We are clearly not all in this together

What we all suspected is now official.  We really are living in austerity times. Real household incomes have fallen by 2.7%.  It might not seem like much but this is the biggest fall in the amount of money households have to spend since 1977.

As a result of pay freezes and cuts, tax rises, higher prices and rocketing fuel costs, we are all spending more on basics and essentials with less.   And folks, it’s going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

For these figures are for the quarter between January and March 2011 and therefore don’t include the most recent squeezes.  This April, some folk entered their second, and even third year of frozen pay, others have found that their tax credits have been cut, and benefits – including universal ones like child benefit – have not risen.  Worse, inflation already at a band-busting 4.5% is expected to increase before falling in 2012.

It’s turned us into cautious consumers – and probably not before time.  But that is cold comfort to retailers.  This week, it’s seemed like we’ve been playing bingo but with all the fun taken out.  Habitat, Thorntons, Jane Norman, T J Hughes, Saab, Moben Kitchens and saddest of all, the iconic McCormick’s Music Shop in Glasgow.  By Friday, we could have a card full of household names crossed out, with no prizes for being the first to call house.

In the first six months of this year, almost the same number of companies have gone bust than in the whole of 2010, with over 10,000 staff losing their jobs.  It’s still some way of the high/low watermark of 2008 which saw record numbers of stores close and retail staff join the dole queue but there’s still plenty of time…

As we struggle to pay bills for day to day goods, there is little left over for luxuries, though that term is being redefined.  Clothes, home furnishing and furniture and even little treats like Vienna truffles are clearly beyond the purchasing power of many.

And in an exercise of stating the obvious, albeit in suitably stentorian and sonorous tones, the Governor of the Bank of England rolled up before the Treasury committee to pronounce that “inflation is clearly uncomfortably high” and there is “a very substantial squeeze on real living standards”.  Worth every penny of his substantial salary in my view then.

Still, it could be worse.  We could be Greece whose economy is in freefall, and whose populace is rioting in protest at further austerity measures insisted upon by the country’s government, in order to avoid defaulting on its previous bailout.

The burd is sure that with all this gloomy news on the domestic front, you’ll be pleased, nay delighted to learn that some are managing to buck the trend.  Or should that be “one”.

Prince Charles’s annual accounts were also released today.  And what do you know?  Not only has his personal income grown by an eye-watering 18% but so has his private income from the Duchy of Cornwall estate.  We taxpayers currently counting out the pennies managed to scrape together a wee bonus for HRH this year, increasing the amount he gets from the government by nearly £300,000.

How jolly decent of us, especially when the extra money went on more overseas travel.  All those munificent trips to check the former colonies and morale-boosting sorties to the troops don’t pay for themselves you know.

It’s nice though, that while clocking up all those airmiles, the Prince of Wales was actually doing his bit for the environment.  Carbon emissions from the Royal household fell by 22% and he is now generating renewable energy through new solar panels.  No doubt paid for by the taxpayer, who ironically has to pay for solar panels in his or her own castle.  There is more – some of the energy being generated is finding its way back to the national grid, providing a nice little earner for Prince Charles in the process.  No, I’m not making this up.

Moreover, there are some who doubt whether the money he gets from the Duchy can truly be considered private.  The burd is one of them.  After all, he only owns it thanks to us.  Our generosity has clearly known no bounds in years gone by but we can be assured that the land, minerals and chattels went to such a good home.  As families across the UK get steadily poorer, the Prince will be in his counting house, positively raking it in.

So, when your elderly mother loses her meals on wheels, or your child goes without classroom materials, or your operation gets cancelled, or your local library faces closure, you’ll be able to find solace in knowing that the money that could have been spent on these sorts of public services, is instead going to keep the Prince (and indeed Princes and assorted Duchesses) in the style to which they were born to become accustomed.

“We” are clearly not all in this together.

7 thoughts on “We are clearly not all in this together

  1. The Scooby-doo villain’s mask is slipping – brace yourselves for the real recession.

    Can’t resist a reference to one of my favourite HMHB songs….

    Shite Day
    I do believe it’s National Shite Day
    It all points to National Shite Day
    Someone’s declared it National Shite Day

    Shite Day
    My birthday! On National Shite Day
    No bogroll, it’s National Shite Day
    Cue drumroll, it’s National Shite Day

    From: Half Man Half Biscuit: National Shite Day – lyrics http://www.chrisrand.com/hmhb/csi-ambleside/national-shite-day/#ixzz1QiPfrhGw

  2. We should be careful not to allow the banks to be skapegoated allowing the other culprits to get off with it.
    That is what is happening at the moment.
    The fact is that Fred the Shred was knighted by Labour and was taken on as a special adviser to Gordon Brown. He and the other bankers did as the Labour Government (and the previous Tory one to a smaller extent) encouraged them to do in actually inventing money and flinging it about allowing the government to rake in huge tax revenues on a fiction and preside over an illusion of a growing economy when, in fact, all that was actually growing was national and personal debt. During Labour’s years in power the UK dropped from no 5 on the register of manufacturing economies to 17th position and all that really grew was the financial sector which bought and sold money and bought and sold debts as assets. Labour is indicted here because it inherited this progression from the Tories and carried it on. Despite impressions given to the contrary Gordon Brown is not an economist and his early career was in journalism and current affairs on television.
    And, boy ,did it show. No more boom and bust,indeed.
    Prince Charles is the least of our problems.
    At the present rate of month to month inflation some essential commodities could actually double in price in the next two years but the Government is playing a double game here. It pretends to worry about the rate of inflation but is happily using it to cut our spending deficit. Our actuall financial situation is about the worst in Europe and not a lot different from that of Greece but fotunately we have BRITISH? oil revenues to supply the collateral (for the third time) allowing us to borrow against our already monumental debt.
    I don’t think most people realise how deeply we are in it. Our debt is continuing to grow hugely and there remains in fact a danger that it will prove to be unservicable. The chance of the Government changing tack or policy is nil. It has no other options than to try to reverse the immediate debt spiral before it gets completely out of hand. It can only do this by slashing our living standards.
    In the meantime the Chinese colonisation of the UK economy gears up. What a delicious irony.
    The wise already know that Scotland has to get out. It has per capita a far better balanced economy than the UK and far greater level of assets to meet its obligations.

  3. Much as I agree with the sentiments on oor wee Kron Prinz, the banking classes seem to have immunised themselves pretty well from the consequences of their actions and any fire we have should be aimed at them. I’d do 2 things – first clobber the banks’ profits for an amount equivalent to the bonuses paid, which should include the payments in kind they’ve been making to avoid taxation; second penal taxation of the recipients. So if they hie off to foreign parts well fine – give them a week a year in the UK to avoid being taxed in full otherwise go for them – and that week is for life. They should never be allowed back if they’ve goen to avoid tax so sorry Sir Sean and your ilk it would apply to you too you greedy f***ers.

  4. A well argued post that should make my republican heart glad. But, in this case, I don’t see Charles as the enemy. Yes, he and a thousand others enjoy privilege and dosh based on dubious centuries-old sucking-up. But he actually seems to try to do good with it and did pay increased tax last year that more than offset any increase in public subsidy.
    Had you gone after the real architects of austerity—the Masters of the Universe whose lurid braces inhabited Canary Wharf, NYC financial district and some of the giddier skyscrapers in Hong Kong’s Victoria (not to mention Caymans, Jersey, IoM, etc), I would have been with you. Fred the Shred was figurehead for a vast legion of Gekko-esque egos whose joy was to magic risk out of deals as they re-packaged increasingly poisonous “financial instruments” that make the emperor’s clothes look like ‘Coco Chanel does Arctic Outfitters’ by comparison.
    Our £1trillion defecit? That’s the bill for fixing their evildoing. The closest they get to stringent belt-tightening that Mr & Mrs Punter are now suffering is to hear it on the Bentley’s radio as they cruise down to their yacht on Sandbanks for the weekend. Charles has his faults but he’s just not that evil.

    • Ach okay I’ll let you away with it. I just thought the contrast in news items interesting. But agree with you on who the real enemy are….

  5. As a republican I agree with your sentiment even if I am disappointed at some of your omissions and inaccuracies in your post. He pays more tax, has travelled more this year (and lets be honest, in an independent Scotland head of state would also collect lots of air miles so the saving is not exactly clear cut), the solar panels would be used to reduce tax payer expenditure if they are successful and the job he does is not really doing as he pleases but instead tied in with the role society has let him have. This country wants a monarchy so it has one.

    Developing a republic with a head of state will still incur expenses. Even as it is now, the amount we spend on the royal family in a day wouldn’t even pay a single days debt repayment.

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