Chancellor George Osborne yesterday revealed his vision for a ‘Northern powerhouse’ in his final budget ahead of May’s General Election.
The plans involve rolling out better roads, quicker journeys and improved rail connections between the major cities of the north.
Mr Osborne also told the Commons that the North grew faster than the South last year, with employment growing fastest in the North-West.
But Labour Party leader Ed Miliband responded by saying the North had suffered under the Coalition’s rule, adding: “This government is no friend of the north.”
In a reply to the accusations, Mr Osborne said: “I can confirm that living standards will be higher in 2015 than in 2010 and they are set to grow strongly every year for the rest of the decade.”
The final budget revealed that the tax-free personal allowance will be increased from £10,600 in 2015-16 to £10,800 in 2016-17 and the minimum wage will rise by 20p.
With this in mind, MM took to the streets of Manchester to ask:
Have living standards risen in Manchester over the course of this parliament?
Chris Ricketts, a gardener from Moss Side, strongly disagreed that living standards had risen.
He said: “I know people who have got a mortgage and are going to food banks. It’s not filtered through to the common man.
“We’ve seen the numbers and I understand the numbers. I’m educated, but it is bullsh*t.”
Mr Ricketts, who spent 20 years within the law business, added: “We’re broke. They’re [the Coalition] ripping the services apart. It’s ruining the core and the heart of the community.
“There’s going to be nothing left on the bone to cut. If it was a carcass of a wildebeest the hyenas and the vultures would turn away.”
BULLSH*T: Chris Ricketts believed the common man was suffering
Joseph-Benjamin Cumberbatch, a 23-year-old Salford University student, held the same viewpoint and believed Mr Osbourne had tactically spoken about the North in the run-up to the General Election.
He said: “I just think there’s been an extra emphasis on the North because that’s the only thing that looks as if it’s doing a little bit better.
“The Tories have increased the minimum wage and reduced the amount of tax that the lower and middle paid people in the country are paying.
“So it looks like the standard of living is a little bit better, but at the end of the day prices have still gone up, so it’s probably just the same.”
EMPHASIS: Joseph-Benjamin Cumberbatch believed Osborne’s speech was tactical
Joan Moor, a 67-year-old retired social worker from Cheadle, felt it was unacceptable that some people were svisiting food banks.
She said: “You just have to look at food banks don’t you – that says it all.
“There might be some people who are richer but there’s certainly a hell of a lot of people who are worse off.”
Keith Barnes, a 62-year-old Eversheds employee from Stockport, believed that living standards had improved but felt Manchester’s devolution plans – where the city will manage its own budget – would be a bad move.
He said: “Wages have got a bit better and the cost of living has gone down a little bit, but that’s about it.”
“I don’t think it will be a good thing for Manchester to be in charge of their own budget. I don’t think they can manage it.”
Paul Atkinson, a 75-year-old office manager from Cheadle, also believed living standards had risen under the Coaltion government and felt the city’s devolution plans were a positive move.
He said: “There’s more money about and things are being sorted.
“It’s very good that Manchester will get to spend money how we want it rather than it coming from London.”
Dan Donovan, a 24-year-old property worker from Salford, explained how his wages had stayed the same, but expenses were on the rise, contributing to a poorer standard of living.
He said: “Nothing ever lasts throughout the month anymore.
“I don’t exactly earn a lot but it never lasts. So after food, electricity and gas and things like that there’s nothing.”
NOTHING LASTS: Dan Donovan said he couldn’t afford anything after bills
Miriam Banner, a 33-year-old medical writer from Castlefield, also believed that living standards hadn’t increased at all.
She said: “When I do my grocery shop I’ve noticed the huge difference and I think for people that can afford that, then that’s fine.
“But I think there must be a lot of people struggling in terms of how they manage just day to day situations.”
HUGE DIFFERENCE: Miriam Banner said people were struggling with costs
The final budget also revealed that another penny will be taken off a pint after beer duty was cut for the third year in a row.
Mark Jackson, a 41-year-old pub owner from Accrington, believed that this would do nothing to improve living standards.
He said: “There are people who sit in the pub all day drinking who are on benefits and then there are those who go to work for a living and can’t afford to go out for a drink.”
“I’ve never seen so many homeless people. I’d never seen any, but in the last few months there have been a lot of people sat around on the floor.”
Image courtesy of Sue Langford via FlickR, with thanks.