We need to keep talking about inequality in Britain

Posted by Joana Martinho Communications Officer, UK Poverty

15th Jun 2012

Yesterday, Oxfam joined again the chorus of voices saying that this 'austerity' business in the UK is not inevitable - "about time some big hitters stepped up", someone said on Twitter - and that it's hitting those at the bottom the hardest.

In our new report,  we talk about how those with low incomes in Britain are being hit from all sides by a perfect storm of rising food and fuel prices, changes and cuts to benefits, unemployment or jobs that don't pay, and cuts to public services. But this wasn't just an inventory of what's affecting the people our partners work withtoday. The most important message is that this is not unavoidable, but is instead the result of political choices - the government has chosen to tip the balance of deficit reduction towards spending cuts (77%), instead of taxation.

And speaking of taxation: illegal tax evasion and unacceptable tax avoidance cost Britain £35 billion last year. To put it in context, here's what that amount of money could buy:

(click on the image above to see a larger version)

In other words, this is about the stark inequality that has been going on in Britain for a while (not just since the recession), and which has reached almost Victorian levels. If you're unsure whether inequality is the right word, then what word springs to mind when average earnings in the UK have fallen 4.4% in the past year, whilst the pay of CEOs from the FTSE 100 companies has risen 49%?

When those at the bottom are facing more and more politicians blaming them for being poor, it is more crucial than ever to say that inequality is what is to blame, and that it can be addressed - by, for example, clamping down on tax avoidance, and introducing a Robin Hood Tax to raise money for services and benefits at home, and also to fight poverty overseas. This is why I'm glad that so many yesterday talked about it - the Independentthe Guardianthe TelegraphSky Newsthe Evening Standardthe Financial Times, and the Daily Mail, among others.

So let's keep talking about it.

Blog post written by Joana Martinho

Communications Officer, UK Poverty

More by Joana Martinho