Thursday, 25 June 2015

How many, how much, can we squeeze in?

They say you can't get a quart into a pint pot. Sorry - I must go metric: you can't squeeze a litre into a 50ml bottle.

The UK, we are told today, is now close to 65 million inhabitants. That compares to around 50 million when I was 7 years old after the 1951 census. And for some 30 or 40 years after that there wasn't  a big change: the population change has really escalated since the 1990s and particularly since 2004 when the European Zone was greatly expanded and a great number of people came to work here from the eastern bloc. Promises of reducing the flow have been made, particularly by the Tories, but there is no sign that the flow is abating.

Meanwhile there are people who (rightly I believe) feel that we should take in more people from the flood of refugees crossing the Med.

However ... and it's a practical issue: how can so many people come into a country that already has escalating problems in:

  • severe home shortages (and threats of rapidly increasing homelessness);
  • rents are at a far higher level than Germany and France and are increasing;
  • huge pressure on the NHS and education.
And all when the government is cutting back 12bn of expenditure that will greatly affect the poorest and measures that seem already to have had a draconian affect on the disabled. And there's the 'bedroom tax' matter that still won't go away.

There are plenty of reasons why we're in the soup we're in. Largely as a result of Thatcherism we have lurched to the American way of doing things and have treated housing as though it's to do with investment and getting a profit big enough to grow to larger things. It's to do with greed.

Generally, the other European countries, however, have an inherent dislike of things American (English is not their first language in any case) and therefore life is more moderate and sustainable.

I'd say that we could learn a lot from our European neighbours and re-learn the fact that you can't base your economy on the financial sector if you want sustainability - it's that which has caused our economy to go topsy-turvey. Germany's financial sector has been some 3.5% of GDP while ours has been at a worrying 10% level. Warren Buffet has things to say about that.

It's the financial sector that needs to be checked by austerity - not the poor.

Sadly, though, it's only when our economy has been re-defined and basics such as housing, education and health are properly looked after, that we can talk of taking in many more people - if at all.

Meanwhile the Queen's pad is going to receive a makeover that will cost (a mere) £150m. Is this really a priority?

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