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Letter: The magic money tree

Date published: 08 December 2017


Dear Editor,

It will be deeply concerning to all of us concerned about poverty and social mobility that it was reported last week that:

‘Britain’s record on tackling poverty has reached a turning point and is at risk of unravelling, following the first sustained rises in child and pensioner poverty for two decades', 'Britain reaches turning point after worrying rise in child & pensioner poverty', Rochdale Online, 4 December, 2017 .

http://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/2/news-headlines/114510/britain-reaches-turning-point-after-worrying-rises-in-child-and-pensioner-poverty

The Joseph Rowntree Report on Social Mobility tells us that the nation is seeing its first sustained increases in child and pensioner poverty in 20 years.

There are now 14 million people living in poverty, including 4m children and 1.9m pensioners, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report found.' Almost 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners are now living in poverty than in 2012/13', and that this situation will get worse, not better, until at least 2020.

The dire news comes after the entire board of the cross-party Social Mobility Commission quit in protest, with chairman Alan Milburn warning there is no chance of the current government making progress in fighting poverty and inequality.

Founder and chairman of social mobility charity the Sutton Trust Sir Peter Lampl said of Mr Milburn’s resignation: The Commission under his leadership has done much to highlight the extent of the problem.

'It’s vital that the Prime Minister renews the commitment she gave in her first statement in Downing Street to ensure that life chances are not determined by social background.'
Only last week Rochdale was ranked 183 0ut of 324 in the UK for Social Mobility in the State  of the Nation report by the Social Mobility Commission with the newly resigned chair saying that: 'Tinkering around the edges will not do the trick.

The analysis in this report substantiates the sense of political alienation and social resentment that so many parts of Britain feel.'

Estimates suggest that the North is £6 BILLION underfunded compared to London. We may never catch up without a radical redistribution of wealth and investment. A situation compounded when the UK's richest 1000 people are richer than the remaining 40 % of the UK's population - dangerously politically unsustainable for very much longer.

Income and wealth inequalities are severe problems in our country. Abundant evidence shows that inequality harms our physical and mental health, self-esteem, happiness, social mobility, trust and civic participation, and puts the enjoyment of human rights at risk. The Equality Act 2010 was a significant step forward in tackling social inequalities in our society.

Chief amongst its instruments was the Socio-economic Duty (Section 1), which would require public bodies ‘when making decisions of a strategic nature about how to exercise (their) functions to ‘have due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage’.

Unfortunately, to this day Section 1 remains one of the few un-commenced clauses of The Equality Act 2010.

The Socio-economic Duty offers a powerful lever for reducing the damaging gaps between us all. The Executive Director of the Equality Trust has stated:

‘We welcome the report, which provides even more evidence of the stark divide between the rich and the poor and we support calls for a more redistributive approach. It is a national disgrace that in affluent areas, poor people are still denied access to decent jobs with decent pay, good education and efficient transport.’

Dr Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director of The Equality Trust, has also pointed out:
'Theresa May has the perfect opportunity to “bequeath a society that truly works for the many and not the few” by bringing into force the socio-economic duty (section 1 of the Equality Act). This essentially requires effective and transparent policies to tackle socioeconomic inequality. “When making decisions of a strategic nature about how to exercise [their] functions, [public authorities must] have due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage '.

Had it been in force, the government would have had to consider the likely impact of tax, social security and public spending reforms before implementing them. It would have had to show that these measures were the best of all the possible alternatives, and that they were not going to result in discriminatory outcomes and increasing inequality'.

Concerned readers of Rochdale Online can urge our MP to support EDM 591 (see text below) on the commencement and enforcement of the Socio-Economic Duty.

'That thisHouse notes with great concern the high levels of income and particularly wealth inequality in our society; further notes the recommendation in the 2016 Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to bring into force the outstanding provisions of the Equality Act 2010; commends the efforts of some councils to implement the Socio-economic Duty (Part 1 of the Equality Act 2010) in their budgets and strategic planning; welcomes the Scottish Government's decision to commence the Socio-economic Duty; encourages the Welsh Government to make use of the powers of the Wales Act 2017 to bring the Duty to life; and calls on the Government to bring section 1 of the Equality Act into effect.’

Concerned readers of Rochdale Online can contact their MP about this issue at The Equality Trust website at:

https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/please-ask-your-mp-support-socio-economic-duty

Thanks.

Yours,

Andrew Wastling

The views expressed are those of the author of the letter and not those of Rochdale Online.


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