Tuesday 27 October 2020

Feeding hungry children

 The value of the UK's annual  total national income pre-Covid was just short of  $(US)3trillion.  Our population is approximately 65 million.  

So if if our national income were to be divided equally between every man woman and child who lives here each would have an annual income equivalent to $(US)43 000.  At  the current £/$ exchange rate of £1 = $1 27, that means an annual income of some £33 800 per year.

So the "typical" family of two adults and two children would have an income of £135 000 a year.

I am not advocating that the national income should be divided up equally: just trying to illustrate what a rich country we are, well able, should we so wish, to enable every family in the country to live very comfortably indeed, with a more than adequate house, plenty to eat, lovely clothes,  the latest  electric car if they decide to abjure an excellent public transport service subsidised by the taxes they can well afford to pay, and several foreign holidays a year if they chose to ignore the deleterious effects of travel on the planet.

 I accept that income differentials are, perhaps regrettably, necessary to reward effort and enterprise, but feel that they needn't be quite as wide as they are today , where a minority count their annual salaries in hundreds of thousands, then add a few million in bonuses, and a goodly number at the bottom of the pile are lucky to garner a precarious £12 000 a year.

In the long run, before the present generation of schoolchildren are dead, I'd like to see our vast national income shared more equitably (ie fairly)  so that every family had enough to live comfortably and those requiring financial incentives reaped their just but more modest rewards.  

My own feeling is that the lowest paid  should get a real living wage, (not the Tories' rebranded minimum wage) and the highest no more than ten times that. 

 But that's  long way off.  A universal basic income (UBI) is now on the agenda  and would be a good start.

For the urgent  present,  it  is disgraceful, but sadly true, that our income distribution is so skewed to the benefit of the wealthy that 4.2 million of our children live in poverty - that's about 30%. Yet our  government refuses to provide free school meals during this half term and the Christmas holidays.

It is obvious that, at least for the period of the pandemic, while thousands are forced into unemployment by order of the government, and many of the luckier ones still on the books have their inadequate earnings reduced to 80%, free school meals should continue to be provided.  

 Thanks to the tireless efforts of a charismatic young footballer, Marcus Rashford, who cheerfully announces  that as a child "breakfast club" was an important and vital part of his life, doubtless yet another U-turn is in the pipeline.

Thus catch-up government shillies and shallies and, wonder of wonders, has suddenly realised that local authorities are in the best position  to assess and ameliorate the need - a volt face from the creation of a national and privately run, (and failing) test, train and isolate system in which the expertise of local authorises  was ignored.

The government's current position is that local authorities are expected  to provide this extra service with much trumpeted additional  funds which were actually allocated during summer, meant to last for twelve weeks and are for the most part already spent.

I'm sure some mealy-mouthed last minute further concessions are in the pipeline.  Watch this space.

PS added 9th November.  Just for the record, having missed out on providing school meals over half-term the government has this weekend caved in and promised they will provide the money for them over the Christmas holidays.  Not yet sure about the February half-term.  It is clear the Rishi Sunak, who achieved Poster Boy status for his prompt and generous action at the beginning of the pandemic, has subsequently been as prone to catch up on the economic consequence as Johnson is over dealing with the pandemic itself

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