inequalityMmm, a flood is threatening 
My very life today 
Gimme, gimme shelter’ 

If children represent the future, the way we are treating them doesn’t bode well. 

A survey of schools in England by the National Foundation for Educational Research (‘NFER’), shows that 90% are providing clothing and uniforms for students, while70% were giving out food in the form of parcels, food bank provisions, vouchers or subsidised breakfasts. 

The demand for additional mental health support has soared to 25% of pupils in mainstream schools, and 40% in special schools, as the strains on family life take their toll, according to the report. 

Jenna Julius, the NFER research director and co-author of the report, said: ‘Schools are providing unprecedented levels of urgent support. Pupils whose most basic needs are not being met – whether it is going to school hungry, or being unable to afford uniform or transport costs – are less likely to attend school and successfully engage with learning. 

‘Without urgent action now there is a risk that the crisis will have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on pupils.’ 

If this wasn’t enough they are being taught in schools that are falling down around them. 

Aside for the problems caused by reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (‘Raac’), it is reported that three virtually brand-new schools have had to be closed by the Department for Education (‘DfE’) with immediate effect because of safety fears. A further two primary schools had to be demolished before completion.  

The schools in question were built using the latest modular, off-site construction methods favoured by the government, and were part of a £3bn program instigated by the DfE in January 2020. The plan was to use ‘modern methods of construction‘, involving off-site construction of modules that would be transported to site and then assembled. 

The 2020 program was instigated because DfE found >50% English schools were so dilapidated they are at risk of partial closure Despite this many were refused money under the government’s school rebuilding scheme, statistics show. Of the 500 rebuilt schools planned for England over 10 years from 2020, just four were completed in 2021. 

In addition, the Treasury vetoed a push by the Department for Education (DfE) to use a £1bn underspend to rebuild hundreds of schools during Liz Truss’s government. 

When current PM Sunak was chancellor, DfE plans to rebuild up to 400 schools a year was slashed to 50.  

Downing Street has defended the pace of school rebuilds, saying 50 a year was around the average for the previous decade, and that other work was being carried out beyond the school rebuilding programme. 

Sunak’s official spokesperson said it was incorrect to say that only four schools were rebuilt in 2021, and that when various schemes were considered, 72 were completed that year. 

Aside from the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan thinking she has ‘done a fucking good job‘, what is the government doing? Fuck all, seems appropriate! 

Sunak, is his usual ‘it wasn’t me guv’ self, insisting his decisions maintained funding on the trajectory established over the previous decade.  

Yes, he was consistent, but consistently implementing a bad policy doesn’t make anything right. This is just one more example of unnecessary austerity degrading public services in exchange for, at best, marginal and short-lived gains in deficit reduction. 

The austerity imposed by successive Tory governments was unjust, unnecessary and cruel. They have played politics with the countries infrastructure and the majority of the populations wellbeing. They blamed previous Labour government policy for the need to introduce austerity, which shielded Cameron’s government from blame for the ensuing pain. The long-held Conservative ideological conviction of shrinking the state became their mission, aided by their coalition partners, the LibDems. 

So successful was the strategy that, in 2015, Cameron won the majority in 2015 that had eluded him previously. However, in the longer-term the Tories couldn’t manage to wean voters off their historical attachment to functional public services and a social safety net. 

Ironically, this was a distinction recognised by pro-Brexit strategists, leading to the infamous Vote Leave pledge to divert resources from Brussels to the NHS on the side of their campaign bus. 

With hindsight this was a masterstroke, albeit totally dishonest. After all, how many would have voted ‘leave’ had their campaign been based on ‘offering a bracing free-market enema to flush continental lethargy out of Britain’s state-dependent system, although that was the foundational Eurosceptic vision.’ 

A recent survey by Michael Ashcroft, the former Conservative party deputy chair, entitled ‘THE STATE WE’RE IN’, makes bleak reading for the government on many levels. 

A substantial majority, including 2019 Tory voters, agree with the view that ‘Britain is broken, people are getting poorer and nothing seems to work properly’.  

The small-state is no longer wanted, voters prefer government to big business. They trust regulation and the green movement more than free markets and capitalism. A majority of Tories support public ownership of utilities. 

There are nuances that complicate the picture, where Conservative policy is aligned with the mainstream, E.G., a suspicion that an inefficient state hands out too much to immigrants and layabouts.  

Despite the survey showing Tory policy and priorities to be totally out-of-line with the majorities requirements, little I read from Labour convinces me that they are anymore aligned.  

As I wrote in ‘Disarray and No Options‘, Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor believes that we don’t need a wealth tax because she doesn’t ‘have any spending plans that require us to raise £12bn worth of money.’  

Labour appear so terrified of losing the next election that their approach to everything is over-cautious and ultra-safe. 

History shows that in 1992, the Tories were defending a rotten economic record, but were successful in deflecting the electorates attention to Labour’s alleged ‘tax bombshell’, a new top rate of income tax. It was classic project fear stuff, and it worked. 

In my opinion, voters will want more than being told how the Tories have mismanaged the economy. The electorate has first-hand experience of that; the question is, what are Labour’s plans to put things right?. If the answer is little will change, will the electorate vote for a new government or stay with the devil they know? 

Should Labour form the next government they will inherit an economy in a mess, whereas in 1997 the economy had been growing strongly for five years. The public sector is on life support after 13-yrs of neglect. In addition, we have an ageing population, that will require more and more funding. 

Labour have stated that their policy will be to generate economic growth, which will drive increased tax revenues to service increased public spending. Sounds familiar?  It should, we have been banging this drum since 1979. The loudest version was the wholly miscredited madness of Liz Truss 12-months ago. Even if the necessary growth is achieved it will take years to trickle down. 

For Labour to believe that the country can be turned-round without tax increases is naïve. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies wrote: ‘Without tax rises, UK public service and benefits provision will not simply tread water, it will deteriorate. Unless levels of tax increase substantially, a reduction in the scope of the public services that the British state provides is likely inevitable.’ 

Currently, taxes as a share of national income are at their highest in 70 years. This presents a somewhat distorted picture, the reality is that we need to ensure everyone pays their fare share, which currently isn’t the case.  

Incomes adjusted for inflation have barely risen since 2010, while asset values, such as house and share prices, have soared. As this column wrote in Now This is Interest(ing)’, zero interest rates and quantitative easing saw the wealth of rentiers increase exponentially; the richest 10% of households own almost half of the UK’s wealth, the bottom 50% just 9%.  

The situation cries out for a wealth tax, reforming the tax system so that it serves employees rather than rentiers would help to boost the UK’s growth potential. 

Whilst there is likely to be much breast beating by the wealthy, there are growing signs that some get it. In an open letter to the G20 before its meeting in Delhi, the group of almost 300 millionaires, including the Disney heiress Abigail Disney, and economists and politicians say urgent action is needed to prevent extreme wealth ‘corroding our collective future’. 

The letter urges the G20 to demonstrate the same global cooperation it showed in ensuring multinational companies pay a minimum level of tax to agree collectively to tax wealth.  

According to the campaigners, the combined wealth of those with more than $50m (£40m) in assets has more than doubled to $11.8tn, and only four cents in every dollar of tax revenue comes from wealth taxes. 

If we are to give ALL rather some of our children a chance, things have to change. 

Children from poor households were finding it harder than 40 years ago to move into higher income brackets, made worse by years of sluggish growth in average earnings, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). Children growing up in the north of England and the Midlands, as well as those from a minority ethnic background, would find it a lot harder than others to become wealthier than their parents. 

It found that inheritances were becoming more important in determining lifetime income. 

Analysing income data for those born in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the IFS report said there were marked regional differences for earnings mobility, with children born in and around London likelier to earn more than their parents compared with those from big northern English cities. 

The report found men who grew up on free school meals in the highest areas for social mobility – around London – were paid £8,700 more at age 28 than if they grew up in the lowest-mobility areas, in the north of England. The difference for women was £8,100. 

Those with parents living in London also stood to inherit about twice as much as those in the north-east or Yorkshire and the Humber, reflecting the surge in property values in the capital in recent decades compared with weaker growth elsewhere. 

If ever there was a time for change, it is now. 

‘Well, when you’re sitting there in your silk upholstered chair
Talkin’ to some rich folk that you know
Well, I hope you won’t see me in my ragged company
Well, you know I could never be alone’ 

Powerful stuff from Philip – as Sunak heads off to G20 and in search of a free trade deal with India, we hear that the unlovely Suella Braverman has put the kybosh on any sweeteners by way of nurses jobs or student visas, to keep immigration numbers down; we really are in a mess:

I have reappraised my opinion of Gillan Keegan, bit of a lump”.

In many ways this piece follows the least.

We have the continuing debacle of schools, and other public buildings falling down, along with the government doing little. The education secretary feels undervalued, and Sunak doesn’t care as long as he can blame others.

Aside from the buildings, parents continue to struggle with food and clothing for their children, and the majority of schools have to help out.

We have data from the IFS that confirms several things; the majority of children will be worse off than their parents, and outside of London people continue to struggle.

This should be an open door moment for a reforming Labour government. Instead, they act like rabbits in the headlights, frightened to do anything differently. Rarely have I been so disillusioned.

I have banged on about wealth taxes for years now, but have no great expectation that anything will be done.

What I didn’t feature in the article, but which is another victim of Tory mis-government, is local authority finances.

This week, Labour-controlled Birmingham has issued a section 114 notice, basically they are bankrupt

Birmingham blames its position on a £760m bill for equal pay claims, problems installing a new IT system and £1bn in government cuts over the past decade.

In general, local government leaders say there are also systemic pressures facing town halls – particularly from cuts to funding, soaring inflation, and rising demand for services amid the cost of living crisis.

Growing numbers of councils are running into financial trouble, with at least 26 English local authorities thought to be at risk of issuing a section 114 notice within the next two years.

Local authorities get money from central government grants, charging for services such as parking, council tax receipts, and a share of business rates raised from companies operating within the area.

There have been sharp cuts to funding channelled from Westminster since the austerity drive kickstarted by George Osborne in 2010, with total funding across England cut in real terms by more than 50% over the decade to 2020.

After taking together all sources of funding, local authority spending power – measuring the funds available for services – fell by 17.5% between 2009-10 and 2019-20, according to the Institute for Government. Although it has partly recovered in recent years, in 2021-22 it was still 10.2% below 2010 levels.

The Local Government Association estimates English councils face a funding gap of almost £3bn over the next two years just to keep services standing still, and is calling for a “long-term plan to sufficiently fund local services”.

Even when you think it can’t get any worse, it just does!

Lyrically we celebrate the Rolling Stones. I will readily admit that they passed me by when I was younger, but their very late 60s music, along with that of the 70’s and 80’s was great. We start with the classic “Gimme Shelter”, and finish with the less well known “Dead Flowers” from the 1971 album, “Sticky Fingers”. Enjoy!


Philip Gilbert 2Philip Gilbert is a city-based corporate financier, and former investment banker.

Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s

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