The gulf between rich and poor in Britain’s inner cities is wider now than at any point since Victorian times, the Tories will say today.
By Simon Johnson
They highlight new research showing some of the country’s most deprived communities are literally next door to the most prosperous.
Despite their proximity, these ghettos are described as being “on a different planet” – rife with drug dealers, gangs, knives, guns and children being raised in squalor.
They say the figures are a damning indictment of New Labour’s policies.
Chris Grayling, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “What we are seeing is the growth of a sub-culture in our society that is utterly divided from and alienated from mainstream British life.
“In many respects these communities might as well be on a different planet from the rest of us.
“This is one of Britain’s great social challenges, and the fact that it remains untouched a decade after Gordon Brown and Tony Blair won power will remain one of the great failures of this Government.”
The Conservatives claim their research, based on Government figures produced by Oxford University, shows the scale of the divide.
In areas of central London 99.55 per cent of children are officially classified as living in poverty, whereas in other parts of the same area the figure is just 0.64 per cent.
More than 80 per cent of households in one ward in Leicester are officially classified as being “income deprived”, while elsewhere in the city the figure is only four per cent.
Manchester city centre has the most divided communities in the country, with nearly half of residents in one electoral ward officially poor, while in nearby streets the figure is just one per cent.
The official unemployment rate is 5.2 per cent but there are pockets of Britain’s cities where half the working age population is dependent on benefits.
Mr Grayling will argue in a speech to businessmen in Liverpool tomorrow (tues) that the gulf in social opportunities and life expectancy “is as vast as it has been at any stage since Victorian times.”
He will compare the gang culture and deprivation of that era to today, and argue that social mobility under Labour “has come to a halt”.
In an attack on Gordon Brown’s record, Mr Grayling will claim there is a metaphoric “glass wall” around deprived areas that prevents residents from escape.
Describing the Toxteth area of Liverpool, he will say: “I can show you streets where no one works, street corners where drug dealing is the main business, children being brought up in squalor, a caged up pub with pitbulls as bouncers – gangs, knives and guns in abundance.”