Letters: Inequality in the UK, and what to do about it

The following letters appear in the 30 October edition of the Independent

Independent Voices@IndyVoices
Thursday 29 October 2015 18:22
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Ben Chu discusses inequality in the UK (“It’s official, inequality in the UK isn’t really on the increase (or is it?)”, 29 October). He concludes that, post-tax, income inequality has not increased in recent years. However, there is a further aspect of wealth that deserves consideration: asset ownership.

It is clear that those who own land, property and shares have seen their value appreciate dramatically over decades. This has contributed significantly to the overall increase in wealth inequality. I would welcome a similar article from Mr Chu, focusing on this aspect.

Keith O’Neill

Shrewsbury

The data you provide on trends in income inequality raises some perplexing questions about politics in Britain.

A Martian looking at the charts in Ben Chu’s article on “Top 1 per cent income share” could well conclude that over the period 1937-1975 the UK government was a left-wing party intent on egalitarian redistribution (this must have been the Churchill/Attlee/Macmillan/Wilson Party). Between 1976 and 2006 it was replaced by a right-wing party intent on helping out the super-rich (the Thatcher/Major/Blair Party). In 2008 a “Bash the Bankers” party was catapulted into office.

Perhaps the Martian observer would be on to something.

Ivor Morgan

Lincoln

We are lucky enough to live comfortably on an income higher than the national average wage, yet, since 2010, we have had no increase in the rate of tax we pay. In addition, we have received increases in our state pensions, and our family will benefit from changes to inheritance tax.

On the other hand, families who earn half our income or less are having to bear the brunt of this government’s austerity measures. How can this be fair? In a country that has always prided itself on fairness – indeed, it is one of the “values” that Cameron and Osborne are fond of spouting – this should not be allowed.

If we believe that paying off the deficit is a top priority and if we really are “all in this together” it is time that those of us who are able to contribute more are asked to do so. Unless the British people have become as selfish and greedy as the bankers, we hope that most decent people will agree.

Fiona and Alistair Wood

Llanymynech, Powys

When will politicians backing the cut to tax credits stop trying to con us with their claim to want to transform society into a high-wage, low-welfare one.

The US model to which they are insidiously steering us is in fact a low wage/low welfare society in which if an individual doesn’t earn enough to live on from their job they get an additional one, or even two. Hence the Cuban joke about Maria writing to encourage her sister in Havana to join her in the US: “There are thousands of jobs in Miami – I know, I’ve got three of them.”

Colin Burke

Manchester

Every politician is talking about “hard-working families”. What about the not very hard-working families?

John Bray

Purley, Surrey

Our friends, the Saudis

It is good that the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has been able to announce that Karl Andree is to be released without being lashed.

It is a win for all concerned: Mr Andree, who broke Saudi Arabia’s alcohol laws; the UK government, which can claim that fostering trade with Saudi Arabia allows discourse with the Saudis on human rights; and the UK’s arms industry, for which Saudi Arabia is a major customer.

And Saudi Arabia can continue with what it cares much more about, bombing civilians in Yemen. MSF’s hospital, destroyed this week, is just the last in the Saudis’ elimination of hospitals in much of Yemen, each time a war crime. The Foreign Office should concentrate on real, rather than cosmetic, issues.

Dr Mark Scott

Sittingbourne, Kent

Bacon won’t kill you – probably

Jeremy Redman (letter, 28 October) asks what we are to make of the juxtaposition of articles (27 October) about the World Health Organisation’s categorisation of preserved meat as carcinogenic and 116-year-old Susannah Mushatt who attributed her longevity to daily bacon, among other things.

About 10 per cent of people in the UK will get cancer and 13 per cent of cancers are bowel cancer, which presumably includes those who eat lots of bacon. In other words, 987 people out of every 1000 won’t get bowel cancer, including some of those who consume pork products.

It so happens that the 116-year-old Mrs Mushatt is one of those 987, so the fact that eating bacon didn’t kill her is not all that noteworthy. In short eating bacon does not condemn you to death by bowel cancer; it just makes it a tiny bit more likely.

Dr Ian Robertson

Milton Keynes

There’s more to us than just soup

Congratulations on your article (29 October) which reveals the reduced level of statutory response to the crime of human trafficking.

We were pleased that SIFA Fireside’s strong partnership with Hope for Justice was featured, but disappointed to be described as a “soup kitchen”; every day here our skilled and experienced staff (supported by over 70 volunteers) help people to find and sustain accommodation and employment, and provide “in house” health surgeries to tackle physical and mental health problems as well as addiction.

Similarly to homeless services all over the country, SIFA Fireside is left to pick up the pieces resulting from welfare reform and reduced public services, so providing soup is the least of what we do!

Cath Gilliver

Chief Executive

SIFA Fireside

Birmingham

Useless voucher for rail travel

On 8 October, I made a train journey. Because of signal failure, I arrived over an hour late, so I applied for compensation, and today I have received a travel voucher. This, however, is unlikely to be of any use to me.

I book my train tickets in advance over the internet, and there is no facility there for using travel vouchers as part-payment.

My local station no longer has a ticket office, only machines, and one cannot use vouchers on the machines.

If I were to make a train journey and not buy my ticket in advance, but buy it at a main-line station, using the travel voucher as part-payment, the ticket would probably cost much more than if I had bought it in advance, possibly more than the value of the voucher.

In view of the fact that so many stations now don’t have ticket offices, surely it should no longer be allowable for travel vouchers to be issued: compensation should be in cash or by credit card refund.

Peter Calviou

Amersham, Buckinghamshire

Long fight for asbestos pay-out

Your report concerning mesothelioma cases in the armed forces (24 October) does highlight a grave injustice, but as someone who has only in the last month been diagnosed with mesothelioma, can I perhaps put a different viewpoint?

I have no automatic right to compensation, and certainly not to the six-figure sums that you alluded to. I have to employ a solicitor and he has to try to prove that one of the nine or so employers I worked for over my working life was in some way responsible for my contact with asbestos. If I say that I worked as a teacher in five different schools, plus the four or so student jobs I did while studying at university, then perhaps you can see what sort of task I’ll have proving liability.

Only if all routes lead to a dead end (an unfortunate phrase bearing in mind my terminal condition with such a short life expectancy) will the Department of Work and Pensions consider a pay-out under current legislation.

Adrian Starr

Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear

The lords, guardians of democracy?

Which is more undemocratic? That an unelected second chamber can block a controversial measure by government, or that measure being imposed by a party that won only 36.9 per cent of the vote at the last general election?

By all means reduce the powers of the Lords, but this must go hand-in-hand with proportional representation if we are to be a truly democratic nation. In the meantime let Messrs Cameron and Osborne look beyond their arrogance and recognise they do not have the mandate they claim.

Frank Edwards

Croydon, Surrey

Theological dispute

God is not male, according to Bishop Rachel Treweek. There is evidently a slight disagreement between the bishop and the founder of her religion, who taught his followers to pray to their Father in Heaven.

Julie Hynds

Harrogate

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