Friday, 19 October 2007

Whatever happenned to Social Justice?

Tony Blair was universally despised, and even the Labour Party was glad to see him go in the end. Gordon Brown promised a new beginning - or so we were led to believe (and many in the Labour Party desperately hoped for). The signs looked good and even the more sceptical amongst us were open to the possibility of something new; but we remained (well!) sceptical. Its a good job we did.

This last week has seen the true face of Brown and New (New?) Labour under his leadership. Little, if anything, has changed. New (New?) Labour still favours the rich and is doing little to tackle the huge disparities of wealth and income. Indeed it seems to be competing with the Tories to give money away - to those who already have it, whilst giving little to those who have none!

The proposals for inheritance tax are illuminating: £1.4 billion will be handed to those who are (by any definition) relatively well-off. The majority of people in the UK were never likely to be called upon to pay inheritance tax. Those that do pay would have benefited from huge rises in unearned wealth (on which they would not have been tax before) resulting from rising property values. Added to this, the recent cut in capital gains tax on buy-to-let properties, antiques, paintings and jewellery is shameless and utterly unnecessary. It basically amounts to a free hand-out of government money to the already bloated.

Yet, public sector pay increases will be held at 2% (well below pay awards in the private sector and minute compared to the pay increases that company fat-cats award to themselves); the minimum wage remains at a pittance and increased tax credits to the poorest gave them a paltry 48p extra. So much for social justice and fairness under New (New?) Labour under a New (New?) Leader.

But things get even worse. The poor financial settlement to local government next year represents a real shift of resources from the less well off to the relatively privileged - as the poor are much more dependent on many public services than the rich. All this is done in the name of "financial prudence", but in reality is to ensure that "council tax-payers" (read "relatively well-off") pay even less for public services - whilst consistently whingeing about their decline. Has it not dawned on such people that we cannot have improving public services and at the same time pay less and less taxation and also allow the rich to pay a smaller and smaller proportion of their rising income.

As a local councillor (representing a relatively poor area of Wellingborough) I am constantly amazed at the decline in our urban areas (pavements, roads, parks and open spaces). Yet I know we live in one of the richest countries in the world. When I look at the well-off areas of our town I do not see the kind of decline that the poor have to live with. I know there are peole who are disgustingly wealthy or receiving salaries that the even the "middle class" like me can only dream of. If we took a greater slice of taxes from such groups (at the same proportion of income as the pooerest!) we would have a fairer and much more socially cohesive society - that is more comfortable with itself and with each other. But no, we pander to the selfish, rich, bastards and ask them if they want more! How ludicrious. This is morally and socially wrong!

We claim to be a mature democracy in which all should be treated with equal respect and dignity. To quote George Orwell - we are all equal, but some are more equal than others! Isn't it time that those who are treated with less dignity and respect rose up and demanded what is rightfully theirs!?

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