Mr Brown must help the poor to help themselves

Share

Tony Marchant's two-part television drama
Never, Never, screened on Channel Four this week, powerfully illustrates the problems faced by those in debt in areas where ordinary bank and enterprise loans are impossible to find. We must hope that, in tomorrow's pre-Budget statement, Chancellor Gordon Brown will do something to chip away at this unhappy status quo.

Tony Marchant's two-part television drama Never, Never, screened on Channel Four this week, powerfully illustrates the problems faced by those in debt in areas where ordinary bank and enterprise loans are impossible to find. We must hope that, in tomorrow's pre-Budget statement, Chancellor Gordon Brown will do something to chip away at this unhappy status quo.

A vicious circle of poverty and exclusion has long meant that those in Britain's poorest areas find themselves locked into a pattern of financial misery, denied by the banks the possibility of obtaining the credit that might enable them to change their situation. For too long, this state of affairs has been accepted as inevitable. But this, above all, is an area in which the much-mocked joined-up thinking has a role to play: new finance can dramatically help with neighbourhood regeneration.

Locally-based credit unions - in effect, neighbourhood banks - can help neglected areas to drag themselves out of the slough of financial despond. Default rates are remarkably low, partly because of a community sense of responsibility. These enterprises deserve to be encouraged further.

Red-lining - the reluctance of banks to lend money to would-be customers with the wrong postcodes - is socially destructive. Banks are entitled to make commercial decisions; they should also show imagination, however, in their lending policy. Some banks are far too cautious, with enormously damaging knock-on effects.

Above all, the Government can make it easier for investment credits to be issued, for example through a community investment tax credit. This can be seen as a form of collective self-interest. Financial incentives for investment in small businesses in poorer areas pay for themselves, in social terms, many times over.

The New Economics Foundation, a think-tank that played a key role in formulating the proposals put to the Treasury by the Social Investment Task Force, calculates that, in Britain's poorest areas, 80 per cent of funds come from government in welfare benefits and other costs. In short: money that helps a community to stand on its own feet is money well spent.

Above all, movement in the system is needed. Even the most intractable problems can be addressed, if the will is there.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam