant rate than both Britain and the East Midlands. The claimant rate is particularly high in certain of our city’s wards — in February this year, it was 8.9% in Abbey and 8% in Park (compared to a UK average of 3.9%).

3. Child poverty: An independent report earlier this year showed that Lincoln has one of the worst levels of child poverty in the East Midlands. It’s much higher in certain wards: in Glebe, Moorland and Birchwood, it’s over 30%. This means around 4,000 Lincoln children live in poverty.

4. Health: Lincoln has a lower life expectancy, for both men (at 77) and women (at 81), than the UK averages. Lincoln sees more premature deaths from cancer than the UK average, more lung cancer and more hospital admissions due to smoking.

5. Fuel poverty: Lincoln has a higher proportion of households in fuel poverty than the rest of the UK at one in five households, and almost a quarter in Abbey, Carholme and Park wards.

These problems are serious and each should concern whoever is Lincoln’s MP. In my regular articles for The Lincolnite, I have demonstrated my commitment to tackling some of these issues and suggested solutions which would help — such as a jobs guarantee, a tax cut for working people and ways to bring down sky-rocketing energy bills and rail fares.

However, Mr McCartney does not appear interested in anything but party political point scoring and his own pet causes, such as his battle with the parliamentary expenses watchdog and opposing equality laws.

In fact, he has voted for measures which have directly contributed to the worsening of some of these problems. For example, abolishing tax credits, tripling tuition fees, the Benefits Uprating Bill (which the Government’s own figures show will push another 200,000 children into poverty this year) and the hopelessly unfair “bedroom tax”, which will affect over a thousand families in Lincoln.

Notably, despite Lincoln’s high cancer rates, Mr McCartney has spoken out in Parliament against the pub smoking ban, accepted hospitality from big tobacco companies and written letters to national newspapers to campaign against plain packaging.

The choice in Lincoln in 2015 between Karl McCartney and me is already clear.