Monday, 5 December 2011

'Selling England by the Pound' - The rich get richer and the poor get poorer!

A recent report by the 'Bertelsmann Foundation', a German think-tank based in Berlin, revealed that one-in-nine people in Britain are now living in poverty.

The report which is based on the latest data from the 'Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD), also says: that there are high levels of earning inequality in the UK; that young people have poor prospects in the labour market; that educational opportunities for children in this country, depend considerably on their social backgrounds.

Other studies into social mobility such as the one published by the Sutton Trust in November, also show that British children's achievement, is more closely linked to parental status than in most developed countries.

Though the language of 'classlessness' may be fashionable nowadays, the social class that one is borne into, seems to determine a persons destiny more today, than it did fifty years ago. Indeed, the front bench of the Con-Dem Government, is packed with multi-millionaires and old boys from the top public schools.

In terms of incomes, there has been a widening of income inequality in the UK over the last three decades. Although GDP has doubled since 1978, only the top 10% have seen their incomes grow at, or above that rate, which has been twice as fast as the median, and four times faster than the bottom 10% of income earners. While incomes for the majority have stagnated or fallen, pay for the rich has soared.

According to the independent "High Pay Commission", Britain's bosses have awarded themselves more than a 4000% pay increase over the past thirty years. Last year, the richest people in Britain, saw their combined fortunes rise by 30% to £333.5 billion.

While the Prime Minister, David Cameron, believes in a scorched earth policy for the poor, cutting benefits and public services and freezing tax credits, there has been a massive shift in wealth & power from the majority in this country to the top 10%. Britain has been dubbed 'Richistan' because it has become home to a global elite of foreign billionaires and multi-millionaires. For the rich living in Britain, there is no recession, no benefit cap, no obligation to work, and in many cases, no taxation, even though the Chancellor George Osborne, tells us "We're all in it together."

Offshore Trusts like Bernie Ecclestone's 'Bambino Holdings' held in his ex-wifes name, allow the rich to avoid paying billions in tax. Deregulation, government handouts and subsidies to the rich, PFI deals, have seen the rise of the corporate welfare state with resources transferred to the rich and the burden of paying off the deficit, shifted onto the shoulders of the most vulnerable, those on low incomes and benefits.

One of Britain's wealthiest men, with an estimated fortune of £500 million, is David Harding a Conservative Party donor who is the C.E.O. of 'Winton Capital', the world's largest hedge fund. Although Winton Capital have made billions of pounds out of the financial crisis through speculation, last month, Harding told the 'Financial Times':

"I am surprised to the degree to which the Treasury and the Financial Services Authority'(FSA), act as lobbying organisations for the financial services industry."

As one of London's biggest speculators, Harding has given qualified support for a European 'Tobin' tax on financial transactions which is supported by Angela Merkel the German chancellor and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams.

Though Cameron's coalition Government oppose this 'Robin Hood Tax' on financial transactions, he nevertheless tried unsuccessfully, to stop an EU directive from becoming law which improved employment rights for agency workers and he now wants to challenge the rules, on the National Minimum Wage(NMW), Statutory Sick Pay(SSP), and the 'Working Time Directive'.

Under a plan put forward by Adrian Beecroft, a Conservative Party donor, the Government also wants to allow some employers to fire workers 'at will', on a whim, with no right of appeal to an employment tribunal. Though some business leaders have been wildly enthusiatic about this return to Victorian values, Nick Clegg, the Con-Dem deputy leader, fears that it will make English workers feel even more insecure about their jobs and will depress consumer confidence even further.

As George Monbiot pointed out in a recent article in 'The Guardian', though Cameron opposes the 'Robin Hood Tax', he does not oppose the EU's 'Common Agricultural Policy'(CAP) which accounts for half of the EU's spending and costs the British taxpayer £3.6 billion a year. According to a Government database, the entire CAP budget of £47 billion a year, is shared between 16,000 people or businesses. Under the CAP, the biggest landowners receive the most support from the State. Earlier this year, a House of Commons committee demanded that the agricultural subsidies under the CAP be sustained. The Government have also demanded that the EEC drop a proposal that would limit the amount a landowner could receive on the grounds that it would impede the 'consolidation of landownings'. In Britain, 69% of the land is owned by 0.6% of the population and it is this group who are the major beneficiaries of the CAP payouts.

According to Monbiot, it is the aristocrats and utility companies who reap the benefits of the CAP. For example, the Vestey family received a subsidy of £1.2 million for their Thurlow estate. Seemingly, the previous owner Edmund Vestey, who died in 2008, was so adept at managing his business affairs that he paid in one year, just £10 in tax. When asked for a comment on his tax contribution, he remarked:

"We're all tax dodgers, aren`t we?"

No comments: