“Invest in people and their communities”

This is the call of the Health Foundation charity in its final report this month from a long-running enquiry into the impact of COVID-19. Calling on the Government to address the root causes of poor health, the report makes clear that the investment required into people and communities will involve jobs, housing, and education, plus action to ‘level up’ health.

In the report, they say;

The pandemic has revealed stark differences in the health of the working age population – those younger than 65 in the poorest 10% of areas in England were almost four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those in the wealthiest. Recovery needs to prioritise creating opportunities for good health – a vital asset needed to ‘level up’ and rebuild the UK recovery.

They note that government restrictions, although needed to limit the spread of the pandemic, have had wide-ranging consequences, from unmet health needs and mental health problems, to education gaps, lost employment and financial insecurity. Focusing on the worst affected, they name young people, disabled people, ethnic minority communities and care home residents, and say that prisoners, homeless people and people experiencing sexual exploitation have also faced particular challenges.

Exposure to the virus among working-age adults has been affected, they say, by their type and quality of work, their housing conditions and access to financial support to self-isolate. Blaming the legacy of the financial crisis, they point to deep-rooted issues of poor health, increased financial insecurity and strained public services as having left the UK more vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of the virus.

This bleak picture surely highlights for our party the extent and depth of the recovery the country requires and on which we should take a lead in pressing the government for action. The investment needed, after a decade of neglect by this government now exposed by the further deprivations of the pandemic, is indeed in people and communities in many ways. The post-Covid themes now being debated by our policy committee should surely present a holistic view.

Many people have lost faith in the current political leaders of our country. The recent three by-elections have seen the shifting tides of politics, and, in the last, the nastiness and divisiveness that can arise now, replacing the former collegiate spirit of everyone sticking together to fight the virus. There is going to be renewed anxiety, and there could be worse deprivation of the already deprived, together probably with increased crime. It will be good now if our party takes a lead in promoting the kind of measures necessary to ensure that all children today, in whatever part of the country they live, can expect excellent education and training, and a healthy, secure future with sufficient income, jobs and home. We should aim for everyone, but perhaps especially focusing on the needs of the young, the disabled and ethnic and other minority groups, to have hopeful prospects of longer lives in their communities, despite the dangers and challenges all of us must face.

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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51 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 12th Jul '21 - 9:53am

    I think the report covers the situation. With rising figures of the virus, the poverty grows.

    This government has proved it simply can’t cope, with the late lock downs, and mounting health figures for hospital treatment.

    With the true figures of those who are requiring category 2/3 house not known, they are not documented at present. There were several disabled people who lost their lives in the fire at the Tower, many still in housing with cladding.

    The many tenants who now run the risk of being evicted due to furlough and loss of earnings, this in turn will push those suffering from mental health higher.

    Food Banks only supply basics, no fruit or vegetables, meat or cheese, these are the type of foods that most need to stay healthy.

    I believe we should be pushing on these important subjects even more, holding Johnson and his government responsible for the situation we now face. Politics has become for some very self serving.

  • Steve Trevethan 12th Jul '21 - 10:00am

    Thank you for a much needed article!

    Might the further impoverishment of the poor and the undermining of those whose contributions to our society are or a physical nature have started over half a century ago under Mr. James Callahan?

    The policy by which this has and is being done is Neoliberalism which has produced a predatory form of Gobalisation.

    Might LD HQ publicise the predatory nature of Neoliberalism?

    Might it make a start by publicising the six reasons for taxation?

    Can a society with an increasing number of starving and freezing children and an increasing number of millionaires be truly democratic?

  • Peter Martin 12th Jul '21 - 10:14am

    On another thread I’ve just made the comment:

    “It strikes me that many Lib Dems prefer to talk, piecemeal, about fuel poverty, housing poverty, health inequality, or whatever, because they don’t like the socialist connotations of addressing the issues of general inequality and poverty.”

    The OP is another example of this.

    “We should aim for everyone, but perhaps especially focusing on the needs of the young, the disabled and ethnic and other minority groups, to have hopeful prospects ….”

    If you’re aiming for “everyone”, why the need to ‘focus’ on particular groupings of those affected? If there is a poverty , or an inequality, problem then a remedy for anyone is also a remedy for everyone. Focussing is always going to mean some groups will be missed and feed more resentment of those who have been left behind.

    You’ve already seen the consequences of that.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Jul '21 - 10:49am

    Helen Dudden. Thank you, Helen, for pointing out so many health and housing needs that are not being addressed, and that we should be focusing on with urgency as the problems increase. I think you are right also to focus on what food banks, so necessary in these years, could be offering in the way of healthy foods.
    Steve Trevethan, your comments here and on the article on fuel poverty are thought-provoking as ever.We mustn’t let this government revert to reducing people’s incomes, which will increase hardship and misery and act against restoring a healthy economy as well as individual people’s health.

  • Peter Martin is correct. In September, 2019, as Chair of a Trussell Trust Foodbank, I travelled to London from Scotland to see Sir Edward Davey personally and to ensure he had a copy of the United Nations Alston Report on Poverty and Inequality in the UK. I gave a copy to Sir Edward who confirmed to me that at the time he had not read it.

    The subject of poverty and inequality needs to be tackled by the Party in a comprehensive holistic manner in the spirit of the early steps made by Beveridge so many years ago. For many of us who first became members of the Liberal Party in the early 1960’s acceptance of the Alston Report is a litmus test on whether the modern Liberal Democrat Party has a future.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Jul '21 - 10:56am

    Peter Martin. Thanks, Peter, but I disagree. The Socialist emphasis on general inequality is as unhelpful as Conservative neo-liberal austerity. Not focusing on the particular needs of the poorest and most disadvantaged groups is surely what has brought them to this parlous state.

  • Peter Martin 12th Jul '21 - 12:46pm

    @ Katharine,

    You misunderstand my point.

    The only ‘focussing’ should be on poverty and inequality itself. If someone is in need of help, such matters as age, ethnic grouping, gender, sexual orientation etc are largely irrelevant and should not be a consideration when deciding whether that help should be given.

    Even with physical and mental disabilities the same consideration should apply. The help should be given because the persons in question need help and not because they have some disability per se. Although, of course, they are much more likely to need that help if they are disabled.

  • The local government association has produced a report Social determinants of health and the role of local government
    “Health improvement has always been a fundamental responsibility of local government and this was emphasised further with the transfer of public health responsibilities in 2013.
    The role of local government at that time was set out as the following: as an employer; through the services it commissions and delivers; through its regulatory powers; through community leadership; through its well-being power. Local government still has all these roles in improving health and tackling the social determinants of health, but the world has moved on over a decade and the developments during that time are considerable.
    Therefore, it the right time to look again at what local government can do to improve health especially by tackling social determinants. There are opportunities to see what innovation and new activity has been undertaken across the country and how that can be repeated elsewhere.
    In the context of COVID-19 it is important to remember that it is often the effects of social determinants of health that have made people more vulnerable to the virus. Conversely the social effects of the virus on employment and the economy will have an additional impact on health.”

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Jul '21 - 2:10pm

    Joe, reminding us of the responsibilities of local government in promoting health is very useful, thank you. Where will the looking again at what authorities can do now come from, the LGA or possibly our own party’s local government association? A survey of innovations and new activity will surely be valuable. At the same time we must press this government on the finance for restoring local government back-up services, which have been so much reduced I understand in the past few years.

    Sure Start centres, youth centres and local libraries have all had to be cut back. The reduction of services was noted by the UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston, in his vital Statement on the situation in Britain in November 2018, mentioned above by David Raw. Professor Alston instanced the reduction of services as being part of the breakdown of the Social Contract established by the Beveridge-inspired reforms after the Second World War.

    David, you are right to emphasise again the need for our party to take a holistic view of these matters, as intended by the Beveridge-2 Plan campaign. There should be an overarching theme of tackling all the social ills so obvious today, which equate to Sir William Beveridge’s five great evils. I believe we need party acceptance of this overarching theme, to include health, social care, local government services, education, jobs and housing, with due emphasis also of course on the climate-change demands. But at the same time our council groups will surely be tackling locally the social housing and employment possibilities, and the provision of care homes, children’s services and all the other possibilities in their power.

  • Barry Lofty 12th Jul '21 - 3:11pm

    The cost of care homes, for those unfortunate enough to need this service, is almost prohibitively costly to most families and is in need of urgent reorganisation!
    How this can be achieved will not be easy I know, but I feel something needs to be done? NHS dentistry is another area that is struggling, going by my own local experience, not having had a check up for over a year, on ringing the surgery today was informed they could only take emergency cases at the moment because of a shortage of dentists, our previous dentist went home to Poland, I wonder why, maybe this accounts for the difficulty in recruiting new staff. If I am off topic forgive me!

  • Steve Trevethan 12th Jul '21 - 3:22pm

    Here is an article which explains why the richer are inevitably getting richer and the not at all rich getting poorer.
    It offers practical ways in which this national socio-economic disaster might be managed.
    What are the odds on anyone in or around L.D. H.Q. reading it?
    http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/

  • @ Katharine Pindar Years and years ago (blimey, over 50) I was the Liberal PPC for Sowerby in West Yorkshire and had an interesting friendly conversation with the late Douglas Houghton, the then MP. I remember him very wisely saying, ‘Money makes the Mare to Go’.

    This is certainly the case in local government. Years later, when Lib Dems were in government, I had to vigorously fight my corner for resources as a Convenor (Chair) for Social Care in Scotland. I still carry the scars. Holistic means to include resources and to reject austerity. What happened to local government funding between 2010-15 has to be undone. This party at a national leadership needs to be brave enough to say this…… Until it does, lost deposits and the collapse of local associations outside the prosperous Home Counties will continue to be the norm.

  • John Marriott 12th Jul '21 - 5:11pm

    I remember a quote once used by my old English teacher, which took the form of a Q&A; ‘is life worth living? – It all depends upon the liver’.

    First of all, millionaires die young just as paupers do. I grant you that it’s not that surprising that, nowadays, many members of the Royal Family live to a ripe old age, given the best nutrition and health care they receive especially if they lead a healthy life. Not all human constitutions are the same. I remember a ‘Tonight’ programme from the 1960s, where two old gentlemen in a Welsh pit village had turned one hundred in the same week – a much rarer event then than now. One old chap was a retired Methodist Minister, a confirmed bachelor, who had never drunk or smoked. The other had been a miner all his working life, had outlived two wives, with a host of children and grandchildren, who smoked an ounce of tobacco a day and still went to the pub every evening.

    Longevity is indeed ‘desirable’ as Martin Luther King Junior famously said; but there is no guarantee of achieving it. My mother died at the age of 48 from a form of cancer, which today would not necessarily have proved fatal and my father at the age of 67, in his case largely as a result of smoking over fifty unfiltered Senior Service a day. That was well over sixty years ago. I’m nearly 78. As most of the males in my family have rarely reached sixty let alone seventy, I suppose I’ve been lucky. Heart disease seems to be the main ‘killer’ in our family. I personally put my comparative survival down to rationing and the NHS and a fairly active youth.

    Throughout our lives we make choices. If we want to and can afford to drink ten pints a night or eat so called ‘fast food’ every day etc that’s our choice, as will possibly a shot liver or obesity, with all the problems these can bring with them. Yes, poverty, however you define it nowadays, plays a rôle in how our lives develop. However, much of how we lead our lives is in our own hands, or rather how we look after our bodies. However, even if we run marathons and eschew meat etc there is no guarantee that some deadly disease won’t catch up with us sooner rather than later. “Kismet”, as some claimed the dying Horatio Nelson whispered to Captain Thomas Hardy on that fateful day back in 1805.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Jul '21 - 7:38pm

    Congratulations on your longevity compared with that of your parents, John Marriott, but I think you are too young for passive acceptance of life’s chances! I hope Liberal Democrats are generally shocked by Professor Marmot’s researches which showed declining life expectancy in Britain, and now we have this new report explaining, as the Professor also did, the socio-economic factors involved in too-early deaths of many working-age people in poor circumstances. The decline of local government services, with council spending having been cut by a third during the Tory hegemony (National Audit Office March report), has surely contributed to the decline in health which has left so many in the past year susceptible to Covid-19. This government should not be allowed to follow their emergency remedial measures with more indifference and neglect as the autumn approaches: as you say, David Raw, resources must be found.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Jul '21 - 7:56pm

    Barry Lofty. There is such continued pressure about social care needs on the government now that something seems likely to be done, Barry, to justify at last Boris Johnson’s pledge to ‘fix it’, but that still won’t be immediate or seem likely to meet the multiple needs. Meantime you have my sympathy about NHS dentistry, lack of, finding the same situation myself – and indeed it was the departure of East European practitioners that seems to have caused some of the shortages. Sir William Beveridge had intended the national health service provision to cover such requirements too, but now, as with whether or not one requires social care in old age, we are all in a lottery for important health services

  • Peter Martin 12th Jul '21 - 10:23pm

    @ Steve,

    “Here is an article which explains why the richer are inevitably getting richer….What are the odds on anyone in or around L.D. H.Q. reading it?”

    Probably not that good. Richard Murphy is right -sometimes. But, his main problem is that he’s ultra rude to people on his blog -especially anyone who doesn’t agree with everything, and I do mean everything, he says. They are banned very quickly. Katharine, for example, wouldn’t last long if she was frank about her views on lockdown. RM would lock everyone down until the virus was eradicated and anyone who disagrees is guilty of “democide”.

    He claims to be pro MMT but he doesn’t have a good word to say about any of the main proponents of MMT especially when they disagree with his take! As they do!

    In the link you post he claims high house prices are due to high Govt deficits. High house prices have been with us for quite some time now and the inflation started well before any government started to run large deficits. They are associated with ultra low interest rates and more recently the holiday in stamp duty rather than the size of any Govt deficit. I don’t know of anyone else in the MMT community who would push this line.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Jul '21 - 12:30am

    Peter Martin. Thanks for dealing with the Richard Murphy material provided by Steve – I wasn’t thinking of going there myself. But on high housing prices, I’ve been thinking that this government’s help on Right to Buy, and especially their stamp duty holiday, were very typical help to the better-off middle classes and ignored or maybe made worse the situation of the many people who need to rent homes or are trying to obtain ‘social housing’, of which there isn’t enough.

    I still don’t agree with you on the main focus of the fight of the Left to be against poverty and inequality.per se. I think we should consider the condition of ethnic minority families in crowded unhealthy city housing, on single mothers with children at home trying to make ends meet, of disabled and sick people and their carers at home struggling to get by, and think what can be done to help them and other groups facing great difficulties. UN Rapporteur Philip Alston had bothered to meet some of them in his personal tour of Britain, as well as reading every study he could find of how people had been affected by austerity.

  • Helen Dudden 13th Jul '21 - 7:51am

    Katharine Pindar. I think the ideas on healthy eating were the food packages meant for children, do you remember?
    I do know of a couple who lived in bitterly cold conditions with a baby who had health conditions, one a heart condition. As I said they have moved now into one of the new developments. Lot less stress, even a garden for the children to play, after being shut away in a flat during furlough. The other child also became very unhappy and unwell.
    Of course, demolition of buildings is not very green and there should be the added factor of building homes to last.
    We all need a decent balanced diet to keep healthy, the reliance on Food Banks is not the way forward. I had been concerned by the need for special diets.
    Very few of the real issues are being considered by this government, there were still some who have most certainly struggled during furlough, not fitting into any box for financial help.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Jul '21 - 9:41am

    You make some more good points, thank you, Helen. On ‘building homes to last’, I suppose many should now be built with solar roofs, and electric appliances, but the prices will have to come down for ordinary families to afford them. Meanwhile we know about too many damp and cold houses, into which I suppose families will be moving now after piling up debt during the pandemic – and as you say not everybody got financial help, or enough of their usual wages either – after losing their private rented homes.

    I don’t remember food packages for children, but I hope food banks, so long as we have to have them, will be able to offer healthy meals. Realistically, though, I don’t think people fitting in more than one job a day or working on zero hours contracts will be able to keep shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables or find time to prepare the vegetables either.

  • John Marriott 13th Jul '21 - 9:44am

    The one outstanding thing about Katharine Pindar’s articles is the unfailing courtesy she shows in her regular willingness to reply to respondents coupled with her liberal(?) ability to say something positive about what they have said.

    I guess she must have found it quite hard when she read my latest effort. The ‘longevity’ she mentioned clearly referred to my own rather than the length of time my other thoughts remained in her mind or, indeed in the minds of others on this thread.

    The point I was trying to make might be summed up by the old saying ‘You can lead a horse to water; but you can’t make it drink’. All the wonderful well intentional campaigns in the world to fight poverty and malnutrition fail because they fail to include an element of compulsion. That ‘c’ word will be particularly difficult for a Liberal to advocate. I’m sure you all know the old joke that said that, if God had been a Liberal, Moses wouldn’t have got Ten Commandments but ten SUGGESTIONS.

    Anyone who has had children will tell you how hard it is to get them to eat what they consider to be ‘the right things’. I won’t repeat myself on the subject of ‘fast food’ and its intoxicating effect on many pallets, nor the need that certain people have to down large amounts of alcohol. A balanced diet is surely a no brainer. How can a youngster concentrate if his breakfast before school consists of packet of crisps, a chocolate bar and a can of pop, while his lunch consists of a bag of chips? I’m sure you know the rest.

    There is no doubt that, with a Ministry of Food during WW2, Britain’s population, and particularly its youngsters emerged much healthier in terms of diet; but still had to cope with diseases that today largely feature only in history books. (Has anyone ever seen that newsreel footage on the first banana boat to dock at Liverpool after the war and of the schoolboy trying to peel one?) The end of rationing in the early 1950s was welcomed very much like our government reckons we will ‘welcome’ our freedom on 19 July. That’s freedom from want, yes; but equally freedom of CHOICE!

  • Katerina Porter 13th Jul '21 - 10:23am

    I seem to remember Professor Alston’s comment was that poverty? is a political choice. Countries in Scandinavia have high tax but I remember one who said it was worth it. It is no good not mentioning it.

  • Peter Martin 13th Jul '21 - 11:10am

    @ Katerina,

    “Countries in Scandinavia have high tax”

    Maybe. But the more Social Democratically orientated parties who do support high taxation rates are losing ground politically there and it is the same story in much of Europe too.

    No party is going to win an election in the UK by promising to raise taxation levels significantly. Everyone knows this is likely to not mean simply more taxes for the wealthy – which is where there is a real need for higher taxation. The wealthy tend to be older and are sufficiently well organised to look after their own interests. They’ll turn out to vote Tory for example. Or they might vote Lib Dem if the Lib Dems are smart enough to not mention Brexit, or any of their other social policies like a UBI, and stick to the need to build railways and new housing somewhere else well away from where the relatively wealthy actually live.

    So if the Lib Dems do have any ambitions to succeed politically they will need to get away from their previous promises of putting a penny on income tax for this and another penny on income tax for that. There are simply too many pennies needed to make a serious impact.

    .

  • It’s worth noting that we have lower “persistent poverty” rates than most other European countries & comparable with Scandinavia. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/personalandhouseholdfinances/incomeandwealth/articles/persistentpovertyintheukandeu/2017

    ONS notes: “The most frequent reason for leaving in-work poverty was for employees to keep the same job & number of hours, but to increase their hourly pay, accounting for 44% of those who exited.”

    it means that we shouldn’t be overly critical of capitalism. Commerce has given us – a vast amount of cheap, efficiently produced goods and the economic wealth to take people out of poverty & give millions better paying jobs. Those that were working in the 1940s would be amazed at the amount of consumer goods that even those that are unemployed can afford today – colour TVs, phones, mobile phones (which are said to deliver what would have cost $1million a few years ago for under £100), cars, washing machine, higher quality foods etc. etc. All these would be have been beyond the means of many working people then & considered luxury items.

    And some things are correlated with poverty such as ill health but not caused by it. For example smoking is actually expensive.

    Some things do not actually cost more money in themselves. We pour a lot of money into the pockets of private landlords through housing benefit for often sub-standard housing that impacts on the health & welfare of children. it would if anything be cheaper to take that money and use it differently. But clearly housing is a mess that suffers from the “you wouldn’t start from here” problem.

    The Lib Dems when they ran Portsmouth during the coalition years – actually kept open all surestart centres & indeed opened a new library rather then closing them (now the most popular in the city), built council houses etc. etc. The budget papers were full of quite big savings that said by them “no impact on service” or “minimal impact on services”. It was often a question of whether you went shopping at Lidl or Tesco. . In Portsmouth we kept the vast majority of its children’s services provision but at significantly lower costs.

    So I’d put money first into a “health premium” like the “pupil premium”, funding education better, better housing etc. rather than rises in welfare payments – which might actually technically keep poverty at the same level but will do more to improve the lives of those less well-off.

  • I think David Raw is right to comment “The subject of poverty and inequality needs to be tackled by the Party in a comprehensive holistic manner in the spirit of the early steps made by Beveridge so many years ago.” The LGA report quotes Harry Rutter, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine ““The single most important intervention is to understand that there is no single most important intervention.”
    The Fabian society has prepared a report GOING WITH THE GRAIN: HOW TO INCREASE SOCIAL SECURITY WITH PUBLIC SUPPORT It is informed by evidence generated from an online citizens’ jury, a survey of 1,647 British adults, a consultation with policy experts and microsimulation modelling of policy reforms.
    “Public opinion matters both for introducing reforms and sustaining them over time. Politicians who want to improve social security can successfully make their case if they develop policies and messages that go with the grain of public attitudes. The starting point is that social security is not a high political priority for most people and only a minority actively support increased spending. Attitudes to social security became a bit more positive in the years leading up to the pandemic and have improved a little further following Covid-19. But the emergency has been more important when it comes to shifting facts rather than opinion: now that a temporary £20 universal credit uplift has been introduced, a clear majority want to keep it.”
    The Fabian Society said a public survey and an online citizens’ jury had identified consensus support for £10bn of extra payments on top of the £7bn cost of retaining the £20-a-week universal credit boost. This package, which would take welfare spending back to 2013 levels, would reduce child poverty rates by a third.
    These additional payments comprised £10 a week extra on benefits for severely disabled people, carers, and families with children; £14 a week extra for working lone parents, disabled people, and second earners in couples; a £16-a-week boost for 18- to 24-year-olds; and £30 a week extra for carers of babies and toddlers.
    There was less support for increasing the generosity of unemployment benefit and returning to the equivalent of 2009 levels of welfare spending was rejected when the Citizens jury was presented with the £36bn-a-year cost.
    The pandemic has shown universal credit to be inadequate, leaving too many people to fall through the gaps. Policies like UBI/Guaranteed Minimum Income may well find a receptive audience in the coming years.

  • Some of this damage was done by the coalition government which decimated the Careers Service and the Connexions Service which did some very good work with disadvantaged young people. If you look at the knife crime figures, they were much lower when the Connexions Service was operational. And I see the elderly are left off your list, just a reminder but not all older people are well off or middle class. A reminder that the current political leaders in government won the first of the last 3 by-elections – Hartlepool.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Jul '21 - 4:18pm

    Thanks to everyone who has been commenting to continue the discussion. John M., I think there is another word besides Compulsion which is compelling, when it comes to fighting poverty, and that is Self-Interest. I have been following much of the debate in the Commons today on the shocking reduction of foreign aid from 0.7% to 0.5%, and although I am afraid the government will win the day and impose such conditions as make the restoration unlikely to happen in this parliament, I was struck by their indifference to this new blow to Britain’s standing in the world, the only one of the G7 to be cutting off aid to some of the poorest people in the world, with no necessity to do so in these times of low interest rates and economic recovery.

    Katerina, I don’t think your implication that we are refusing to recognise that high levels of welfare mean high taxation is correct, in either sense. As I understand it, although we have indeed a policy for a wealth tax, our general principle is to look for full employment with decent wages, and decent out-of-work benefits, so that people have money to spend, goods are produced to meet the demand, and so the economy grows. Keeping the £20 a week extra on Universal Credit would be one way to keep money being spent, in that case necessarily on basics.

  • Steve Trevethan 13th Jul '21 - 4:26pm

    “Pobody’s Nerfect”
    Might it be that the long term policy of house price inflation makes our country less competitive internationally?
    Might it also lead to the need for higher pay?
    Might it be that some Q.E. money has helped to inflate the stock market and the house market?
    Might equitable tax increases be the best way to manage the increasing disparity of wealth distribution?
    Ditto inflation?
    Is it socio-economically wise to acquiesce in/connive at the simultaneous increases in the numbers of starving children and millionaires?
    Might it be prudent to tax increases in house and stock market prices with reductions for length of tenure/retention?
    Might it help if we were to explain the six principal benefits/purposes of taxation?
    1) Reclaiming some of the money spent into the economy by H.M.G?
    2) Ratifying the currency
    3) Managing the economy
    4) Redistribution of wealth for a sustainable and equitable society
    5) Adjusting the prices of goods and services to address externalities and socio-economic priorities
    6) Encouraging interest and participation in democracy
    From RIchard Murphy

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Jul '21 - 4:41pm

    @ Joe Bourke. Joe, I was delighted to read your account of the Fabian Society’s report on how to increase social security with public support – thank you. It pleased me first of all in recalling for me our Liberal history, how important the Fabian Society under the Webbs was to the development of the reforming Liberal government of 1906, and how contributory to the development of thinking of William Beveridge, who became Director of their LSE, if I remember rightly. It’s good to know that the Fabian Society can still contribute to the informal unstructured Progressive Alliance that is needed!

    Their research and conclusions are really important. Finding out that ‘a clear majority’ of the people surveyed want to keep the £20 increase in Universal Credit, at a cost of £7 billion, is significant, and not unexpected when 6 million people have now become dependent on UC. But their finding that an extra £10 billion spending would also be acceptable is ground-breaking, since they spell out in detail how that amount could be shared out for four different categories of people, in what seems a thoughtful though debatable dispersal. If such a plan can be adopted (as part of the overall Beveridge-2 plan for example), then we could indeed campaign for better welfare spending. And that would reduce the demand to fall back on the UBI/guaranteed minimum income plan as seeming to be the only safety net possible.

  • I don’t believe any party members would disagree with the headline of this article. The government should invest in people and communities, and I think invest more in the poorest communities so we can build a more equal Britain. Those worst effected will need the most help. Our party has not got the policies to achieve this. Hopefully, this will not last as Katharine and I have suggested to the Federal Policy Committee areas where new policy needs to be produced so we can have the policies to create a liberal society, where no-one lives in poverty, is held back by health issues, by discrimination, or by the lack of the education or training needed for them to obtain a job right for them, where everyone who wants one has a home of their own, where everyone who wants a job has one, and in which the challenges of climate change are tackled.

    Peter Martin,

    In the preamble to our constitution we state poverty enslaves people and that we want to end people living in poverty. Everybody. As well as this Liberal Democrats want to reduce inequalities. Like you I get a little annoyed that we often water these aims down to targeting our measures to groups who are worst off. With reference to what Katharine wrote, the report lists that some people were effected more than others for example ‘young people, disabled people, ethnic minority communities … homeless’, hence her ‘perhaps’. Katharine does want to address all the issues that cause poverty and wants no one to live in poverty. She wants to end the equivalent modern social ills to Beveridge’s five evils.

    I am not aware of the Labour Party having an aim of ending poverty. They always seems to talk about inequalities not poverty.

  • Peter Martin 13th Jul '21 - 9:55pm

    @ Michael BG,

    “I am not aware of the Labour Party having an aim of ending poverty”

    An interesting observation. I suppose it could be argued that because the UK is a relatively wealthy country a reduction in inequality will automatically translate into a reduction in poverty. But, you’re probably right that Socialists traditionally don’t view the problem in quite the same way as many Liberals. A Liberals might view poverty as a problem of capitalism which can be fixed, or at least alleviated, by a variety of reformist measures whereas a Socialist would argue that it is an intrinsic problem which can only be solved by a fundamental reorganisation of society. The phrase “we aren’t the Salvation Army” comes to mind!

    Having said that, the Labour Party isn’t the traditional Socialist party of Lib Dem imagination. The party does put out this kind of thing which I’m sure you would be hard put to find fault with.

    https://labour.org.uk/page/poverty-britain/

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Jul '21 - 11:23pm

    @ Michael 1. I quite like your idea of a ‘health premium’, thank you, though I don’t quite see how it would work – please expand. But I do want to see all poor people here brought up to at least the poverty level, so enhanced welfare is pretty essential. It’s interesting that you defend capitalism openly, showing the contrast with Socialism, though it’s true that our party is not against capitalism as such. I am not sure I would emphasis consumer goods as showing the benefits of capitalism, though – it is precisely our consumerist society with its habit of acquiring lots of stuff that makes it hard for wages ever to seem enough, and the wage-less to feel really hard-up. I am as bad as anyone at acquiring stuff and enjoying shopping, but I can at least notice the results!

    Thank you, Michael and Peter, for your useful contributions here. I see now that Michael and I are level-pegging in the number of comments each of our articles has been gifted with! I do think it is one of the joys of LDV that good discussions can develop following articles (though thank you, John M, for your kind comment on my propensity to want to answer everyone’s points, and I hope I haven’t missed many this time). Thanks to everyone who has engaged with this one so far. Joe B., it would be great also to hear more about how local government should develop responses to the challenging situation of today, to increase good services.

  • Jayne mansfield 14th Jul '21 - 9:44am

    @ Katharine Pindar,
    A great post Katharine.

    It was people like yourself and David Raw who first attracted me to Liberal values. So good to see you have never wavered from them.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Jul '21 - 10:20am

    That’s very kind of you, Jayne, and it’s good anyway to hear from you. I hope you are doing well yourself. As to Liberal values, I was lucky enough to absorb them as a girl from my wonderful Liberal mother, who was concerned about all the problems of people worldwide. David Raw was then my first friend and guide on Liberal Democrat Voice, and still is my appreciated friend. Our values certainly are needed now in Britain, and of course in the rest of Europe, and our well-meaning party must remain very active. Best wishes to you and yours.

  • @ Jayne Mansfield Thank you kindly, Jayne. Much appreciated. Though I must confess it is a struggle to find a location for such values nowadays.

    IMHO the current trough in the fortunes of the Liberal Democrat Party outside the Home Counties will continue indefinitely until it can find a way of clearly expressing such values again and divest itself of its unfortunate 2010-15 reputation. I hope to live long enough to see this.

  • @ Katharine Yes indeed, and thank you too Katharine for being the clear radical voice that you are.

    I join in sending good cheer and best wishes to Jayne.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Jul '21 - 1:41am

    So, will our September Conference have much to say on ‘Investing in people and their communities’? Looking at the outline agenda published here, I see that there is to be a members’ motion about ‘Building communities’, which I shall look at with much interest, and one on ‘Boosting small businesses and jobs in the post-Pandemic economy’, ditto.

    But the Health and Social Care motions offered are small and specific. And my heart sank a little when I saw that the Federal Policy Committee’s post-Covid Themes paper is entitled ‘A Fairer, Greener, more Caring Society’. Forgive me for my sinking heart, but that is such a very typical bit of Lib-Demmery, so very nice and universally mildly acceptable! Oh, where is my radical Liberal party gone?

    Michael Gooding and I have tried to put some meat into the proposed Themes paper, getting our own effort circulated to all the FCC members. Naturally ours is on the Beveridge-2 major theme of tackling all the social ills, today’s equivalents of Beveridge’s ‘five great evils’, which are stalking our country now after the decade of Tory power, compounded as they have been by the Pandemic.

    Friends, there is just so much that needs doing. And we could be attempting to see that it is done.

  • John Marriott,

    While you think the food we eat is a choice, for some it isn’t. They might work so many hours that they don’t have the time to cook. If they are poor the cost of cooking fresh food might be higher than having fast food.

    Part of the solution is to ensure no one lives in poverty and no one has to work so many hours to have an adequate income. Training might be needed as well. I think their might be TV programmes which try to encourage better cooking and eating.

    How would you force someone to cook a meal? As you say it is not the liberal way. The liberal way is to provide the right environment and remove the obstacles and provide assistance.

    When I was at primary school I really enjoyed the chips we had in school dinners with the fish, but then also I enjoyed roast potatoes and roast beef. I have very fond memories of school diners in my last year at primary school when children in my year group where given responsibility for serving the younger children and going back for seconds and in the case of my friend and me thirds.

    Michael 1

    Were you a Portsmouth councillor around 2010?

    You wrote that ill health is not caused by poverty, but it can be. If you have poor health you are more likely to have to live on benefits and so live in poverty. If you are made unemployed and have difficulty in getting back into work this can lead to poor health.

    You have not answered Katharine’s question where does the health premium go. The pupil premium goes to schools based on the number of children entitled to free school meals. Would a health premium go to councils based on the number of people who receive a disability benefit, receive employment and support allowance and the number unemployed in the council’s area?

    I still think increasing benefit levels to the poverty level is the first step along with full employment and giving the correct assistance to people to get the right job for them. I am not sure how successful the state can be at ensuring people keep their good health as a goal on its own.

  • Joe Bourke,

    You quote one group who say that there is no single important intervention in ending poverty and then quote the Fabian Society which states there is support for increasing the benefit levels to their 2013 level but not their 2009 levels.

    We need to be making the case for increasing them to the 2009 levels because those levels were not adequate and people still fell through the holes.

    Peter Martin,

    Why was a penny on income tax a successful policy in 1997?

    Thank you for the link to that Labour Party paper. I note that some of the things Labour say they will do appear on more than one page, that is, some of their polices, they say, will solve more than one problem. While there is little to disagree with, and many polices are the same as the Liberal Democrats. They will not solve the problem until the benefit levels are at the poverty level and the government pursues policies to achieve full employment in every region and provides the necessary support so everyone who wants a job can have one.

  • Peter Martin 17th Jul '21 - 8:24am

    @ Michael BG

    I’m not sure that increasing income tax in 1997 was a successful policy. If the economy needed to be cooled and reduce inflation then, of course, it would have been.

    But not if the thinking was that the govt had to raise some spending money! Whatever the govt spends into the economy always comes back as taxation revenue unless it is saved.

    @ Katharine

    Can you clarify what you mean by focussing on ethnic and other minority groups? It’s a dangerous thing to say and will alienate the white working class further than they already have been. Will it mean that there will be some sort of ethnicity or sexual orientation test to qualify for certain benefits?

    I’m sure you really don’t mean this.

  • Peter Martin 17th Jul '21 - 8:38am

    @ Katharine,

    “A Fairer, Greener, more Caring Society’. Forgive me for my sinking heart, but that is such a very typical bit of Lib-Demmery, so very nice and universally mildly acceptable!….”

    🙂

    My first thought was to suggest you might be in the wrong party but then my second was that it’s not much different in the Labour Party these days!

    You’d expect at least some “Lib-Demmery” in the Liberal Democrats. The Labour Party under Keir Starmer looks like it wants to be a Lib Dem tribute act!

  • Peter Watson 17th Jul '21 - 9:20am

    @Katharine Pindar “Oh, where is my radical Liberal party gone?”
    In the rich earth in some corner of a Buckinghamshire field? Perhaps the only thing the party will allow to go underground in that part of the world. 🙁

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Jul '21 - 9:20am

    Peter Martin. Interesting comment, thanks, Peter. We certainly can’t object to an apparent ‘Lib Dem tribute act’, however galling it may be to you people! I suppose the difference here is that we Liberal Democrats mostly agree with ‘Lib Demmery’, whether approvingly or reluctantly, whereas Keir Starmer will never get all your troops choosing the same hills up which to march. But then again, Labour is a huge party while mine is small. If the Liberal Democrats ever manage to capitalise on our general acceptability enough to grow huge and cannibalise large parts of Labour in doing so, we shall have our factions too. Let’s agree on PR first, though, and the progressive possibilities for us all will be greatly enhanced.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Jul '21 - 9:36am

    Peter Watson. Rich earth indeed, Peter, the Open University, my second alma mater, grew there and flourishes still, and now our newest MP has sprung from there. But as for HS2, I suppose the general rule is that wherever it snakes its way, it is naturally hated by the miserably disrupted local folk.

  • Peter Martin,

    “Why was a penny on income tax a successful policy in 1997?” has a context. Your post of 13th July 11am.

    In the 1997 general election we got 46 MPs elected compared with the 20 we won in 1992. That is what I meant by our policy being a success – an electoral success. Therefore the conclusion could be drawn that having a policy of increasing income tax by one penny and spending this extra government income on the NHS would be a good policy. Whether also having a policy of another penny for social care is a good policy for electoral success is a much more difficult question. Having both might get us some better media coverage during a general election.

    Peter Watson,

    Maybe the radical Liberal Democrat Party died when 25 of our MPs published a statement in January 2006 urging Charles Kennedy to resign (led by Ed Davey, Nick Clegg and Vince Cable [https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2006/jan/06/liberaldemocrats.charleskennedy]. This action led to Nick Clegg and our move to the right on lots of our policies.

  • Peter Hirst 17th Jul '21 - 3:25pm

    I’m amazed this post was published without a reference to climate change. The very people who have suffered more from Covid are the same who will suffer from climate change. We can look at this pandemic as a warning of what is in store if we don’t improve our treatment of those with less resources as climate change bites.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Jul '21 - 7:58pm

    Hi, Peters all! Peter Hirst, in fact Michael BG and I never describe our Beveridge-2 plans without stating that they must take place within the context of the need to tackle the climate-change demands. But this particular article is based on the report of the Health Foundation, and it is good that the authors of that report, as with Professor Marmot in his work on health inequality, never fail to mention the social and economic conditions that impact on ill health.

    On climate change specifically, there is going to be a cost problem for poor people in the greater cost of electricity at present, and in the future with the need for electric boilers and electric cars, presently expensive options. However, there is a certain levelling up in the problems of climate change when huge areas are affected by flooding, as is sadly the case in western Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium just now. (I remember the Cockermouth floods of a few years ago badly affecting the houses and businesses situated nearest the rivers, an obvious sad equality.)

    However, Peter Martin has a point, referring back to your post of 8.24 am, Peter, which I overlooked before. You are right, government can’t discriminate on behalf of ethnic or other minority groups in provision of benefits. But it is a shocking thing, just reported in the Guardian, that the policy of the two-child cap which is opposed by our party has cut benefits for more than a million children during the pandemic. Specifically, 1.1 million children living in 318,000 households have been affected by the cap, which restricts child allowances in universal credit and tax credits to the first two children in a family. We surely must campaign first and foremost against child poverty in our country

  • Peter Watson 17th Jul '21 - 10:18pm

    @Michael BG “Maybe the radical Liberal Democrat Party died when 25 of our MPs published a statement in January 2006 urging Charles Kennedy to resign (led by Ed Davey, Nick Clegg and Vince Cable … This action led to Nick Clegg and our move to the right on lots of our policies.”
    Gosh! That’s such a depressing reminder, even for me, and I’ve been sniffing around here, pondering a return to the Lib Dem fold for nearly a decade now! 🙁
    I had high hopes for Tim Farron’s leadership but it came to naught for a number of reasons before sin finally did for him. And now, after several years with no discernible progress, It appears that Ed Davey wants to be the new Theresa May, targeting Tories who don’t like Boris Johnson but who will probably return to whoever replaces him (or to Johnson himself in a General Election with an uncertain outcome).

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Jul '21 - 10:56pm

    Our esteemed leader is getting going again with his little orange hammer, so to speak (!), Peter W., according to the newest thread, and what is fascinating to me is that some of Mr Johnson’s closest rivals, such as Jeremy Hunt, are in ‘Blue Wall’ seats that appear the most likely to fall to us given the expected work build-up to win them. Would the Tories of the one-nation persuasion, those most upset for instance by the cut in overseas aid, dare to try to unseat the PM if his successor might be defeated by the Lib Dems at the next election? They may be stuck with him like the rest of us awhile yet.

    Meantime, Peter, do rejoin us and strengthen our own radical wing! I’ve been aware of your interest in the party expressed here ever since I became an activist again in May 2015, and I had like you high hopes of Tim Farron. Those conference speeches of his were indeed radical, and the standing ovations were spontaneous. Sigh.

  • Peter Martin 18th Jul '21 - 9:31am

    @ Katharine,

    “Tories of the one-nation persuasion” may well be more acceptable than many on the Tory right but they are still to the right of centre politically. It looks like Ed Davey has learned the lessons of the C&A bye election and is going to set out the Lib Dem stall accordingly. He has decided on a strategy which will be designed to appeal to them. But probably not to you.

    There won’t be any emphasis on what the more radical wing of the Lib Dems might like. It will be much more of the “Lib-Demmery, so very nice and universally mildly acceptable” as you put it.

    Looking at the bigger picture it is probably the best way of minimising the Tory vote. There’s no point in having too many parties competing for the left of centre vote.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Jul '21 - 2:09pm

    I suppose we have to be pragmatic, Peter. It was pleasing to hear Theresa May, she who was so hard as Home Secretary on refugees, denounce the foreign aid cut, though she and other ‘one nation’ Tories failed to get it restored after last week’s debate. Much as I want my party to be radical, I think we will have to work on issues with other politicians where we agree with them, regardless of whether they are right or left of centre. There are I understand quite a lot of All Party Groupings in Parliament, which should be helpful in getting things done.

    We will need the support of many to get the September cut in Universal Credit reversed, but that may be quite popular with our citizenry, since so many have been obliged to apply for it in the past year and will have learnt that even with the £20 increase it can’t sustain all necessary living costs for very long.

  • Jayne mansfield 19th Jul '21 - 6:12pm

    @ Katharine Pindar,
    I do hope that you get the support of others to oppose the cut in Universal Credit.

    I think that the support of Labour, the Greens and SDP is in the bag, I hope that there are enough Conservatives with a modicum of decency, who will provide support.

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