Sorry We Missed You: Failing High Streets and Rising Debt

Image of former John Lewis store in Palmerston Road, Southsea. Credit: Peter Gruner.

Ken Loach’s moving new drama Sorry We Missed You will be shown at No 6 Cinema on December 19, 7pm and will resonate sadly with many people in Portsmouth, writes resident Peter Gruner.

The film’s action takes place in Newcastle, amid scenes of declining high streets, but it could just as easily be Palmerston Road, Southsea, where John Lewis has recently closed and Debenhams is due to shut in the New Year.

In the film stores are closing, in part at least due to online shopping, so there is a great need for delivery drivers, which is what lead character Ricky (played by Kris Hitchen, below) becomes.

Image from Ken Loach’s ‘Sorry We Missed You’, starring Kris Hitchin as Ricky Turner (shown).

Forget the old days of working 9am to 5pm and the rights of an employee to reasonable holidays and wages. This is the world of zero hour contracts and the gig economy. An employer may not always be obliged to provide minimum working hours and the worker may have no control over unreasonable conditions. Like so many in the UK today, Ricky and his family are soon pushed to breaking point.

It’s a situation familiar to Denise from Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) Portsmouth, who believes the film deals with problems faced by many of her clients. One of the biggest problems is debt.

‘Universal credit is a welfare benefit which has had a massive impact on some clients,’ Denise said. ‘It has meant that income is paid monthly instead of weekly. It can mean a five to six week wait for payment/money which can be severe for a single parent.

‘Not being able to pay bills on time can make it very difficult. For example, Council Tax is expected once a month every month. You only need to miss one month before you have to play catch-up. Trouble is, catching up is very hard to do.

‘We normally experience an influx of people after Christmas who have spent more than they can afford.’

Denise’s message to those struggling with debt is: don’t suffer in silence.

‘Help is available and [Portsmouth CAB] are attached to many resources. There are food banks, support networks for issues like domestic violence, [and] physical and mental health. There’s also help for the elderly, families with relatives in the military, and people with immigration problems.’

There usually isn’t a lengthy wait for those who visit the CAB Portsmouth office. They will get up to an hour of assistance.


Further information

Sorry We Missed You  is showing at No6 Cinema on Thursday 19th December at 7pm. The cinema is in the Historic Dockyard. Tickets available on the website.

The Citizens Advice Bureau Portsmouth can be found at 2-3, Ark Royal House, Winston Churchill Avenue, Portsmouth PO1 2GF. Phone: 023 9285 5855. You can also visit their website.