How do you feel about MPs getting a pay increase of 11% when public sector workers are experiencing pay freezes – which given inflation means effectively reducing their pay?
To put this debate into context, consider this report from thinktank NEF- "Raising the Benchmark", http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/entry/raising-the-benchmark which says “Workers on low and middle incomes are experiencing the biggest decline in their living standards since reliable records began in the mid-19th century.”
Low wages for the poorest impact on everyone. If the poorest in our society can barely afford the essentials, every business that does not provide bare essentials, has a reduced market to sell in. Leisure, arts, and entertainment are the first things you stop spending money on when you can’t make ends meet. If all you can afford is a tin of beans for lunch, you won’t be able to go to the Farmers Market in Stroud of a Saturday and support local producers. The squeeze on the poorest creates a ripple, which spreads out and undermines a much wider circle of businesses, employees and reduces quality of life for many.
Before this recession, much of my work centred around custom fiction. That’s a high cost luxury product. When the banking crash came, the work disappeared. The company I had worked for folded. I’ve seen the same story repeated so many other places. Closing pubs. Empty shops in the town centre. Major high street chains disappearing. These are not unrelated issues.
Increasing the pay of MPs isn’t going to help with the real economic problems most of us are facing. It just adds to a growing sense of injustice, and widens the gap between politicians and the people they are supposed to represent. Alongside that, depriving the poorest of benefits is not only cruel, but has a knock on effect of taking money away from the economy. Most businesses deal in non-essentials, outside of energy, housing and basic food, a lot of companies are feeling the pinch. Small, independent traders and self-employed folk are especially vulnerable, having fewer customers to begin with, and less to fall back on. Most of us are in this together, we thrive or fail in ways that are deeply interconnected. Our Government seems to be losing sight of that, with a tiny minority able to pay themselves highly as the rest of us suffer.