‘What’s broken?’ – Mel Griggs

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Solutions for a Broken World (#fabworld)

This is a live blogged summary of what Mel Griggs said during his talk. It therefore doesn’t really hang together particularly well but might provide useful thoughts for you to jump off with.

Themes and issues for Mel to tackle.

Power and influence
The largely Christian world has seen its foundations are built on sand. Not spending time on money but trust and other things. Our problems are vast.

Greek and Italian governments fell, not by the electorate but by bond traders who forced interest rates so high that they had to step aside.

It was bond markets that caused the collapse four years ago.

Concerned about representation – only 65% of available voters voted and it was almost equal between the three parties: the party in power has 18% of the population supporting them.

MPs are constrained not by their conscience but by the party so you’re not necessarily reflecting your constituents but your party.

The other thing is the influence of lobbyists. There’s a whole people paid to influence what’s going on to represent business and other agendas.

The other big problem is being elected for five years. Our issues are bigger than that. Decisions are put off until things are critical because you won’t be elected to power so it raises the question ‘who runs Britain?’

Big business is much more flexible than government because they are concerned with their business and not the disadvantaged, the poor and the sick.

The super rich, says Peston, have gained more direct access to Government than they have enjoyed at any time for decades.

Perhaps that’s why Occupy congregated at the church they couldn’t see the influence so didn’t know where else to pitch up.

Consumerism and environment
To consume is to use up. But the system is built on the premise that GDP needs to increase year on year.

If we build an economy on the idea of everlasting economic growth then more and more resources will be used up.

But at the same time we ‘care’ about the planet. Except we don’t do that at the cost of our GDP.

So how about the common good versus the local community. We all agree we need green electricity, better transport, new housing but we don’t want that on our doorstep.

There’s also conflict between needs and wants. Research by financial services say that people under 40 have difficulty in distinguishing between needs and wants.

I’ve seen Mel do a really useful task with his work at Family Matters York on budgeting that draws out the difficulty in separating these things out. A mobile is a need, but not just any phone a particular model becomes a need not a want.

The other thing is that sales techniques have become so good that products meet needs we never knew we had. The power of advertising is tapped into our emotions.

‘people seek status through conspicuous consumption’ a book written in 1899 by Veblen called The Theory of the Leisure Class

‘our motivating in savings and how we approach issues of credit and debt are faith issues just as much as our giving’ Archbishop Of York, John Sentamu.

Sentamu believes church attendance dropping due to consumerism.

How do we balance our needs with those of society?

Greed and selfishness, income inequality

The richest 10th have 31% of income, the poorest 10th have 1%. In the UK. The gap is getting bigger all the time.

How much richer are the 20% and the 20%?

Mel has a graph showing Japan at the top who don’t do it by taxation but by restricting what’s earned – money isn’t the driver.

At the bottom is Singapore, USA, Portugal and then us. We are one of the most unequal societies in the developed world by a mile.

The charts come from the office for budget responsibility, the United nations, the equality trust.

Director at ftse 2700000
Bond trader 225000
Median gross earnings 25900
State pension with pension credit 7142
Job seekers allowance 3510

That’s 769 times less than the ftse director.

Last year ftse 100 director’s pay rose by average 50%, median rise in private sector 2.6%, public sector frozen and CPI was 5.2% (the rate of increase in costs).

Does inequality matter?
The spirit level report from Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson found that health and social problems are worse in more unequal countries.

More charts, the UK does not fare well at all. Tackle inequality and everything follows.

Education – costs of higher education are a barrier from low income homes.

Housing – shortfall of 750000 homes, average age of first time buying is 37. Developers have land but aren’t building because they can’t sell for what they imagined when they bought that land.

29 owned : 41 private rent : 30 social rent in 2008.

58 owned : 14 private rent : 27 social in 1988

Massive squeeze on private rent now even harder with cap on housing benefit. People having to move.

Unemployment now at the highest it’s been for so long

Trust and corruption
Misselling of financial products and services now resulting in fines more than £48m since January 2011. PPI scandal is nothing new – it’s was around in the 80s. Mel used to be the person sacking people because of that mispractice years ago.

There’s the abuse of the expenses system by MPs.

We have the highest rate of relationship breakdown outside America.

Phone hacking

Etc etc

Poverty
Relative poverty as talking industrial world. Not total poverty. The measure is 60% of median income – that means you can’t socialise, you have enough to survive.

13m in poverty, 5.8m of those in deep poverty. 58% of income poor children are from working households.

York justice and peace group – 15000 in poverty, 1 in 5 children experience poverty, 1 in 6 because of income have issues with housing, clothing, diet, etc. In York.

Another chart showing change in real income last ten years. Richest tenth have 35% increase, poorest tenth have 15% decrease.

Debt
But that poverty has been disguised by debt. Government is £966.8 billion, that’s £60,000 for each household in the country.

And it has grown massively in recent years.

While we grow GDP faster than debt there’s no problem but GDP has stalled…

But personal debt is just as series, actually it’s more. The average household debt by 2017 will be £78,669

So by 2017 each household owes £138,669. If you don’t then that just means someone else owes more…

Money puts huge strain on relationships. It introduces such massive deceit into homes by people who can’t talk about money because it leads to being accusatory and mean.

Relationship breakdowns money is only part of it but Relate reckon over 70% have money as an issue.

He’s tried to pull together issues quickly but with some facts and figures. Now time for discussion.

About Benjamin Welby

Hi, I'm Benjamin Welby. I'm a displaced northerner currently living in Croydon, I church with a group of Christians who meet in a Soho nightclub on Wednesdays and I support Bradford City. I've an academic background in History, Politics and International Development. I work for the Government Digital Service but I left my heart in local government. This blog is infrequently updated and may feature any, all or none of these things...