Our 'crisis in equality'
Column by Coun Charmaine Morgan, Labour councillor on SKDC
If any of us are wondering why we seem to be working yet our income is standing still as living costs rise the Equality Trust may have an answer. Their research has found that,in the last five years alone, the wealth of the top 1000 people in the UK has increased by £274bn to a staggering total wealth of £724 bn. To put this into context the total wealth of the 40% poorest people in the UK is £567bn. This ‘crisis in equality’ has huge ramifications for our infrastructure, society and heritage.
Underfunded, cash strapped local authorities in the East Midlands are selling off our public buildings at the rate of 100 a year and scrabbling to meet Government development targets that ride roughshed over the concerns of local communities. For example, in the south of Grantham the New Beacon Road site has gone. The site currently bulldozed. A valuable community centre lost. We face the huge expansion of Grantham with potentially significant impact on heritage assets and little investment in infrastructure needed to support that growth. Over 15% of the children in our County face hunger and live below the poverty line. Half of those people using Foodbank are disabled and a significant number are in work but cannot make ends meet. Our housing is inadequate to meet the needs of those on low incomes with huge ramifications for those affected. Local retailers are struggling as local residents, who cannot afford to visit the High Street, seek the lowest priced items and free parking. We have no direct access centres for homeless people in Grantham.
Rather than protecting its people, our services and our buildings the current Government is using the ‘need for austerity’ as an excuse to sell them off to the highest bidder, encouraging all government bodies to asset strip. Our NHS has been run down so badly it faces an unprecedented crisis. Over one hundred and thirty thousand people are believed to have had ‘avoidable deaths’ as a result of NHS cuts. The Government now states it is seeking to ‘fairly’ increase our taxes to pay for the ever less accountable, understaffed and more fragmented NHS service its own policies are creating. Locally, while Grantham A+E faces an uncertain future we can see that health bodies have been focusing on Lincoln Hospital to build the case with Lincoln University for a new University Training School for nurses and doctors. An ambition of the former ulht Medical Director. We are told it will cost £20m to build the new centre. According to a recent report, Lincolnshire is the only county left without a medical training centre. It is excellent news that we are finally to get this valuable resource in our county but surely the Government should fund this important project. Given the natural mineral wealth it receives from Lincolnshire it has even less excuse for failing to invest in our county. We must not lose local health services to help justify or subsidise this important project.
The Government must properly fund our local NHS and other services. It is time it approached those with the most means to ‘fairly’ contribute. Those who have been so clearly benefiting as so many others have been harmed. Money is there. It is being channelled, through Government policy, very unfairly, to just a few. The government must act now to introduce a fairer taxation policy and require those who can to contribute more.