Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/850/20412
Them & Us
Millions of people in the UK are in "severe problem debt" as a result of the capitalist recession - in which wages fell for six years - and government austerity. A further 18 million are worried about making their income last until their next pay packet.
Debt charity StepChange says over half a million people, with debts averaging £14,650, have sought help in the past year alone. It also says that the number of people needing help to manage their debts has risen by 56% since 2012.
But it's not only the unemployed seeking help. Increasing numbers of people in full-time work are struggling to pay essential bills such as gas and electricity. Also, the number of people in council tax arrears has rocketed from 20% to 33% in only two years due to benefit cuts.
Problem debt costs the economy more than £8 billion a year - £960 million on mental-health treatment; £2.3 billion in costs due to job losses or lost productivity, and £790 million in "relationship breakdown costs," the report says.
Households with the lowest incomes have been hit the hardest by the coalition government's tax rises and benefit cuts over the last five years. This unsurprising conclusion from the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that although tax increases had hit people on the highest incomes "the poorest have seen the biggest proportionate losses."
"Irregular hours from flexible work and zero-hour contracts leave some workers anxiously facing eviction, afraid to speak out about their employment rights for fear of losing their work, or with debts piling up".
That's the verdict of the Citizens Advice Bureau who reveal that 83% of people with fluctuating work have problems with debt; 87% of people with fluctuating work face complications or delays to benefits such as working tax credits or housing benefit; 74% of people with fluctuating work seeking help from CAB have problems with childcare.
Last year over 220,000 people asked Citizens Advice for help with their employment problems.
- 41% fall in housebuilding investment since 1985
Meanwhile low income tenants in 25,000 housing association (HA) households in the capital are collectively paying £70 million in rent increases because of the government's policy.
Due to a 63% cut in capital investment budgets for HAs since 2010, renters have found their homes re-designated from 'social' housing to 'affordable' housing ie from half the market rate to up to 80% of market rents, as HAs recoup the shortfall.
In The Socialist 1 April 2015:
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