Ryeview – September 2008

Redistribution of wealth is the only way to remove inequalities

John Clark writes…

First published: September 2008 – Gazette & Herald

At long last and no doubt at great expense, a report has been produced showing the factors that reduce life expectancy. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the causes are: poor education, bad housing, junk food and lack of healthy transport. These result in people living only a few miles apart having vastly differing life expectancies. In two parts of Glasgow, the life expectancy of a baby differs by 28 years.

What to me is unsurprising is that all these factors have taken so long to ‘discover’. There is one that covers them all – money – or rather, the lack of money. Poorer people are those that lose out on all of the above. As a result, the negative effects all add together.

Politicians nationally are aware of inequalities but do very little. Child poverty more than doubled between 1979 and 1997. Labour initially stopped this trend. The decrease has now halted and the level of child poverty might now be increasing again. The Health Minister said in reference to health inequalities: ‘We haven’t closed the gap [life expectancy between rich and poor], in fact the gap has widened……’

It is not just a question of the well off and poor areas of Glasgow; the same applies to the rich and poor of Ryedale. I asked a leading RDC councillor what was the level of ‘fuel poverty’ in Ryedale. “I don’t know” was the reply. If controlling councillors on RDC don’t know how many poor there are in Ryedale, how can the council hope to reduce the problem.

How do Head teachers of schools in Ryedale know which pupils families cannot afford to pay for school trips or music lessons? Those that cannot afford lose out. The education of the youngster is reduced as a result.

Finding an NHS dentist in Ryedale is between difficult and impossible. Those who can pay get the dental treatment. Many of those who cannot afford to go private take a dip in their health care. The closing of Malton Maternity Unit hurts the poor in Ryedale. Another case where the better off can reduce the problem with money. The non-car-driving mum has more of a problem.

There is of course a solution. Redistribution of wealth is the only way to remove these inequalities. Once upon a time the Labour Party believed in redistribution. Now the rush is on to help those who die with an estate of £1 million. Reducing the Basic Rate of Tax (not to mention abolishing the 10p rate) helps to widen the gap between the rich and the poor. Britain has the second lowest Tax rates for the rich throughout the EU. At the same time, one of the unfairest taxes of all, the Council Tax, continues to rise faster than inflation.

The income gap continues to widen and as a nation we appear to encourage it. This expansion of the gap results in social injustice and reduced life expectancy. In the words of the author of the WHO report: “Social injustice is killing on a grand scale”.

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