Unless the government intervenes—nowby Campbell Robb / March 2, 2017 / Leave a comment
Theresa May has been vocal in her ambition to support those who are “just about managing.” In her words, these are “ordinary, working-class families” who go to work, pay the bills, but struggle to improve their standard of living or achieve long-term financial stability.
She is right to highlight the problems faced by this group. In the UK today, there are eight million people who are not at high risk of poverty, but who still don’t have enough for a decent standard of living. Eleven million more are so far below what they need that they are likely to be living in poverty.
These figures are shocking, but not unexpected—The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s annual Minimum Income Standard (MIS) report has been tracking living standards in the UK since the financial crash, and over that time it has recorded a significant rise in the number of people who are falling short.
The report, which calculates what people must to earn to have an acceptable standard of living, as defined by the public, finds that the cost of achieving this has risen by 30 per cent since 2008—twice the rate of average earnings. This squeeze on household budgets will intensify. Inflation hit its highest level since June 2014 last week, and forecast inflation implies the cost of an acceptable standard of living could be 10 per cent higher by 2020.
The government cannot afford to ignore this problem. Since the referendum, Brexit has taken up a huge amount of its energy, and with Article 50 due to be triggered in a few weeks’ time this is not going to change. There are challenging times ahead with a period of political and financial uncertainty, but the spotlight is now firmly on what is happening to struggling families and struggling places across the country. The government must concentrate its efforts to reinvigorate their prospects as part of its post-Brexit plan.
With the Budget next week, the government has a real opportunity to put its money where its mouth is.
Ending the freeze on working age benefits is an obvious first step, to ensure the value of benefits keep pace with prices as they rise. This would help those who rely on the…