The Argus newspaper (Brighton's daily local rag) reports that the average cost of living has risen by about £250 a month in Brighton and Hove, thanks to escalating tax, energy, food and housing costs. That's more than 45 hours work for someone on minimum wage (but only a couple of hours for the council's chief executive, who was reported last week to be on more than £80 an hour!). It's depressing but hardly a surprise – the real shocker though is that Kemptown's Labour MP Des Turner claims in the same piece that there's nothing the Government can do about it.
Not only are many of the rising prices the direct result of a failure to take climate change, depleting oil reserves and burgeoning personal debt levels seriously over the last decade, but they come in the context of reductions in local government funding (pushing up council tax bills), abolition of the 10p a year income tax rate (pushing up the tax burden for some of the poorest families in the city) and a derisory minimum wage of, currently, £5.52 – clearly a 'poverty wage' here in Brighton and Hove, a city with some of the highest accommodation and living costs in the country. The blame for all this can be laid directly at the Government's door.
What we are witnessing isn't just life getting a little more expensive for everyone: it's a transfer of wealth from the poorest to the richest in society – and if we are to tackle it we need a Government that takes a joined-up approach to tax, tackling climate change, decoupling society from ever-increased oil use and over consumption, but above all, a Government that is genuinely committed to social justice and equality, rather than keeping its friends in the business community happy whilst the yawning chasm between the haves and have-nots in our society creaks ever-wider.