'There is no money left – it's all running out'

For the residents of Keighley, an industrial town in West Yorkshire, the Budget brought little in the way of relief. Jonathan Brown found out what they really want and need
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Indy Politics

From the ground above the Woodhouse estate you can catch glimpses of the steam trains chugging along the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway – a nostalgic line made famous by the classic film The Railway Children. Yet for those still living on this faded post-war development the reality of daily life is very different.

This is the sort of northern marginal that Labour with a majority of just 5,000, must win if it is to hold on to power, and proof that things are improving for people here can be seen at the bottom of the estate where new homes are rising as part of a £2.7m regeneration project. But it can't come fast enough for those living here, for whom yesterday's Budget brought little in the way of relief.

John Manning, 29, has been out of work for four months. The father of two was not even aware of events in Westminster and only dimly conscious of what they might mean for him. What he did know however was that the houses around the home he shares with his pregnant girlfriend were all vacated in the last year to make way for new social housing and that he has been powerless to stop the gangs of youths stripping the lead and stealing the pipes from the derelict properties.

"It is like living in a deserted town. I don't see the point of voting or saying what I've got to say when I know nothing will get done. This is not the sort of place I want my son to be brought up. There is all this money so why haven't they cracked on with it? It's a shit hole," he said.

Next door, neighbour Jeanette Gallagher, 46, a mother of one, said it could be frightening at night living among the abandoned homes. "The drug dealers come on to the street and they are handing drugs out as if they are sweets. No one is listening to us. Half the street lights don't work so I don't go out at night. There should have been more money for police. I've given up ringing them because they never come," she said.

Michael St Julien, 19, and his girlfriend Leanne Turner, 19, had plenty of time to watch Alastair Darling deliver his Budget because neither has worked since they graduated from college a year ago. "There were some good points in it definitely," said Mr St Julien who is planning to vote Labour. "But it seems like there is no money left – it's all running out. I want more training and that would lead to more jobs. You can't do owt with no money." Miss Turner, who is on income support, agreed. "No one wants to employ anyone. I am prepared to do anything but there never seems to be any jobs going. That's what needs fixing."

Michael Farrar, 66, a retired plumber, was returning from a trip to Keighley's well-heeled neighbour Ilkley – natural Tory territory. "There was nothing in it for pensioners as usual. I can't see anyone being impressed with raising the stamp duty threshold to £250,000 – not round here. And I'm paying much too much tax on my pension," he said.

Lesley Harrison, is bringing up six boys in her rented home. She has two jobs, her partner works and her eldest son is in full-time employment too. But it is still hard to make ends meet. "You expect tobacco and alcohol to go up so there is no surprise there. But family allowances haven't gone up for years now. That is ridiculous. Even if it was just 50p that would be some help for everyone. People on the dole are better off than we are. Why delay increasing child credits for two years? We can't wait that long."

But for Glenys Copperwaite, 71, living in a sheltered bungalow lower down the valley, she believed voters should give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt. "I think they should give him another chance to see if he can finish the job. He has struggled and had a really hard job to do but people seem to have been really down on him – especially the younger ones who seem to be shouting at him. I feel so sorry for him."

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