The statistics that mask continuing real hardship

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Several stories in today’s paper, on the face of it unconnected, paint an interesting picture of life in this area in the 21st century.

But there is a crucial, basic link between them all – cash: how much or how little you have.

There are the stories which point to a flourishing, vibrant south-east Hampshire economy, while another brings us down to earth by highlighting those who have to rely on hand-outs to eat.

Perhaps it was ever thus. We do not think so. Did food banks exist in 1975? No they did not.

Today, unemployment is at its lowest level since that year. Great news and, yes, there is much to celebrate in our region.

New hotels are opening, home-grown clothing brand FatFace, a local success story if ever there was one, opens a new distribution centre tomorrow, and a new branch of KFC has thrown open its doors at Bedhampton.

And our campaign to base all the Royal Navy’s new frigates in Portsmouth, and the hundreds of jobs that would go with such a decision, is gathering momentum with increasing support from leading and influential figures.

Perhaps there really is a groundswell of renewed economic optimism in the Portsmouth area, but remember the many companies which are struggling, the redundancies that keep coming and the people fighting to make ends meet.

KFC trumpets that its new outlet employs more than 70 people. How many of those are full-time jobs? The seemingly laudable employment figures do not reveal how many of those with work are on the breadline because of low pay.

Philip Rutt, who runs the Basics Bank in Fareham and Gosport sums it up perfectly when he says: ‘It is more complicated than just saying there are more jobs in the economy. It depends on what the jobs are, how they are paid and what hours they are.

‘The reasons people come to the food bank are complex but the bottom line is that they are skint.’