I’ve said before here that Crumpsall, where I live, has a relatively low rate of unemployment for Manchester but the highest rate of underemployment in the city: lots of families with two part time jobs or one low paid full time and one part time. I mentioned this in connection to the payday loan storefronts that have proliferated locally since 2010 and the sense they gave of a neighbourhood circling the plughole.
One thing that hasn’t been much mentioned in budget coverage are the cuts in working family tax credits announced in 2010 but due to take effect this April. It’s these in particular which are really going to get the drain gurgling round here, especially since the raising of the tax threshold will dump more people into an income level where far more money will be taken from them because they’ve gone over the trigger limit. Being a cynic, I wonder if that wonderful measure was done partly in the expectation that this would happen. Well, the local Peacock’s clothing store shut down a few weeks back, so there’s another storefront available for our lovable local vulture lenders.
It’s different from living in Hulme: that was a neighbourhood that had already hit bottom, and there was a kind of resilience, even the occasional bout of optimism, available from knowing things couldn’t actually get any worse. We’ve gone to the dogs. And here they are: the dogs. Nice doggie. Woof. Of course those were the days when it was believed that jobs were created through the concentration of capital in the organisation of the firm or through state agency. In the absence of those things, you got the dole. These days, it’s fashionable to believe that jobs are created by goading the jobless into spectacular acts of willpower and performative humility: so I guess the folk down in M15 are being shovelled wholesale into the maw of A4E these days.
But it’s something else living in a working neighbourhood, which in normal times flails along with its collective head just above the water, being gradually and through the systematic application of government policy suffering a kind of collective punishment; and the organic commerce which had evolved to serve it beginning to go down with it. The top end of Cheetham Hill Road was always low-margin. Shops would come and go, but there always seemed to be somebody else ready to have a try. These days it’s looking more than a bit gap toothed. It’s an odd feeling watching financial repression happen around you; like living in the middle of a crime in progress.