The money struggles of voters in a Midlands marginal seat

A woman with dyed pink and purple hair smiling in front of a bush
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Mother-of-two Savannah Wild said it was vital politicians tackled the cost of living

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Redditch in Worcestershire is a marginal seat that saw a Conservative majority swell after Brexit. As the cost of living crisis continues to bite, how are people feeling ahead of a general election?

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Jack Beddows is a metal worker and bare knuckle boxer

"To be honest I’m like every other working class person - making ends meet, just about."

Jake Beddows, metal worker and bare knuckle boxer, can see that his colleagues, friends and family are experiencing the same financial struggles as he is.

The 28-year-old wanted to see how things could be better for the next generation.

Politicians needed to be "giving them more choices, making them learn trades, and something long-lasting that's going to go through their life," he said.

"Lower the taxes and give people a chance to catch up," Mr Beddows added. "Not everyone’s earning millions of pounds."

Image source, Getty Images
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Redditch has been a marginal seat since it was created in 1997

"We definitely need a minimum wage increase," said his colleague at Redhill Manufacturing, Brandon Meadows.

The 24-year-old commutes more than 50 miles (80km) to Redditch to get to work from Hereford.

"I don't think anyone can live on £11.44, especially living in your own property, like me," he said.

"You've worked basically for nothing by the end of it."

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Former apprentice Will Freeman is saving up to move out of his parent's home

Will Freeman, 20, started out as an apprentice five years ago and still lives with his parents while saving for his own place.

He thinks parties need to invest more into apprenticeships in manufacturing and engineering.

"The main age group in these places, they're all experienced but they're all mid-50s," he says.

"You need these skills to continue through the generations... Redditch is quite good for that."

Image source, Getty Images
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The Conservative Party has pledged funding for improvements in Redditch if they remain in government

Redhill Manufacturing is a third-generation family business that was almost destroyed when a huge fire broke out in 2022.

"We were stood by the side of the road with grown men crying," remembered director Samantha Colley, as equipment and machinery went up in flames.

But the company salvaged and borrowed, operating split shifts at a smaller site so nobody was laid off.

Two years later and it has risen from the ashes, expanding again on a new site at Lakeside Industrial Estate.

Ms Colley agreed investment into apprenticeships would address challenges in finding skilled staff.

"So that we keep bringing the younger demographic through to safeguard British manufacturing for the future, especially young people in Redditch," she said.

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Samantha Colley said Redhill Manufacturing, which employed about 60 people, was on the up again after a near catastrophic fire

Redditch, about 15 miles south of Birmingham, has been a constituency since 1997 when Labour's Jacqui Smith was voted in as MP.

Since 2010, when David Cameron became prime minister of the coalition government, the seat had been held by the Conservatives.

So Redditch is a place that helps demonstrate how the country is feeling - a bellwether seat.

In 2021, the then-Conservative council secured £15.6m of Town Deal funding from the government, fuelling a controversial relocation of Redditch library to a new town hall "hub" and plans for a new public square on the old site.

But work to move the library was halted after Labour retook control of Redditch Borough Council in May's local elections. It remains open in its existing 48-year-old building.

But what do people in the area think politicians should be concentrating on?

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Mei Lau thought Redditch town centre needed a lift

For Mei Lau, a thriving town centre would help her restaurant stay afloat.

"People come to eat and say the food is brilliant but it's too quiet," she said. "I'd like the town to be more booming."

Footfall has dwindled since the pandemic, she said, with big firms like Debenhams and Marks & Spencer shutting up shop.

"It's cost of living, everything's getting expensive. People are not willing to go out and spend money," she added.

Tina Ashcroft, from Matchborough, works out of town as a supervisor at Jaguar Land Rover in Coventry and considered herself lucky to have a well-paid job.

"I do look after my dad so I do have to take into account his costs," the 52-year-old said.

"I know he's got a pension but that barely covers anything."

She described potholes on the drive to Coventry as "appalling" and said the roads needed "completely redoing".

"There's no such thing as public transport that can get me to work on time," she added.

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Tina Ashcroft said she considered herself well paid but needed to support her dad

Chris Clayton, from Ipsley, also worried about cost of living pressures on his autistic son.

"I'd like them to look at disability allowance," the 55-year-old said. "He can't work. He's struggling to pay the bills."

"The rent's gone up £40 a month extra. Electric, food, everything's gone up."

Pensioner Jean Govier moved to Redditch as a child and said she was forced to rely on her husband's wage for three years when she first retired.

"I was born the wrong side of the [1950s] so I had to wait until I was 66 to get my pension," she explained.

She was keen to see state pensions made "more liveable, so you can afford to do more".

"The minimum wage is more than the state pension at the moment," she said. "It would be nice if it went up."

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Chris Clayton worried about his son who cannot work due to his autism

Born and bred in the town, Savannah Wild, 25, agreed the price of daily life has become "crazy".

"Luckily me and my partner both work now, but for people who don’t it’s just insane," the mum-of-two said.

Hit by postnatal depression after the birth of her first daughter four years ago, she said being a young parent "was definitely very hard financially around here".

"It felt like there wasn't much help... my partner actually had to leave his job to look after me and we just didn’t get much financial support so we were very, very poor," she added.

'A tough journey'

She and her partner now worked four or five days a week as baristas and the children attended nursery full-time.

"It's a lot better now. It’s been a tough journey," Ms Wild said.

The pair have had free childcare for both daughters since March but she said they would not have coped without help from family members.

"More support for people who are trying to go back into work would be helpful," she added.

She will head to the polls again despite being disappointed by previous elections because she wanted her voice to be heard.

"I am going to vote again because I know if I don't it's less likely the change I want is going to happen," she said.

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