The Budget announcements of last week have promised to re-balance the economy and declared that Britain is ‘open to business’ by lowering corporation tax and the rate that those in the highest tax bracket have to pay. However, for the majority, the austerity continues and includes previous public expenditure cuts that will reduce public sector employment by 700, 000.New proposals on regional pay plan to lower salaries to public sector workers in poorer parts of the country and deepen the North/South divide.
All in it together?
This throws into doubt (for anyone still doubting) the claim that ‘we are all in this together’. The slow recovery of the economy means that the idea wealth will ‘trickle down’ becomes even more flawed than in in times of prosperity.
The Fawcett Society has shown the disproportionate impact of austerity on women. Figures revealing that half of young black males are unemployed and that child poverty is still expected to rise by 400,000 by 2015, provide clear statistics that we are far from all being in this together. As Faiza Shaheen, of the new economics foundation has shown: the Treasury’s own distributional analysis reveals that the tax, tax credit and benefit changes imposed by the Coalition government since coming to power are regressive, i.e. the poorest three sections of our society are most negatively affected. And the evidence shows that that this is disproportionately made up on people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities.
Tackling the root causes of poverty
It could be argued that the economy is being further imbalanced towards a society that is deeply unequal. Frankly, it seems startling that when solutions are offered to ‘mend Broken Britain’, inequality is not something deemed worthy of repair. The recently published Social Justice Strategyapparently provides the “the blueprint for tackling the root causes of poverty”. However, it does not address structural inequality, and is designed to move people into the existing labour market, which, as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Voice4Change England are finding out, does not favour many in our minority ethnic communities. Meanwhile, One North West was one of the nineteen race equality organisations to criticise the government’s Integration Strategy, which does little to address racial inequalities in the UK, and presents integration as being a one way process.
The balance of the economy and of society in general, is becoming even further weighted towards inequalities. The Social Justice Strategy talks of creating a ‘second chance’ society. A first chance society would be even better.