They are purely destructive. They do no good even by their own criteria. They have been running Britain since 1997
The gap between rich and poor grew to record levels last year, official figures have disclosed. The number of children living in poverty rose by 100,000, the data showed, confirming Labour's failure to meet a promise to cut child poverty. The Department of Work and Pensions yesterday released income data for 2007/08, the last full financial year before the UK economy went into recession.
The data showed that while incomes for the better-off grew only slowly, they still increased more quickly than those of the poorest. Inflation also hit the incomes of the poorest disproportionately, eroding the value of their welfare payments. People are commonly defined as being in poverty when their income is only 60 per cent of the median salary in Britain. By that measure, the number of children, working-age adults and pensioners in poverty rose by 300,000 to 11.0 million in 2007/08 before housing costs are considered. After housing costs, the number in poverty rose by 200,000 to 13.5 million.
According to economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the figures mean that the Gini Coefficient, a measure of income inequality, is now at its highest level since they began compiling figures in 1961. Alastair Muriel, an IFS economist said: "Since the election, average incomes across the population have grown slowly, whilst they have fallen for the poorest." He added that the recession may see poorer households regain some ground if benefits grow more rapidly than the pay of the better off. Many companies are imposing pay freezes and even cuts on staff to cope with the downturn.
The data also dealt a heavy blow to Labour's claims on child poverty. Before housing costs are considered, the number of children in poverty remained unchanged at 2.9 million in 2007/08. After housing costs, the total increased by 100,000 to 4.0 million. In 2004/05, the figure hit a low of 3.6 million.
According to the DWP, the median weekly income in 2007/08 for a couple with two children was £601 before housing costs and £533 after housing costs. Such a couple would be considered poor if their monthly income pre-housing was £361, or £322 after housing.
The child poverty figures represent a political embarrasment for the Government and the Prime Minister. Labour in 1999 made a political pledge to eradicate child poverty, and reduce the "before housing costs" total to 1.7 billion by 2010. In 2001 Gordon Brown said to child poverty is a "scar on Britain's soul."
Ministers have already admitted that the 2010 target will be missed by around 1 million. Beverley Hughes, the Children's Minister, again admitted the target will be missed and hinted that child poverty could worsen. She said: "It is very difficult to model the impact of the recession on child poverty."
Last year's Queen's Speech promised a new legal obligation on ministers to end child poverty by 2020. Ms Hughes insisted that the government remains "absolutely committed" to that goal.
Colette Marshall, UK Director of Save the Children, said: "The Government has clearly broken its promise to lift up to three million children out of poverty in the UK. It is outrageous that so many children continue to miss out on the basic necessities most children take for granted."
Theresa May, the Conservative shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "Gordon Brown's pledge to halve child poverty by 2010 is just one of countless Labour promises that lies in tatters."