Yesterday the government put forward the Child Poverty Bill, with mandatory targets for reducing poverty. It is utter folly.
For those that really care about helping the poorest, meeting a particular target is not the way to go about it. It is fairly easy (and relatively cheap) to get a large number just below the poverty line to move just above it.
However, people should consider the following.
1. The Measure is in relation to Median Income.
It is not about actual living standards (how much you can buy with the income), but a relative measure compared with the median income. But at the same time the government’s environmental policies are lowering living standards – by pushing up fuel bills in the future and food bills (through the competition from bio-fuels). The poor (who spend larger proportions of their incomes on these items) are seeing their living standards fall, even though their “real” incomes might be rising and income inequality decreasing.
Further, if indirect taxes are increased (VAT, excise duties on alcohol and tobacco), then this will again fall disproportionately on the poor. Taxes will need to increase to reduce the deficit, and VAT is a good candidate.
2. Standard of life is more important than standard of living.
However, there is something much worse. The more government determines the income of people, the less control people have for influencing their own lives. In trying to eliminate material poverty, government will foster hopelessness. During the Euro-elections, Channel 4 did a survey of how people voted, concentrating on BNP voters. A distinguishing feature was that
“Just 19 per cent of BNP voters are “confident that my family will have the opportunities to prosper in the years ahead”. This compares with 59 per cent of Labour voters, 47 per cent of Lib Dem and Green voters, and 42 per cent of Conservative voters.”
So a poison-pill policy directed at a future Tory government may help enlarge the disaffected underclass. Another example of Labour preparing for opposition.
More analysis can be found at