And now for something completely different – Austerity in the UK

To date we’ve focussed on what to see and do.  This entry is about another England, what social conditions we’ve seen that jumped out at us as newcomers to the country.

When compared with Canada one of our earliest encounters was a reference nearly everywhere to ongoing ‘austerity’.  It permeates the soul of England.

It finds expression in many areas.  First is the public service and wage freezes.  From ‘The Guardian’:

The teaching profession has seen average pay fall by £3 an hour in real terms and police officers by £2 an hour, while the wages of nurses have stagnated during a decade of public sector salary freezes, a new report for the government’s pay advisers has found.  – July 3, 2017

The public service had a wage freeze, then a limit of a 1% increase placed on their salaries – meaning that each year because of inflation they fell behind further.

But it is more than public service wages.  The public sector has also had hiring freezes, and private sector wages are also under attack.

Inflation over the next year is expected in the 3% range – above the government’s target.

A report by the central bank’s [Bank of England] regional agents found that the increase in average pay settlements, far from strengthening in response to higher inflation, will decline from 2.7% to 2.2% this year.

Austerity is reflected in the public health care system where we see reports of services under stress.

The Chief Judge of family services said mental health services for youth are failing.  He said blood would be on the hands of the government if a 17 year old appearing before him committed suicide.  That seventeen year old made repeated attempts at suicide but there were no places for her in the health system.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40814824

In the prison system rioting has increased due to lack of investment in infrastructure.

With the neo-liberals under Blair and the Conservatives under Cameron there has been a belief that if you feed the elite enough, some will reach the bottom.  In 2015 alone, CEO salary increases were 10% among the top executives.  Sixty seven percent of FTSE 100 CEOs were paid more than 100 times the average UK salary.

According to the Trade Union Congress, wage pressure is the greatest since the 1850s.  During the between 2010 and 2014 FTSE 100 chief executives saw their pay increase, on average, by £700,000 in real terms between 2010 and 2014.  There is no reason to believe it has decreased since then.

With Brexit now underway, one can only wonder what pressures this country will endure in the next five years and for how long the bottom 95% will accept the notion that they must work harder and receive less, while their elite sees constant and significant wage increases.

Canada is no paradise, but in Canada there is a lot less pressure on services and salaries – although the top executives continue to hoard wealth while those below them work harder for less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A DAY OUT IN SOUTHAMPTON

The shipping port of Southampton is about a forty minute train ride from Bournemouth.  Our visit generated mixed reviews from us.

By far, the highlight was the Sea City Museum, which chronicled the Titanic disaster, along with the city’s maritime history.  The Titanic set out on it’s fateful voyage from Southampton in 1912. The effective use of multi media, and theatrical re-creation helped to make our visit quite compelling. A must see if you ever visit the city.

There were two low points, one being the High Street (main market street).  Run down, and short on charm, merchants had possibly been frozen out in recent years by the monster mall in the city centre. Quite soulless, drab and ‘architecturally deprived’ it was also impacted by heavy bombing in the Second World War.  Secondly, we found Southampton to be very pedestrian unfriendly with confusing intersections and extraordinarily long waits.  We found ourselves watching the locals to make sure of a safe crossing.

In the afternoon, as we made our way through several residential neighbourhoods to the Old Cemetery (which had been highly recommended and did not disappoint) we were struck by the beauty and architecture.

The Old Cemetery was opened in May of 1846, and there have been 116,000 burials there.   Volunteers work closely with a local ecologist to maintain a balance between the heritage and wildlife aspects of the cemetery.  The cemetery only gets one cut yearly allowing flowers to complete their life cycle and produce seed.  26 species of butterflies have been recorded here!  As you can see from the photos on the page that follows, it is a beautiful and wild historical spectacle.

 

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France and Smoking Cigarettes

We wonder how this can be.  In France we witnessed an epidemic of smoking particularly by younger women.  Anecdotal but at one outside table, we were surrounded by seven girls/women – average age approximately 25.  Of the seven individuals – and they were at different tables so not friends with one another, 100% of them were smoking cigarettes. They looked well educated.  We thought it an ideal time to invest in cigarette companies and cancer care companies.

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