Just how bad can it get?
TruePublica editor: Amid Theresa May’s rather public display of self-immolation and the continuing implosion of her governments’ own suicide mission, and the new national obsession with being shouty at each other over wanting to be friends or not with the neighbours – life goes on as usual for ordinary folk. And life-as-usual is getting worse by the day.
Take for instance, the Mirror report that burial and cremation fees have soared by up to 124 per cent in four years – forcing some families into debt. The figures were revealed by insurance giant Royal London, which says town halls are ramping up prices to make up for government budget cuts.
The biggest increase is in Poole, Dorset, where burial costs have shot up by 124 per cent from £1,450 to £3,255. But the most expensive place to be laid to rest is Wandsworth, South London, which charges £4,861 per plot. The lesson here is – try not to live in Wandsworth because life expectancy there is pretty low anyway – as found in another study!
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In the meantime, local councils are facing a funding gap of £5bn by 2020 because of “complacent” government ministers’ failure (surely not!) to plan for the future. In a damning report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said government-imposed budget cuts of almost 50 per cent in the last seven years have left a number of councils under “enormous pressure” and “in a worrying financial position”. It is “unsustainable” to expect town halls to continue to draw on cash reserves to fund day-to-day spending, MPs on the committee said.
That news was then followed by up a report in the FT that confirmed more than half of English councils will eat into their reserves and four out of five are investing in commercial developments to supplement their revenue this year to compensate for central government funding cuts. That’s a great plan, until commercial property values start to fall, which Brexit will probably cause anyway as the economy contracts. Nearly half of local authorities are already planning to cut services and nearly all raised council taxes this year and increase charges to stay afloat, the 2019 State of Local Government Finance survey said.
In this environment, it’s not surprising things go wrong. About this time last year, Northampton Council Council declared itself bankrupt, the first in over two decades. Since then, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool and Birmingham all have acute financial problems coping with the austerity cuts imposed by the government with 15 other counties on the brink. No doubt the list will continue over time.
Abandoning the kids
The Guardian reports today that the government has been accused of failing children with special educational needs after a report found funding for pupils had been cut by 17% across England since 2015.
“The report by the thinktank IPPR North also revealed the north had been worst affected, with cuts of 22% per pupil. Researchers found government spending on support for children and young people with the most complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) had failed to keep pace with rising demand, resulting in a reduction in funds available per pupil. The report also found that cuts to education and local government budgets had led to a dramatic reduction in support for children with less complex needs and had increased demand for more intensive support.”
Meanwhile, overall, there are 4.1 million UK children trapped below the poverty line but an astounding 23.1 per cent of children are expected to be living in absolute poverty by the end of the decade, a rise from 17 per cent in 2009. And to confirm the county councils financial woes, our media partner The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that over 100 councils in England are known to have overspent on their Children’s Services budget this year, so they are cutting back.
In another report, it was revealed that the real-terms value of Child Benefit has fallen back its 1999 level and may even be abolished to become part of the troubled Universal Credit system. The value of Child Benefit was increased in 1991, 1999 and 2009 and since gone into reverse.
And let’s not forget that in the pursuit of corporate profits and lack of protective legislation, social media and the tech giants have piled the pressure up our next generation. And they are becoming victims of it, girls and young women especially. Nearly a quarter of 14-year-old girls now self-harm and female suicide is now higher than ever. Aged 16 to 24, 35 per cent of females (compared to 19 per cent of males) now have suicidal thoughts. In the last two decades, mental health conditions for women has increased by 38 per cent.
Kick them when they are down
It’s definitely a Tory thing. It always was a bit, but not like today. Kicking those least able to defend themselves now seems to be a sport in No10 Downing Street – now competing with its latest game of – I’ll stab you in the back if you stab me.
Leaving stabbing in London aside, which is another thing entirely – research also shows that disabled people’s incomes have been slashed by up to £5,000 for each year since 2010 with reforms such as these hardwired into the system until 2022. Disabled people for god’s sake. Where do the Tories find the pleasure in this?
As the NHS continues to be financially strangulated and then privatised it has also announced a number of conditions it will no longer treat such as Threadworms, Ringworm, oral Thrush, Allergic Rhinitis, excessive sweating (Hyperhidrosis), Dermatitis, Cystitis and Cradle Cap (Seborrhoeic dermatitis – infants) to name just a few. Typically, these are the types of conditions the poor and poverty struck get – and let’s be fair, there’s no money in it for Branson, so tough luck on the afflicted.
To get over all this bad news, it appears a lot of us are rolling up a tenner (if you can find one) and sniffing bad stuff. In 1975, when things weren’t quite as bad as today, about 5,000 addicts were known to be accessing the NHS for treatment, today it’s about 300,000.
And if sniffing isn’t your thing and swigging is – there’s no good news here either. Nearly 60 per cent of local authorities have slashed budgets for alcohol addiction services over the last year, amid government cuts to public health grants, despite soaring alcohol-related hospital admissions and deaths.
If you can’t afford to sniff or drink your way into oblivion, some people will always find a cheaper way. Take for instance the elderly. They just sit in a chair next to a fire they can’t afford to heat – and puff, they’re off to the ironic warmth of the local crematorium. Fuel poverty was attributed purely to 9,000 deaths in England and Wales last winter alone, a study from the University College London (UCL) has been able to reveal. You have to pity the families who now can’t afford to send them off though eh!
One thing is for sure. When the first part of Brexit is over – that is, when that lot in Westminister have stabbed each other to the point of last person standing – a general election will happen because there’s an inevitability of political self-destruction. Then of course, there’s the law. Either way, one will happen sooner or later.
Since the 2016 EU referendum, there have been 739 local by-elections across the United Kingdom. In terms of Remain and Leave there is a message.
REMAIN councils change: Con -10, Lab -7, Lib Dem +12, Ind +2, Local Ind +1, Plaid +2
LEAVE councils change: Con -23, Lab -13, Lib Dem +42, UKIP -22, Green +7, Ind -3, Local Ind +4, Plaid +2
And that message is – people are so fed up they will vote for anything as long as it’s not what they currently have. This is how Brexit came about in the first place.
Get the tenner or Jack Daniel’s out – there’s a lot more political damage to come to the UK, followed by economic damage and then more austerity and if not, the national debt will explode. It’s not too much of a stretch to say this is Britain’s last gasp because fixing this lot is not going to be easy even in the hands of the Almighty one – wherever he or she may be.