First published in The Felixstowe Flyer, April 2020.

Why are the poorest dying younger?

Conservative austerity means an increase in food banks from just 6 in 2010 to over 2000 in the UK in 2019! At the same time the gap is increasing between the life expectancy of the richest and poorest (“Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On”). This report found that life expectancy improved about one year every four years from 1900 to 2010. Then it slowed down dramatically. The poor in England are now dying earlier and from diseases that can be prevented.

Working income has stagnated and benefits have been cut, forcing many working families to use food banks. The price of health food like fresh food and vegetables has increased more than unhealthy processed food, putting them out of the reach of the poorest. The report showed that these health changes cost about £82 billion a year in lost taxes, higher welfare payments and increased NHS and social care costs.

The Review calls on this Government to reduce poverty, reduce poor quality, low paid, and insecure work, make sure the Living Wage and benefits give people the minimum for a healthy life and invest more in the most deprived areas.

Part of this problem has been the introduction of Universal Credit by the Conservative  and Liberal Democrat coalition government in April 2013 which saw distress greatly increase in claimants. A report shows that mental health issues rocketed cross the board. However, there is no evidence that Universal Credit means more people are in work. Poorer claimants said they suffered greater risk of hunger, debt and rent arrears as well as ill health and homelessness.

In spite of all this evidence of hardship, a further 5.5 million recipients of existing benefits are expected to have to claim Universal Credit within the next four years. No wonder Labour firmly believes that Universal Credit should be abolished.

Stranger than fiction

The Royal Navy had more admirals than actual warships at the end of 2019!

A Building Society – Building Homes

The Nationwide Building Society has started again doing just that – building homes! A century ago it was building a garden city, Letchworth. Now it has started a project for 239 houses in Wiltshire. It is aiming to build better homes because it has to cover just its costs, not the 20% plus margins that the bigger house builders expect. They started by asking in their area what people wanted from their homes. People said they wanted bigger garages so both car doors can be opened. They also wanted higher ceilings! Around 30% of the housing will be affordable. The developer says that working with the Nationwide has meant a much bigger budget for design and quality. Part of the development will be parkland giving connections to other parts of the town.

Nationwide says: “We want to create a blueprint that others can follow that shows the quality you can get if you forego some of the profit”.

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