There is some good news. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor are right to say that a quiet revolution is taking place in the UK economy, as its shape changes for the better. Not only is self-employment on the rise, but also new business formation is at levels that suggest an entrepreneurial revival is under way. According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, there were a record 5.2 million private sector businesses at the start of 2014, an increase of 330,000 on the previous year. That is up 51 per cent on the numbers at the turn of the century. It is on this improvement that Mr Osborne plans, quite sensibly, to hang his hopes. The UK is in the middle of a painful readjustment, to which a substantial part of its workforce is adapting by just getting on with it. There is no credible alternative or easy fix.(The Telegraph 29 Nov 2014)
Surprise surprise! The country’s economy is being ‘reshaped’ by a ‘new revolution’ people have stopped hunting for poorly paid work. They’ve stopped claiming the dole and being sent on time wasting government funded courses, and they have decided (out of sheer desperation) to set up their own businesses! It has to be sheer desperation because even as people are setting up their modestly run enterprises, bigger sharks are busy closing them down (see the Shepherd’s Bush market in Hammersmith & Fulham, for an example).
Yes people, those well paying jobs that were supposed to herald our emergence from austerity haven’t materialised. But what has, is reliance on foodbanks, pay-day loans and credit cards in order to make ends meet. True, the numbers on the dole have decreased, even as the numbers of those being sanctioned on a whim have increased, giving rise to a possible figure of 500,000 unemployed people who aren’t on the dole but aren’t in employment either. It makes you question how they’re managing to eat or keep a roof over their heads.
That is until you realise that prosecutions for begging have rocketed across England and Wales over the past year with dramatic increases recorded in many police force areas. The number of cases brought to court under the 1824 Vagrancy Act has surged by 70%, prompting concerns that cuts to support services and benefits are pushing more people to resort to begging. Kind of makes you wonder whether we’re intractably stuck in Victoria England, whoops! I keep forgetting, it’s the turn of the century!
One can but wait with bated breath for the Chancellor’s autumn statement, the economy is clearly recovering (look at Black Friday!). Even so, the government has clearly stated that it intends to continue with its austerity agenda and cut a further £25 billion from public spending should it be re-elected in 2015. The recovery it would seem is not nearly so impressive as the government would have us believe. In fact it’s so unimpressive that those of us who still have libraries to use, face the prospect of losing them in the next couple of months, as councils facing further cuts try to balance their non-existent budgets.