“David Cameron and George Osborne believe the only way to persuade millionaires to work harder is to give them more money.
But they also seem to believe that the only way to make ordinary people work harder is to take money away.”
Source: Hansard, December 12, 2012.
The largest study into poverty in the UK has prompted fresh urges for the government to take measures to tackle growing levels of poverty. The Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom (PSE) project is a collaboration between the University of Bristol, University of Glasgow, Heriot Watt University, Open University, Queen’s University (Belfast), University of York, the National Centre for Social Research and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.
The project commenced in April 2010 and will run for three-and-a-half years. The research has revealed that inequality in the UK is growing.
The research paper presents an analysis of child poverty and social exclusion in the UK, drawing on data from the 2012 Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey and is the final report on this element of the PSE project. It advances the measurement of child poverty by using three different measures: a child deprivation measure, based on socially perceived necessities, the conventional income poverty measure (but with a more realistic equivalence scale) and a PSE measure which combines deprivation and low income.
The research finds the rates of child poverty for each measures are similar at 30%, 33% and 27% respectively. It also finds, from a new analysis of intra-household distribution, that child deprivation would be much higher if parents were not sacrificing their own living standards for the sake of their children. Analysing the characteristics of poverty, it confirms that a majority of poor children are now living in households with someone in employment.
Perhaps this is the most interesting revelation unearthed by the report: the fact that most of the people living in poverty are employed, dispelling the myth perpetuate by Tory ministers that poverty is a consequence of “worklessness”.
The research found that the majority of children living below the breadline live in small families with at least one employed parent.
Almost 18 million people are unable to afford adequate housing, while one in three do not have the money to heat their homes in winter.
Professor David Gordon said: “The Coalition government aimed to eradicate poverty by tackling the causes of poverty. Their strategy has clearly failed. The available high quality scientific evidence shows that poverty and deprivation have increased since 2010, the poor are suffering from deeper poverty and the gap between the rich and poor is widening.”
We know that benefit delays and the grossly punitive sanction regime are causing dire hardship for people who claim out-of-work benefits, including disabled people who are deemed unfit for work by their doctor.
We are not simply talking about relative deprivation, here, which is more of a statement about degrees of social exclusion. We are talking about absolute poverty, which is a measure of how many can’t afford basic necessities to support life – food, fuel and shelter.
There are many current studies about poverty, all of which conclude pretty much the same: that poverty and inequality are rising, that people are struggling to meet their most basic needs, and that those who were already the poorest citizens have been hit the hardest by Coalition cuts.
The problem isn’t that the government “aren’t doing enough” to tackle poverty: the real problem is that Tory policies are creating poverty.
Three things are immediately clear. Firstly, without the ramping up of VAT in 2010, to 20%, Osborne would be in even more dire financial straits right now. Secondly, income tax has, despite apparently rising employment, failed to increase. Thirdly, corporation tax, targeted for cuts, year after year, has slumped.
The tax system is increasingly veering toward very regressive – biased in favour of the wealthy – consumption taxes, and failing to deliver fairer taxes on income. This is a result of government policy, increasing VAT but cutting corporation tax, and the engineered kind of “recovery” we have ended up with.
We also know that Cameron, who rested all of his political credibility on “paying down the debt” hasn’t done so. In fact, he’s increased it, and the Coalition have borrowed more in just the first three years in Office than the Labour Party – faced with a global banking crisis – did in their entire thirteen years in Office.
If we scrutinise the Coalitions’s policies, which very clearly reflect their ideology, it becomes difficult to see how they could do anything but create inequality and poverty:
These cuts, aimed at the poorest, came into force in April 2013:
- 1 April – Housing benefit cut, including the introduction of the bedroom tax
- 1 April – Council tax benefit cut
- 1 April – Legal Aid savagely cut
- 6 April – Tax credit and child benefit cut
- 7 April – Maternity and paternity pay cut
- 8 April – 1% cap on the rise of in working-age benefits (for the next three years)
- 8 April – Disability living allowance replaced by personal independence payment (PIP)
- 15 April – Cap imposed on the total amount of benefit working-age people can receive.
At the same time, note the Tory “incentives” for the wealthy:
- Rising wealth – 50 richest people from this region increased their wealth by £3.46 billion last year to a record £28.5 billion.
- Falling taxes – top rate of tax cut from 50% to 45% for those earning over £150,000 a year. This is 1% of the population who earn 13% of the income.
- No mansion tax and caps on council tax mean that the highest value properties are taxed proportionately less than average houses.
- Benefited most from Quantitative Easing (QE) – the Bank of England say that as 50% of households have little or no financial assets, almost all the financial benefit of QE was for the wealthiest 50% of households, with the wealthiest 10% taking the lions share
- Tax free living – extremely wealthy individuals can access tax avoidance schemes which contribute to the £25bn of tax which is avoided every year,as profits are shifted offshore to join the estimated £13 trillion of assets siphoned off from our economy.
- Millionaires were awarded a “tax break” of £107,000 each per year.
This year, research from the Office of National Statistics showed that the quantity of food bought in food stores also decreased by 1.5 per cent year-on-year in July.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that repressed, stagnant wages and RISING living costs are going to result in reduced sale volumes. Survation’s research in March this year indicates that only four out of every ten of UK workers believe that the country’s economy is recovering. But we know that the bulk of the Tory austerity cuts were aimed at those least able to afford any cut to their income.
Once again, what we need to ask is why none of the mainstream media articles, or the Office of National Statistics account, duly reporting the drop in food sales, have bothered to link this with the substantial increase in reported cases of malnutrition and related illnesses across the UK.
It’s not as if this correlation is a particularly large inferential leap, after all.
No-one should be hungry, without food in this country. That there are people living in a politically imposed state of absolute poverty is unacceptable in the UK, the world’s sixth largest economy (and the third largest in Europe). This was once a civilised first-world country that cared for and supported vulnerable citizens. After all, we have paid for our own welfare provision, and we did so in the recognition that absolutely anyone can lose their job, become ill or have an accident that results in disability. This is a Government that very clearly does not reflect the needs of the majority of citizens.
It is also unacceptable in a so-called liberal democracy that we have a Government that has persistently denied the terrible consequences of their own policies, despite overwhelming evidence that the welfare “reforms” are causing people, harm, distress and sometimes, death. Furthermore, this is a Government that has systematically employed methods to effectively hide the evidence of the harm caused to others as a consequence of their devastating, draconian “reforms” from the public. This clearly demonstrates an intention to deceive, and an intention to continue causing people harm.
Cameron told us in 2012, in a rare moment of truth (albeit an unintentional one), that he is raising more money for the rich. That money has been raised because as their policies indicate clearly, the Tories have taken it from the poorest.
How many policy-related deaths does it take to change a government?
What will it take for the wider public to recognise a despotic regime for what it is: a government that does not democratically reflect the needs of most citizens in the UK, one that is inflicting unforgivable punishment on those that our society once protected?
What kind of government causes harm to citizens?
With the hierarchical ranking in terms of “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, the artificial and imposed framework of Social Darwinism: a Tory rhetoric of division, where some people’s worth matters more than others, how do we, as conscientious campaigners, help the wider public see that there are no divisions based on some moral measurement, or character- type: there are simply people struggling and suffering in poverty, who are being dehumanised by a callous, vindictive Tory government that believes, and always has, that the only token of our human worth is wealth.
Tory policies ensure that the wealthy are rewarded with more wealth and they punish the poorest with grinding, unforgiving, unforgivable absolute poverty.