Thursday, 9 July 2009

Budget 150

Hello! I'm sincerely hoping you are a new reader. Not that I've anything against old readers, but I am on a steep learning curve to have my message heard and I'm increasingly learning that I'm not the only one attempting to shout it – or a least a variation of it. I am SO #rebootbritain.

I had thought that “excluding home ownership, 50% of the UK population owns 1% of wealth” (source: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=2 ) was attention seeking enough, but it seems not. You see I've only just come across Oxfam's UK Poverty wing and a fascinating article printed in The Guardian on 13th March 2009: “Inequality: mother of all evils?”. 

If I had the technical know-how to get this blog to actually link to the urls that I type, you could read the article straight away - straight away would be my recommendation – because inherent in the bipolarity of wealth in this country is the distinct probabilty that per captia averages for spend and usage of consumer goods are twaddle - absolute and unmitigated twaddle.
[update 14.08.09 "I got the power" - so here's the link: http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2009/03/13/inequality.pdf ]

In the meantime, if there any genuine offers to improve this site's interactivity, I'd be grateful – skint, unable to pay, but grateful. Teaching secondary school kids and being a mummy is somewhat preclusive to effecting the greatest social media marketing campaign that digital networks have ever seen, though I'm getting there thanks to: http://mashable.com  and http://www.squidoo.com . Sorry to anyone who finds me gauche or committing faux pas for asking.

I started writing Zero-credit about a year ago. I'd more than done my time on low incomes and knew just about every trick in the book to keep that well hidden when I needed to, but I've always hated the stigma of poverty. It dates back to being a teenager, when I blamed the opera world for forcing me to big up the gum boots and skirt made from curtain fabric that my folks gave me one Christmas. I had a pupil going through much the same thing last Spring – I guess supporting a child through that was much of the catalyst.

As a youngster, I used to fantasize about sending the black spot to opera houses that had turned my father down – you know, the pirates’ curse - the tragic armoury of magic and superstition all the more poignant in my helplessness. Now I think, why the hell should anyone be ashamed that they can't afford something? And, more pertinently, why oh why, are there so many people out there trying to extract money from poor people?

It's a big market poor people - a growth market too - and either I am totally paranoid and a conspiracy theorist to boot, or I am right that the wapping great 50% of us with naff all income and wealth are being lured into borrowing and spending that we simply do not need. Take my partner's mum, for instance - 73, a darling, brought up on banking loyalty and scammed for over £150 by the building & contents insurer she'd banked with for over 40 years, when she simply renewed her policy. Isn't that sick? “It could be your Nan” to paraphrase the National Lottery.

Food prices bother the hell out of me too. As I've blogged previously, by and large they're the same at Costco (the wholesaler where I shop) as they were when I opened my account in mid 2006. Yet at supermarkets I find food staples have gone through the roof and there's too many discrepancies for the price hikes to be believable – I mean why is Value bread some 20p a loaf dearer than it was in 2006, yet Value scones are about the same price? Didn't those terrible harvests affect the self raising flour crops then? Nah, it's the supermarkets that are doing the self-raising.

Shed loads of own brand and value foods have gone up, yet we're repeatedly told to downshift to these. More transfats, higher salt and sugar intake, poorer food quality. I found it fascinating that The Guardian article established a relationship between income gaps and obesity...

I also loathe the fact that supermarket booze is so cheap – loss leading, it's called (there's a link to a Government paper about it on the Household page). If you Google my dad (Delme Bryn-Jones btw), The Independent obituary will tell you that he was an alcoholic. Sadly his recovery was the bit they omitted, which was important to me because we never went without because Dad had drunk the proceeds. But we could have done – and I don't think I could cope with mentoring that in my classroom.

Now, my food prices and teen angst may be a long way from policy making, but if we are to #rebootbritain then more people need to know the kinds of skills that I learned when I had to go without. Zero-credit needs to be a shared resource, discursive, informative and accessible - older folks need to know how to switch utilities, insurers and save. 

Me? I am just a nice fat middle aged lady who likes writing - savvy enough to know a raw deal when she sees one – but limited in the time and technical expertise to make big noises. Dammit, I've spent just over a year and £150 of my hard earned cash on this website, please would you help it to end the vicious cycle of borrowing?

Posted @ 20:58:51 on 08 July 2009
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