Think you know people? You’ll be surprised

17 Oct 23

Communities across the country are already telling us what they’re prepared to change for the better, writes Liam Byrne MP.


Aside from wartime, it is possible we have never seen wealth destruction like it. Everyone is struggling with interest rates, but, thanks to a new report from the Resolution Foundation, we now know the price we’re paying in the plunging value of household wealth – a big price.

In fact, it looks like an incredible £2.1trn of household net worth has gone up in smoke. Unless, that is, you are lucky enough to be on the Sunday Times Rich List. In which case, your collective wealth has gone not down but up – to a staggering £710bn. It is one more sign of the varying fortunes of Britain’s haves, have-nots and ‘have-yachts’.

The Resolution Foundation’s work is, of course, an estimate, built by rolling forward data from the last Wealth and Assets Survey by the Office for National Statistics.

And because four out of five pounds of Britain’s national wealth is either a home or a pension, wealth is very sensitive to rising interest rates, which depress housing values and lower the value of a pension pot needed to pay out a fixed stream of income.

But this kind of wealth meltdown can have a huge political impact. This is exactly why an all-party parliamentary group (APPG)is researching the best ideas for tackling poverty and inequalities in the UK today and trying to pin down those policies that the public will vote for.

Developed with the Policy Institute at King’s College and the Fairness Foundation, the APPG on Inclusive Growth has just run a major poll to ensure that before the manifesto writers get to work, we have the most credible ideas for fixing poverty and tackling inequality available.

The results are remarkable – not least, the new consensus found between left and right, young and old, Brexiteers and remainers.

People are realistic; they don’t see action in one area as being a ‘magic bullet’ for reducing inequality in Britain over the next 10 years. Rather, the polling reveals broad public support for a wide range of potential solutions to poverty and inequalities across seven areas - employment, tax, social security, housing, health, education and equalities.

Voters would like more social housing, some sort of limit on private sector landlord rents and welfare that ensures no-one with ill-health lives in poverty, together with campaigns to make sure that everyone knows what they are entitled to.

In the NHS, people want far better access to quality mental health services and far better support for carers. In the world of work, our poll revealed strong support for raising the minimum wage, ending zero-hour contracts and fixing the gender pay gap.

People want more money for schools and better support for children with special educational needs and disabilities, plus low-cost childcare, more high-quality apprenticeships and lower-cost university fees.

And how to pay for this? Here, too, there are surprises. Naturally, people want a crackdown on tax avoidance, but there is also support for an annual wealth tax for the super-rich with assets over £10 million - and a 50p rate of tax on incomes of over £150,000.

It remains to be seen how many of these ideas will make it into the parties’ manifestos. But, at a time when we feel increasingly like two nations, we may find there’s a lot more consensus than we think about how to rebuild the common good.

Image credit | Liam_Byrne
  • Liam Byrne

    MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, and former chief secretary to the Treasury

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