Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Big Equality Debate

There was a great turnout at the Big Equality debate in Bristol last night. Richard Wilkinson, the co-author of the Spirit Level gave a brilliant presentation on his very common sense idea, which is supported by huge amounts of data. That idea quite simply is: in societies with huge income inequality, such as the UK, there are more social problems. When societies narrow the gap between rich and poor they also see a reduction in social problems.

Professor Wilkinson showed us some truly shocking statistics, including the fact that in some private companies in the UK the chief executive's wages are 300 times that of the lowest paid staff in the company.

The audience discussed how we could take action on income inequality, and the suggestions included: clamping down on tax avoidance, making high earners in corporations accountable, by for instance having trade union reps on boards, calling for everyone to publish details of how much tax they pay, and encouraging people to feel proud that they pay tax because they're making a contribution to society, creating a rift between the small businesses that pay their taxes, and the multi nationals that avoid paying taxes, calling for legislation to restrict pay differentials, campaigning for a living wage. We as individuals could choose only to shop with companies who have small income differentials between those at the top and those at the bottom.

Half of Bristol City councillors have signed the Equality pledge. North Somerset has the widest social inequalities gap in the South West, and the seventh biggest in England. Weston-super-mare South ward is in the 3% most deprived areas in England and Central ward is in the 1% most deprived. Linked to this is a significant health inequalities gap, and a gap in overall life expectancy. Can we get North Somerset MPs and councillors to sign the Equality Pledge?

The Equality Pledge

"Compelling new evidence presented by The Equality Trust shows that more equal societies - those with a narrower gap between rich and poor - are more cohesive, healthier, suffer fewer social problems and are more environmentally sustainable. In view of these findings I am committed to making the UK a more equal society as the most effective means of building a better society. I will therefore actively support the case for policies designed to narrow the gap between rich and poor; and engage with the debate on which measures should be implemented to achieve that aim."

Can we also get North Somerset Council to set up an independent Fairness Commission?

You can get more information on the Equality Trust from their website.

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