Monday, 27 December 2010

We're All In This Together

Having a 6-year-old daughter gives you an insight into childish tastes and fads. Top of the list as far as she is concerned is the films and characters in the "High School Musical" series. One of her favourite songs from High School Musical 1 is sung as the finale "Were all in this together" which coincidentally is the slogan of the Conservative led Government.

By this they mean that the hardships that many people are enduring at the moment are being equally shared between the powerful and the powerless, between the rich and the poor. But are they? 2011 will see the rise in VAT, cuts in services on which people on low incomes are most heavily dependent and job losses, which will swell the numbers of the unemployed of Leek.

I was talking to a couple in a local supermarket before Christmas. The husband was self-employed. His wife had a job with the local council, which was under threat. His business was failing and despite his best efforts he had not earned anything for months. The bad weather had not helped. He had tried leafleting in the affluent parts of Cheshire to try to drum up some business but to no avail.

He and his wife had tried everything and they were running out of possibilities.

I felt very sorry for them, as they both looked tired. He told me that they had little sleep and they discussed little else. They had tried to keep the enormity of the situation away from their children. Their greatest fear was that they would lose their house. They felt very guilty.

I’m pretty sure that this story could be replicated elsewhere in the area.

The notion that the rich are bearing equally all the harshness that the present cutbacks are causing ordinary people is patent nonsense. For example high-rolling bankers many of whom are due to collect multi-million pound payouts, have brought forward pay day to the end of December rather than wait until March as usual in order to avoid new government and European legislation.

And at the other end of the social scale?

Just before Christmas the independent organisation the Institute of Fiscal Studies calculated that the Governments plans to slash spending would push nearly 1 million more people into poverty. It will also lead to an increase for the first time in 15 years to a rise absolute poverty for 200,000 children nationally. Cuts in housing benefit alone will force many people further into hardship. A crude extrapolation of these figures to Leek’s population means that 2012/3 will mean that around 300 Leek residents and their children will find themselves destitute.

All in this together?