We are the 99% - Take the wealth off the 1% Socialist Party placard, photo Paul Mattsson

We are the 99% – Take the wealth off the 1% Socialist Party placard, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Make the super-rich pay

Government figures put inflation at 5.4% in December – the highest in 30 years, and this is an underestimation. Even the more realistic Retail Price Index at 7.5% is not a true reflection of the cost of living crisis. After two years of a Tory government promising to ‘level up’, workers are increasingly worse off. This is before the effects of the planned lifting of the energy price cap and increase in national insurance contributions.

While workers are squeezed, those at the top are doing very well indeed. £94.1 billion was paid in dividends to shareholders of UK companies in 2021, an increase of 46.1% on the previous year.

Socialist Party members outline what the cost of living crisis means for them.

Energy bills forced me out of retirement

Covid put paid to a long-awaited holiday, so I retired early in August. My fixed-rate energy tariff ended in October, so I was back cleaning at a school for two months. My energy bill is up about 60%, roughly £4 a day for my one-bed property in winter, with more increases on the way.

I consider myself lucky with a work’s pension (not gold plated) and a council property with no draughts or leaks. Decent accommodation should be a right, not good luck!

A recent error on my tax code meant I paid an extra £190 in tax, instead of getting the refund of about £500 I was owed. I had to cancel payments for rent, council tax and energy bills until next month when the tax refund will come through, and I start to receive my state pension.

It’s about time the trade unions did a ‘Real Price Inflation’ index. I would guess it’s 10%, 20% plus. After all, the current ‘Retail Price Index’ includes champagne!

Unexpected expenses, replacing broken fridges, etc, are pushing many from poverty to extreme poverty. There are people far worse off than me, especially youth on zero-hour contracts with no sick pay and pensions.

Joe Foster, Birmingham North Socialist Party

Most of our income on a tiny studio flat

My partner and I rent a studio flat in Epsom, Surrey. We are both working professionals, and yet the best we could afford was a studio space in zone 6, on the outskirts of London.

The situation with housing in and around London is truly terrifying.

The idea, as an adult in London, of having ‘your own private space’ is increasingly unrealistic. Sharing a space with a partner or friends sounds great, but the reality is that most do so because it is unaffordable to do otherwise.

Returning back to our little studio space, it’s astonishing that an employed single adult might not be able to afford even a studio space almost as far from the centre of London as possible!

Renting far from the city centre is becoming more problematic; not only is the rent increasing, but the further from the city you are, the higher the council tax. If you are already struggling to pay the rent plus bills, £200+ worth of council tax can become a real challenge.

It is ridiculous that in a city as big as London, where new buildings are built all the time, working-class and poor people are facing a constant housing struggle. While new overpriced flats are sold to rich investors, we are forced to give most of our income to landlords, just to afford a tiny space.

Julija Rusevica, South West London Socialist Party

Millionaires: ‘Tax us now!’

So-called ‘Patriotic Millionaires’, a 102-strong group of super-rich individuals, published an open letter ahead of a meeting of the World Economic Forum which ended on 21 January. In the letter they say: “Few if any of us can honestly say that we pay our fair share in taxes”.

The group suggest a wealth tax – 2% on those with more than $5 million, rising to 5% for dollar billionaires. A levy as small as this would raise more than $2.52 trillion – enough to provide the entire world with vaccines and universal healthcare. Imagine what could be done if this vast wealth was seized and transferred into democratic public ownership!

The letter ends: “It’s taxes or pitchforks. Let’s listen to history and choose wisely”, revealing the authors true motivation – fear of the working class and poor internationally getting organised to fight back.

  • Unemployed benefit claimants will be paying an estimated 33% of their income on energy bills come April. (Citizens Advice)
  • Private renters’ housing costs have risen 48% in real terms over the last 5 years. (Institute of Public Policy Research)

We say

  • No rise in the energy price cap. Nationalise energy and other utilities under democratic workers’ control and management
  • Scrap the planned rise in National Insurance – tax the rich
  • Above inflation pay rises, a £15-an-hour minimum wage and decent benefits, with regular rises linked to the cost of living, as agreed by the trade unions
  • Introduce rent control. Fair rent to be decided by elected bodies of tenants, housing workers and trade union representatives
  • Mass building of high-quality council homes
  • No council tax rises, councils to set needs-based budgets and demand funding from government
  • Nationalise the top 150 companies and banks to be run under democratic working-class control and management, with compensation only on the basis of proven need
  • For a socialist plan of production to guarantee a living income, decent housing and the necessities of life for all