I am no stranger to Blackpool. I first visited the resort with my family in the late 1980s, I was aged 10 or 11 at the time, but from the moment I arrived I fell in love with it. And so did the rest of my family.
Over the last 30 years I have visited Blackpool literally dozens of times, from family holidays to wild weekends with friends. And I have had some romantic times here too. It has always been my dream to live and work in Blackpool, and my dream became a reality last month when I quit Essex for a new life. Some people think I am crazy, others think I am brave.
I have only been living in Blackpool for a few weeks and I have quickly settled in. The locals are very friendly and my neighbours and new work colleagues have made me feel very welcome. But what has caught my eye in Blackpool is the hardship and homelessness that has hit so many people, both young and old. And it has been caused by Tory cuts.
On a daily basis I see people begging on the streets, people laying on pavements and in shop doorways wrapped up in duvets and even elderly people asking if people can spare them 50p so they can get a hot drink.
Only recently a young woman in her early 20s was causing a commotion in the town square. She was in a very distressed state and screamed at the police that she had nothing to live for, she was sick of sleeping rough and being cold and hungry. She said she would be better off dead. The police arrested her and took her away for her own safety.
But there we have it: another person with mental health problems who was thrown into a police cell for the night due to the lack of hostels and support for mental health sufferers because of Tory cuts.
I have bought some of these people, who are victims of the Tories’ brutal austerity programme, a hot meal and hot drink, and they have really appreciated it. I have talked to them and listened to their concerns. And, surprise, surprise, some have been made homeless and pushed into severe hardship because of Universal Credit due to delayed payments and administrative errors caused by the crap IT system is uses. Universal Credit is not fit for purpose but the Tories simply do not care.
The Tories recently announced the closure of 87 Jobcentres – two are in Blackpool. People can barely afford to live as it is, yet they are told by Tory MP Liz Truss to “go to the Jobcentre” if they can not afford to pay 55p-a-minute when calling the Universal Credit helpline.
Firstly, you cannot just “go to the Jobcentre” unless you have an appointment. Secondly, if a person cannot afford to pay 55p-a-minute by calling the helpline, how the hell can they be expected to afford the cost of travel to their nearest Jobcentre which could be more than 10 miles away due to the Tories closing swathes of Jobcentres?
Blackpool is not alone in feeling the effects of Tory cuts, as these problems are being felt across the country. But for me it is heartbreaking seeing so many people in Blackpool suffering. There never used to be this many people sleeping rough and begging on the streets, and from what I have seen it has opened up my eyes to the real world.
Where I come from in Thurrock, Essex, Tory cuts are biting, but not to the extent as they are in Blackpool. I never saw much homelessness and begging in Thurrock, though it is on the increase in neighbouring Basildon and further down the Thames Estuary in Southend-on-Sea.
The Tories could not care less that so many people across the country are suffering because of their brutal austerity programme. But what is worrying me now is winter is fast approaching, and the weather can be very cruel in Blackpool, yet dozens of people are sleeping rough. And some of them will die this winter.
Theresa May and the Tories claim they have transformed Britain into “a country that works for everyone”.