Terror comes in many forms. But in peacetime, at least, there are few things more frightening than not being able to pay your debts.
A week ago, the Mail’s front page highlighted ‘families’ growing mountain of debt’. Based on figures from the accountants PwC, this showed that the total amount of unsecured debt in the UK (in other words, not including mortgages) had risen to £400 billion — equivalent to more than £16,000 per household.
With borrowing rates rising, and the prices of essential goods likewise, this predicament — most of all for the poorest — must be an element in the fact that more than two million Britons have used at least three days’ worth of ’emergency food’ at foodbanks in the past year.
Since the deeply misguided decision by the Blair/Brown administration in 2005 to ‘liberalise’ the gambling industry, this has been a social disaster in the making, most damaging to the poorest families with which the Labour Party has always claimed a special affinity
A significant proportion of those people will be in employment, not down-and-outs. This is an argument brandished by the public sector unions when threatening strike action.
The general secretary of the PCS union, Mark Serwotka, claimed to the BBC that ‘40,000 public sector workers are using foodbanks’. And the Fire Brigades Union, on December 29, tweeted: ‘Many ordinary firefighters, on £32,244, are forced to foodbanks.’
This provoked the Conservative MP Brendan Clarke-Smith to respond: ‘I respect the profession, but £32,244 and using a foodbank. Never heard such a ridiculous thing in my life. I earned a lot less than that for most of my teaching career, and so do many of my constituents. If true, which is unlikely, I suggest learning how to budget and prioritise.’
But, as those figures for unsecured debts suggest, many are in a position where even a salary above the national average won’t keep the wolf from the door. When the cost of living surges much higher than you could have foreseen, you can’t walk away from such obligations (or not without facing the bailiffs and the prospect of personal bankruptcy).
It is seldom mentioned in this context, but I wonder to what extent the rising use of foodbanks, tied to genuine financial distress, is linked to the issue of ‘problem gambling’, as well as poverty.
Since the deeply misguided decision by the Blair/Brown administration in 2005 to ‘liberalise’ the gambling industry, this has been a social disaster in the making, most damaging to the poorest families with which the Labour Party has always claimed a special affinity.
The parents of Jack Ritchie (centre), Charles and Liz Ritchie were awarded an MBE for services to charity and families bereaved by gambling-related suicide
Among the measures that the Ritchies have called for is a ban on gambling advertising. That, unfortunately, won’t happen. The minister responsible, Paul Scully, has indicated only that he might demand a ‘hardening’ of the warning in gambling ads, beyond the current, vapid, …….