Covid exposes the key government role in maintaining the total level of spending in the economy at a level that keeps the country as close to full employment as possible
A great deal of poverty in Britain can be blamed on joblessness, insufficient hours of work, and low pay. The pandemic has emphasised that the penury that too many suffer in this country is nothing to do with the shortcomings of workers. It is do with a shortage of work. That is why the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, in next week’s mini-budget, should scrap plans to abolish, in April 2020, the £20 a week extra benefit payments going to 6m low-income households. A report by the Resolution Foundation reveals that the longer the pandemic has gone on, the harder the poorest have been hit. People who did nothing but stoically bear the brunt of the crisis ought not be made to pay for it.
Coronavirus has thrown into sharp relief the inequalities in Britain. The bottom fifth of the working population have seen incomes cut sharply and their savings reduced to nothing. For the poor, there’s little or no cash to furnish even the barest of Christmases, while those at the top have seen cash pile up in bank accounts. What is needed, as the former prime minister Gordon Brown made clear at the launch of the Resolution Foundation report, is a U-turn. Without a rethink from Mr Sunak, around 700,000 people, including 300,000 children, will sink into poverty at a time of surging unemployment and plummeting living standards.