Poverty trap threat

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AS MANY as half of Wigan’s households are at risk of slipping below the poverty line, a major report has warned.

The Greater Manchester Poverty Commission says 600,000 people are already in ‘extreme poverty’ – and a total of 1.6m residents, equal to half the region’s population, could be at risk if the economic crisis deepens.

In Wigan, unemployment was the biggest problem, with Norley said to be in the top six wards in the region with the highest numbers of people (up to 29pc of residents) out of work and claiming job seeker’s allowance.

Norley was ranked alongside Falinge, Rochdale; South Reddish, Stockport; Coldhurst, Oldham; Brinnington, Stockport and St Mary’s, Oldham as the wards with the highest numbers of unemployment.

The commission also said that men are twice as likely to be unemployed as women and that people aged 25-34 are the biggest group out of work.

Unemployment rates more than doubled between 2007 and 2012 in Bury, Tameside, Trafford, Stockport, Wigan and Salford.

The MP for Wigan, Labour’s Lisa Nandy said she believes the current government is to blame.

Miss Nandy said: “Today’s report shows the shocking consequences of this Government’s political choices, which have seen unemployment and poverty rise rapidly in regions like the North East and North West.

“The Government must invest in housebuilding, roads and the railways to create jobs and get people spending again. The higher unemployment rises, the fewer people spend in towns like Wigan and help boost local businesses.”

Experts on the commission’s panel have called for:

Free public transport for unemployed people or apprentices looking for work.

More ‘energy cooperatives’ allowing households to bulk buy gas and electricity at cheap rates

‘Bulk purchase’ food schemes allowing households to slash shopping bills

Better co-ordination of food banks

All businesses and public sector employers to adopt a ‘Living Wage’ of £7.45

The commission, chaired by Bishop of Manchester Nigel McCulloch, was launched last year to investigate deprivation in the region.

Bishop Nigel said he was convinced an ongoing working group must follow up the report to ‘irritate’ relevant organisations so the problems highlighted did not get forgotten. He also said the widening gap between rich and poor he had seen during his tenure was a grave cause for concern. Other issues include living wage, child poverty, debt, fuel prices and food poverty.