Preventing Grenfell

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It takes an event like this for people to realize that there is a tale of two cities. The problem with the kind of divisive politics that separates the rich from the poor and uses this to gain votes is those with money will always largely end up winning. They pay our wages, they control our politics and in some cases the very air we breathe, if we think of pollution from big business. This is a global problem that should not exist in the 21st century. How many times did you hear as a child that poverty will come to an end, “technology will bring prosperity”. Instead what we have is Dickensian inequality. There are some parts of London where a bottle of Champagne costs £250,000 and individuals spend £20,000 in one night at a party. On the same token there are people who can’t afford the basics and are being told their welfare of £2000 a month must be reduced because they are not contributing to the economy.

Let’s transcend party political ideology and access individual welfare based on facts, the facts surrounding distribution of wealth in modern Britain. 20% of all wealth in the UK is controlled by 1% of the population and 50% of all wealth is controlled by 10%. Full data

We are not talking about income distribution. These figures are even more shocking with the median income a mere £21,000 per annum before housing costs. This means that minority ethnic groups are more likely to earn less than £20,000 per annum.

Equivalised Household Income Distribution before Housing Costs

Income by occupation

The tables below shows the ten highest and ten lowest paid occupations in the UK respectively, as at April 2014.

Occupation Median full-time gross weekly pay (£)
Aircraft pilots and flight engineers 1,746.6
Air traffic controllers 1,549.4
Chief executives and senior officials 1,533.3
Marketing and sales directors 1,298.7
Advertising and public relations directors 1,289.5
Information technology and telecommunications directors 1,226.7
Legal professionals (not included elsewhere) 1,217.3
Medical practitioners 1,167.1
Brokers 1,149.9
Financial managers and directors 1,143.0
Occupation Median full-time gross weekly pay (£)
Cleaners and domestics 285.5
Nursery nurses and assistants 285.2
Other elementary services occupations (not included elsewhere) 279.9
Retail cashiers and check-out operators 278.7
Leisure and theme park attendants 272.7
Kitchen and catering assistants 268.4
Hairdressers and barbers 267.8
Launderers, dry cleaners and pressers 259.3
Waiters and waitresses 257.6
Bar staff 253.6

Let’s focus on Grenfell now. The residents were largely ethnic minorities, living in an area that has seen house values rise as a result of foreign investment that has been unchecked and uncontrolled. These individuals investing in these areas are merely parking ill gotten gains from corrupt countries, these properties are attracting Capital gain that government cannot realize in tax because the properties remain unsold, this kind of gain does not create employment, it drives local prices up and does benefit the government at all. The cheapest property in Mayfair is £1m, it stands empty with no tenants, the capital growth is 15% per annum. Council housing in these neighborhoods are quickly sold to force residents out to poorer areas and ghettos, developers will snap up the smallest piece of land to build more expensive high rises. Council houses that remain cease to be invested in, as a they get written off to be taken over by private developers in the future. All because of artificially inflated land value. Sadly, we become aware when Grenfell tower happens and we realize that the councils, the government and the developers are all in league.

Solution 

Address the level of inequality by improving labor laws and forcing companies to pay more. Wages need to be in line with living costs in the capital. It makes no sense if an individual pays 70% of their earnings on housing and council tax.  As a company if you can’t afford to pay London wages, then relocate to other parts of the country, this will stop over crowding in the capital, and limit migration of workers to the capital. Many companies have re-located with the internet it is not necessary to be in London. It’s time all companies paid London weighting.

We need to address education. It is unfair that foreigners abroad can educate themselves for under £10,000 to masters level, studying medicine in the Czech Republic is a mere £12,000. As these are skilled worker not even leaving the EU will prevent this kind of labor flow. It is time we can all access education affordably and at a descent standard. Teachers need more flexibility to develop good curricular and not bureaucracy. Their needs to be reform to how teachers are recruited, most teachers today hate their job because they were in it for the pay and realize that dealing with young minds is challenging. It is better to recruit teachers direct from the workforce like the United States and let people who want the job, bring their passion allowing for a certification process rather than the current teacher access programs.

We need to invest in technological infrastructure and make a commitment to put a computer and fast internet in every home in Britain. Internet speeds in Romania are over 1gb in speed, in the US we have T1 connections, in the UK we can only notch 20mb internet speeds at a whopping £30-£40 a month. Statisitics show that black children are unlikely to be found in IT jobs in the future based on poverty. In other words they can’t afford to study the subject. IT is still one of the highest paid jobs in Britain but the field is dominated by Asians and white males over 40.

Certain groups due to religious belief don’t work or are not allowed to participate in the labor pool. This should not be allowed in a modern society, such practices cannot be supported by the state, it takes away affordable homes from those who work the hardest and sends them into overcrowded accommodation. The groups with this belief also limit their ability to earn income and are likely to live in poverty more permanently. This issue needs to be addressed at community and council level. Let’s start talking about the big elephants in the room.

The cash buying housing market must be regulated. Individuals wishing to make cash purchases must either reside in the property or lease it out at a reasonable rate, I am proposing rent controls or they must lease to the state at a below market rate if they intend it to remain inactive or unable to find a tenant or sell. This will ensure that cash parking is reduced and the number of Britain’s empty homes is reduced. Estate Agents must be regulated and held responsible for unreasonable high valuations and they must be prevented from cornering the market by declaring their own investments separately from their agency work, similar to what was proposed for banking.

There are tons of things to address beyond fire safety rules, etc. This is a problem that goes beyond fire safety or cladding and has more to do with attitudes towards the poor and those forgotten because their wallets are just not big enough. I hope the Prime minister recognizes that incidents like Grenfell demand her resignation and people involved must go to jail. A full inquest is necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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