UK Politics

Meeting the Jams

Christopher Harroway, marine engineer
Image caption Marine engineer Christopher Harroway is already feeling the squeeze from higher prices

You could argue that Britain as a nation has something in common with the Jams - the new acronym of choice in Downing Street. People who are Just About Managing - the people that the prime minister says she will help.

Listen to the chancellor. The UK's debt is "eye-wateringly" large, he says. There are "sharp" challenges ahead and inflation is expected to rise next year.

Some might say that Britain is itself just about managing.

Marine engineer Christopher Harroway is already noticing a rise in the cost of living.

"You realise from daily activities like going to do your shopping, fuel prices, everything, that it's a lot higher than it used to be," he says. "A lot of people's wages don't match that as much now.

"Life's hard at times, but I suppose you get by."

Christopher works at Dunston's Ship Repairs in Hull, where he has been employed for 12 years.

He hopes to buy a house in the next few years, but he knows the mortgage will be higher than his rent is currently. He, like many others, would appreciate some government help to bridge the gap.

When the chancellor unveils his Autumn Statement on Wednesday we will get our first, proper detailed look at the policies this government wishes to pursue, its priorities.

We know - because the prime minister tells us - that ministers are determined to make the lives of the Jams better.

But there is limited money available to help voters left behind by globalisation, those whose living standards could be further eroded next year by falling growth and rising prices.

Outside Dunston's, another ship is preparing to leave, as the sun starts to rise over the Humber, and more vessels are coming into port.

People have struggled in Hull for decades, but now lives are improving after a huge effort to rebuild the economy around the renewable energy sector.

"We're very much on the right trajectory for the first time in something like 35 years. Our unemployment is at record lows," says Mark Jones, the man who led Hull's regeneration at a time of central government cuts to local authority budgets.

"The government is short of money, we know that. We are heading towards more fiscal devolution."

You overcome this, he says, by creating money locally - a fiscal base for the council.

"Having more buildings, more productive assets, a better public realm that attracts more investment, more business rates into the area which can help sustain some of our more disadvantaged communities."

If the government is to be successful in improving lives, it will surely need the help of local authorities like Hull.

Image caption Pippa Elliot used her savings to get her business started

Across Yorkshire in a chilly Victorian factory building in Sheffield, Pippa Elliot is standing on a stool, firing thick black wool into a rug base.

She set up her business recently and says there needs to be "help for start-up businesses. I know the funding's disappeared. I've taken my savings and supported myself. If I wasn't in that position I wouldn't have done it".

Outside and down some slippery stairs the old brick chimney still stands proud above the site at Portland Works. This is where the world's first stainless steel was produced more than 100 years ago.

Image caption Pete Ledger runs a family business which plates cutlery

Pete Ledger at PML Silver Plating walks past with dozens of shiny forks and spoons dangling from lengths of wire.

In the office, his daughter Emma Lawson - who is the company secretary but who ends up doing "everything", she says with a laugh - would like more help from government to bring an apprentice into the family business.

"It would be nice to have some help as to how to employ someone in the industry," says Emma. "I don't actually think there's anything out there. That would be beneficial."

Finally we head into the forge, in the same building, where Andy Cole, the only forger left, says: "You've got to slow imports down. In 2011 - up to then - I had 12 employees, but the (cheap) imports crippled me and I had to shut the doors.

"We need some sort of trade barriers to cushion our employees."

Image caption Andy Cole says his firm was crippled by cheap imports

On the dockside in Liverpool, Gary's Cafe is doing a good trade - like the city itself. Just as in Hull, Liverpool was depressed for many years but it has been attracting investment recently and improving many lives.

Gary, who owns the mobile cafe and has been operating on the same street corner for 29 years has seen the ups, the downs and now the ups again.

Image caption The local council is stretched, says Gary, outside his eponymous café

"I'm getting a bit of a better living," he says, handing over a cup of tea. "Scouse hospitality."

But the government should "give us some more money - help the council along - because to be honest the city council are so stretched".

That plea is likely to fall on deaf ears in the Treasury.

The wish lists of those who are managing to get by are long and detailed. The chancellor has said that funding is not limitless and that choices have to be made. He will not be able to help everyone.

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