Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

“Foodbank Britain”: On the road to recovery??

In Editorial on March 31, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Question: What happens when you turn a corner?

Answer: Nothing much. You’re still heading up the same blind alley.

Back in January, George Osborne was able to announce triumphantly that the economy had finally turned a corner. It had taken a long time (much longer than originally promised) with a double-dip recession on the way, but UK plc was finally on the road to recovery. It was at last responding to treatment, and (as they used to sing during the depression years), happy days were here again.

Of course for the millions out of work together with those struggling to make ends meet in our low wage, part time workplace, such assurances mean very little. And Osborne’s promise to raise the basic minimum wage didn’t mean a lot either – though it was significant that a number of employers quickly protested that they couldn’t afford to pay it. There must be something fundamentally wrong with a regime in which so many in the workforce are unable to earn a basic minimum wage – let alone the “living wage”, which has become Labour’s yardstick by which to measure pay levels. Indeed, wage rates for many who do have jobs are continuing to fall. We still live in foodbank Britain, with poverty levels continuing to rise, and where measures such as the bedroom tax are increasing the scourge of homelessness.

How long this “recovery” will continue of course remains problematical. If we’re including the period leading up towards Christmas season, then consumer spending traditionally rises. Indeed, it seems such a rise in consumer sales has helped Osborne achieve his modest growth.

Another factor was a steep rise in house prices. They’re growing at the rate of 75 per cent, according to the Halifax. How this percentage is estimated we’re not sure – but surely even if it was a healthy trend, this kind of rise must be unsustainable, despite the encouragement of easy credit. And if we’re aiming for a sustainable economy, it’s not the way to go.

As for the industrial sector (once the mainstay of the UK’s economy), this has been reduced to a state of fragility, with any exports depending on world economic trends. It’s suggested that export trade has made little difference to the situation.

No doubt Osborne felt his chest swelling with pride when the IMF acknowledged his “recovery” – whilst ignoring its warning that it was still fragile.

CUTS TO CONTINUE:

And, of course, the Chancellor was quick to point out that the cuts would continue to bite. We still have to balance the books, he insists, and cutbacks would continue unabated – even after the date of the next election (always assuming that the Tories got back in, of course).

There is, of course, a hidden agenda here. The cuts in public spending haven’t been made merely to restore the economy to health. More important to the Tories is the attack on the public sector and what’s left to us of the welfare state. The structure created by Beveridge together with the multitude of services once provided by local councils are suffering a lingering death by a thousand cuts. We may well be reduced to the same level of social welfare as exists in the USA.

And we’re sure it hasn’t escaped their notice that their scorched earth policy will make it much more difficult to restore the welfare of the nation if Labour succeeds in winning next year’s General Election. Even if the will is there (and we hope it is), it won’t be easy to revive the public sector, to anything resembling health. Is “One Nation” Labour capable of making this leap of faith, to reconnect with its supporters?

We hear little of the claim that “we’re all in this together” these days, as it’s so blatantly untrue. Neither do we hear talk of the “Big Society” – Cameron’s cover for undermining the welfare state. What has been created is a deeply divided society in which the poorest are demonised and allowed to go to the wall, whilst the rich simply carry on getting richer.

From where we’re standing, it’s impossible to talk of “recovery” when the poorest in our society continue to slide further into poverty. If we really were pulling out of recession, then everyone should benefit from it.

FOOTNOTE:

According to the South West TUC newsletter, this recovery doesn’t seem to have been reflected in our region.

Employment rates have actually fallen slightly in the south west . In areas which had seemed to be weathering the storm somewhat better than others, the number of jobs has now fallen. Perhaps the best that we can say is that the much vaunted fall in unemployment has been somewhat patchy.

Meanwhile, Government statistics claiming that the road to recovery starts from here have been challenged by a number of economists. Ministers have been accused of using “dodgy cost-of-living figures”.

The critics include the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Its director told BBC Radio 4 that by next year “average household incomes will be lower than they were pre-recession and lower than in 2010.”

As for families, lower income working people and those out of work, the struggle against declining living standards goes on.

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  1. Reblogged this on harryquickk.

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