I witnessed a debate in the House of Lords in which experts – doctors and surgeons – underlined again that poverty undermines health. I did not get the chance to say my stock comment, as others had in other ways already said it, that 50% of people suffering from cardiovascular illnesses suffer from food poverty, according to the British Medical Association.
But the minister answering the questions responded that the government was doing exactly what was needed. The problem is, poverty and health was – and remains – the big issue and whatever it is the government is doing, it is not resolving or bringing us nearer to challenging the paucity of delivery in making poverty a thing of the past.
I did get the chance to comment on local authority finances, which are in dire need. I pointed out that local authorities having to provide an increasing amount of temporary accommodation to families and individuals thrown into homelessness is the reason that other parts of the local authority’s responsibilities are often left unprovided for. And that increasingly, because of other anomalies and the fact that the coalition government of 2010 brought in austerity, the finances of authorities had been stripped bare.
And we are still catching up, because when Gordon Brown nationalised the banks in order to save them from collapse, and nationalised the debts they owed, all the big government money drained into that particular swamp. And then we un-nationalised the banks, allowing them to leave the arbours of socialism and return to blood-red capitalism, all to the cost of the taxpayer, and the shrivelling up of local authorities’ ability to function financially.
I made the point to the minister that with Section 21 “no-fault evictions” still law (in spite of the government saying in their 2019 manifesto they were going to get rid of them) more people were falling into homelessness. And more people were seeking local authority support and temporary accommodation.
It’s a crying shame to see such questions as poverty and health, and poverty and homelessness, being treated in such a stop-gap and ad-hoc fashion. No sense of connected thinking, no sense of trying to find a way of ending the emergency of poverty and its distortion of all government finances and political life. Whatever is being done now is not working in this piecemeal fashion. How unhappy is the sight of grown politicians and government ministers struggling with explanations that seem unbelievably glib and lacking in analysis.