Poverty versus affluence in MK tale of two cities

editorial image

A tale of two cities is emerging as the booming economy of Milton Keynes threatens to leave a huge number of people behind.

Even as growth continues apace large chunks of the city’s hidden poor are suffering worsening education, lower job prospects near to home and from a “slow car crash” of bad health, a new report has found.

Appealing for a city-wide debate of the issues, Bart Gamber, of the Milton Keynes Community Foundation, said: “Families are suffering benefits cuts that mean they are unable to provide for their children. They can’t afford the childcare that would enable them to go out to work.

“People are losing their homes in unprecedented numbers; 1,250 people were recorded as homeless in MK in 2014, compared to 350 in 2013.”

The MK Community Foundation’s Vital Signs report, published on Tuesday, says one in every five children under 16 in MK still live below the poverty line. Poverty is defined as families receiving means-tested benefits and low income.

The report says that even being in a job is no guarantee of being out of poverty.

Education, seen as a way out of poverty, may be failing to connect with young people, too. Some 61 per cent of MK students achieved five or more A* -C grades in their GCSEs in 2014, compared with 63 per cent nationally.

And crucially only 25 per cent of poor MK students, those who qualify for free school meals, achieved five or more A* -C grades in GCSEs.

Mr Gamber said: “Something has gone wrong with the results of our young people in the last year. We don’t know why but it’s really worrying. It might just be an anomaly.”

Some aspects of the city’s health – sometimes linked to poverty and poor diet – are suffering too. Nearly one in every five children are clinically obese while nearly one in every four adults have the same diagnosis.

Obesity, which has been called a “slow-motion car crash” by the NHS, is a leading cause of premature death .

Mayor of Milton Keynes, Councillor Keith McLean said the issues raised in the report should be debated by the council as it has powers to tackle some of the issues.

For more information visit www.mkcommunityfoundation.co.uk.