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Pieces Together

Another Labour failure

"Labour's strategy for tackling poverty has reached the end of the road and Britain risks a return to Victorian levels of inequality, according to a major two-year study seen by The Independent. With 20 per cent of the population still stuck in poverty, the report calls for sweeping reform of the tax and welfare systems under which higher earners would finance more generous, universal benefits. The £43,888-a-year ceiling on national insurance contributions (NICs) would be abolished, so people earning more would pay NICs at 11 per cent on all their income above that level, instead of the current 1 per cent. The study, by the Labour-affiliated Fabian Society and Webb Memorial Trust, argues that Gordon Brown's ‘quiet redistribution’ of wealth now lacks public support – and declares that one of the reasons is Labour's tough language about benefit fraud and claimants." (Independent, 30 November)

Ten wasted years

"Poverty has been rising in the UK since 2004 and is now at the same level as the start of the decade, a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says. The group said that issues of unemployment and the repossession of homes had become more acute before the recession started. ... The report, produced by the New Policy Institute, found that two million children lived in low-income, working households. This was the highest figure since the Foundation started collecting records. " (BBC News, 3 December)

The other 1 percent

"According to consultants AT Kearney, the richest 1pc in the UK hold some 70pc of the country’s wealth. That there is this divide between rich and poor is not exactly new – but the scale of it, and the likelihood that it is not being narrowed by the financial crisis, is a big worry. Indeed, according to the report, in the US the amount of financial assets owned by the richest 1pc in the US is far, far lower at 48pc, and only 34pc in Australia. This must, to a large degree, be due to the fact that the UK set itself up in recent years as a haven for the super-rich, with its relatively generous rules on capital gains tax, because the income tax system itself is rather more redistributive than in the US. But the Kearney report is interesting because, unlike the traditional measure of inequality, the gini coefficient, it focuses not on income (the flow of money) but on actual substantive wealth (the stack of it that sits beneath us)." (Daily Telegraph, 25 November)