“The poor”, said a young man from Nazareth, two thousand years ago, “will always be with us”, and I’ve just been listening to the Chancellor, Gordon Brown’s speech, all fire and New Labour brimstone, as he readies himself to fill President Tony’s shoes in the not too distant future.

From a local perspective, the poor are very much with us in Thanet and suffering from a number of problems that Gordon appears to have ignored as he catalogued a long list of government victories, such as family tax credits and winter fuel allowances.

But hold on a moment, many of the initiatives he mentions have either failed miserably or hide the fact that indirect taxation and a higher cost of living is making hardship even worse for many. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau has pointed out that the Family Tax Credits fiasco has ‘plunged many (in Thanet) below the breadline and into mounting debt’ while the Parliamentary Ombudsman said that many ‘have to borrow money from family and friends to support their children, using up their life’s savings or running up credit card debts in order to pay for childcare costs, buy food and get to work’. The elderly and retired are struggling on their pensions and are being crippled by rising community charges. Today, the courts will decide whether an eighty-year-old woman will go to jail for refusing to pay the above inflation rise on her local community charge. You may remember that one vicar has already been jailed for the same offence.

Energy charges, looking at my British Gas bill, are about to climb through the roof and on a local basis, people can’t find NHS dentists and sometimes, even doctors. Although not many of us go to church on Sundays these days, it’s at church, where you see how tough life can be for the elderly in Thanet, who hang on to their faith, struggling to live and pay their taxes on a state pension.

Gordon Brown talks of the abolition of world poverty to rapturous applause but the state now squanders £2.5 billion on consultants, £30 million in the NHS alone, the equivalent of a penny in the pound on income tax. Viewed from another direction and from my perspective as one of the same consultants, we can’t afford the kind of big government that Gordon and his friends have been building without raising taxes or cutting services.

In 2001, Gordon Brown forecast that he would borrow £28 billion over the years 2001-2 to 2005-6. The latest figures show that he is actually borrowing £129 billion – over £100 billion more. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes that because growth has slowed, Gordon will have to introduce significant tax rises in order to avoid running up unsupportable levels of debt.

Perhaps we need to think less about tackling world poverty, an admirable goal and more about fighting the root causes of poverty and deprivation in places like Thanet, which won’t be solved by throwing larger and increasingly inefficient and top heavy government agencies at the problem.

You’re welcome to disagree with me.!


It seems to be big talk and small actions all around the world, at the moment. The UN has had to accept a watered-down reform program - thanks to the US. The action against poverty is effectively bankrupt as one government in particular changes its mind and waters down the action against poverty agreement - thanks US!

I have no doubt that it is the same in Thanet as in Louisiana. Too far away from the perspective of the government, or a borough with too many people who either have no money or would vote Green rather than Labour (New or otherwise), and therefore hardly worth bothering about.

Let's just hope that Thanet doesn't get swamped with its own hurricane to attract the right attention.


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