Friday, 30 August 2013

Coalition needs to address growing inequality in UK

In my column in this week’s Cornish Guardian, I have addressed the growing inequality in UK society. It is as follows:

One Coalition MP recently wrote about the manner in which central government makes its political decisions, commenting on the “back-room deals” and the “dark arts of the whips.”

He said he yearned for a return to “genuine evidence-based policy-making,” while admitting that this “was something which ministers claim to do but rarely achieve.” According to the MP, ministers prefer civil servants to come up “with a case” to justify whatever position the minister wishes to promote.

As a local councillor, I have often seen how the very same statistics can be used by different individuals to argue opposing standpoints – often with more thought given to the argument than the actual evidence itself.

I make these points because there are a number of independent reports which show that inequality is increasing throughout the United Kingdom. And that is regardless of the crass claims by David Cameron, George Osborne, Iain Duncan Smith and others that, in this age of austerity, “we are all in it together.”

The Resolution Foundation recently reported that the gap between the wealthiest in society and everyone else is widening. The top 1% of earners (the super-rich) share one tenth of national income – significantly up from the 1990s. By comparison, the poorest 50% have to collectively make do with 18% of national income.

The UN’s 2013 Human Development Report has also noted that the “gap between rich and poor in UK society has risen sharply” since the Coalition government took power. The UN reports that there is greater inequality in the UK than in other countries in Western Europe.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has meanwhile used its annual report to warn about the growing income gap between “full-time employees” and those individuals in “part-time, insecure and low-wage jobs.”

And a study by Loughborough University for the Child Poverty Action Group, has reported that more than 18,000 children in Cornwall are living in poverty.

It seems to me that if the Coalition did practice genuine evidence-based policy-making, it would prioritise tackling the growing inequality in the United Kingdom by reversing their austerity policies which are impacting most on the less-well-off.

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