“… Well, I hope you vote the right way!”

The parting words of a very pleasant chap in labour colours knocking on my door. I’ve never been subject to a doorstep chat with a politician before and this one was brief. Being raised in rural west Wales means that politicians don’t come to the small towns. The area is massive and I imagine Mr Crabb would have focused on the larger towns when he was vying for votes. Not that he needs to in that area.

I’m at a friends house when I answer the door so am not in my own constituency at present. His words were worthless. I did take his poster with the candidates name on, just in the case homeowner does want to visually support he candidate; some people around here have signs the size of houses in their garden, ideally placed at busy crossroads with traffic lights making it impossible not to notice who I should vote for while sat riding the clutch.

But why should I?

These placards tell me nothing  about what the local candidate can do for my area. I don’t know what impact having any Parliamentary candidate will have on my day to day goings on. I understand that the main party candidates will have a type of ethos and mentality and in theory are an extension of their leaders and what goes on in Westminster. But, what about, my town. What about someone being my voice. Will someone ever be my voice?

With this years election being so close in  the polls we will be in a similar position, if the not the same position, as we were 5 years ago. No outright leader for the majority of the nation and bickering between a superior and lesser cabinet holder. How would that reflect on my everyday life, again?

Don’t get me wrong, I am very excited for this election. I like that it is going to be close. But is a good spectacle good for us? I’m registered to vote and having been sharing the link to try and get as much participation as possible. Yes, there are people that will not vote and will not register to vote, I don’t mind. But why do I feel so disconnected to government at this time? Is it that in this manifesto season all candidates are salesmen? There are more than triple number of politicians running around the place. Placards are everywhere (although I was expecting more) but I don’t feel that pomp and necessity to vote.

I’m voting because I want to. I don’t know who I’m voting for and I’m not a massive fan of first past the post, but I feel a sense of duty to do so. From a legal perspective and welfare rights advisor I know the implication the policy and lawmakers can have on millions of people, but, I’m not voting for that; I’m voting for a local MP. Yet, I don’t know anything about my local MP, just a name, and what’s in a name?

I didn’t watch all of the leaders debates. The ITV one I did happen to watch was enjoyable. In my view Nicola Sturgeon has been consistent and cool throughout. She is straight talking and can rely on what the Scottish Parliament have achieved for facts. That is my snap shot view.

I feel that Nigel let himself down. I happened to see him on Loose Woman a while back and was impressed by his charisma and real life aspect of him. If he had stayed on that vein throughout the debate, I believe he would have made him self more of a threat. Leaving the EU is about more than migrants.

My Welsh compatriot  put in a good innings and was focused to Wales.

Bennett – good talker, no plan to back it up.

Ed and David – what you would expect. Ed with everything to gain, David defending a record of government he has had to share. Ed, just because the camera is there does not mean you can  stare me down!

Nick – If you are on a platform as Deputy Prime Minister – Don’t just at your ‘team mate’. Highlight what more you can do. Opportunity missed.

I didn’t intend to rank them all, it seems fair though.

I don’t know who I will vote for, I’m new to the area, and I may be voting by proxy which will be new.

If you have registered, don’t just use it to improve your credit rating, use it to shape the next Parliament. Get to know your candidates; what can they do for you? Don’t regret not voting. Vote the right way… for you.

Bevan Foundation

Pleased to say that an article I wrote in relation to Welfare Reform and cancer patients has been published in Exchange from the Bevan Foundation. 

http://www.bevanfoundation.org/bevan-review/exchange-march-2015/ 

Thank you for the help Jon Morgan Antoniazzi

Dependancy – Food Banks and Payday Money Lenders

I was listening to a podcast the other week, and I have been reading, about the UKs dependency on the network of Food Banks throughout the UK.

A Food Bank is usually a voluntary organisation that supplies food to people are in financial need. Food is donated by the public and distributed throughout a network of banks. Service users need to be referred to the bank and organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureaus are ticket holders; as they are free advice service they tend to see people who are more financially vulnerable than others dealing with debt issues.

There has been a phenomenal increase in the take up of Food Banks in the last 5 years. Partly due to the increased exposure of them through mainstream and social media, but also due to the harsh public funding cuts to subsistence level welfare benefits and the, close to complete removal, of free legal advice under different Legal Aid Schemes. Further cuts are planned according to the government to help balance the books in the times of this austerity that we live in, due to the past government’s failings blah blah blah…

As an aside to this, despite recent legislation enforcing stricter rules on such schemes, payday money lender use is also on the increase; I assume this will be in part be due to some of the reasons noted above.

My concern with these two practices and with the further reduction in welfare spending is that people are becoming dependent on the schemes. Food Banks and payday loans are supposed to be a last resort. Regardless of how they are marketed, payday loans should not be used on a regular basis. Why should they? Particularly workers on a salary, or fixed income. I know that in recent times it has been a luxury to find such work, but there is growth and more reliability in income.

As I am writing this I can see that Tesco is to close 43 of its stores which is not going to help my case in what I am about to say but please do hear me out.

A person should not have to rely on voluntary assistance to get food on their table. Yes, they may have debts, and yes, they may have limited income. But there are circumstances and systems in place to make sure that essential expenditure is still affordable to your household. It can be held up in court as well going through insolvency procedures to further safeguard the chasing of creditors.

I heard on the radio a lady who did work. She stated that she could not afford or survive without her payday money lender. She had been using the same place for over 12 months. Why? Her income had not changed in that period. She knew what she was getting each month yet the risk was taken to borrow money at extortionate rates to fund something – this was not divulged. Why was she not living within her means. What was missing? This was not addressed on the radio show and it further legitimises the practice.

We need to start being more truthful to ourselves about what is affordable. Higher prices are driven by people willing to pay higher prices. We can afford these higher prices through money that is not ours which increases priced further. The housing market would become more affordable, food and gas would become more affordable, food! These prices will stay elevated for as long as we keep propping them up with money that doesn’t truly exist in our accounts.

Taking out payday loans and taking free food will always keep the price of luxury and non-luxury items at a premium and we need to take a long hard look at how we deal with finances as a whole.

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