Tale of two cities within Leeds as haves prosper near have-nots
The irony is almost Dickensian in its intensity. The gleaming new shopping malls of Leeds city centre '“ symbols of the city's unofficial title as Yorkshire's economic capital '“ are as much a part of the Leeds Central constituency as the working class heartlands just a stone's throw away.
But as the latest child poverty figures – placing the area high in a national league of shame – show, it’s a tale of two cities within a city.
This seeming conflict of pomp and polish versus abject hardship is replicated across the region and in urban metropolitan centres across the UK.
Sam Royston, the chairman of the End Child Poverty coalition, which compiled the wide-ranging research, said there had been “no particular evidence” of the traditional North-South divide.
“What we saw was evidence of child poverty in every region of the country, including across Yorkshire,” he said.
“But within those regions there are certainly huge disparities, some areas with child poverty rates in excess of 40 per cent, others with rates less than one in 10.
“We certainly find that in a lot of large cities like Leeds, Sheffield and Hull, you have quite affluent areas with quite low levels of child poverty living right next to areas with really astonishing rates of child poverty.
“It does suggest that sense of communities divided – between those areas which have enough resources and families in other areas who are really struggling.
“What we need to do a as a society is make sure that all families have enough to give their children the essential for a decent childhood. Childhood should not be a lottery.”
Campaigners say the impact of a string of punitive Government benefits cuts – the latest being the in-work benefits cap enforced earlier this week – is widening inequality and sending many already struggling families spiralling further into hardship.
Mariama Weston, 24, a single mother-of-two and part-time college student, is part of the recently formed Leeds Poverty Truth Commission.
She said she would not have believed Leeds could be so high up in the poverty league were it not for the fact that she has personally witnessed it.
“My sister has five children and she is close to being evicted because of benefit cuts under the new cap and because she can’t get a job at the moment,” she said.
“It is hitting people very hard.
“The Government should be giving more support for people who can’t cope.
“The Government is definitely in denial about the extent of the problem, or they would be doing something about it.
“By all means they can make cuts, but I don’t think they should make such drastic cuts.”