The Blog

A Spending Review for All Ages?


Former Tory government Minister David Willetts has put the cat amongst the pigeons in his new role.

Willetts now heads the independent think tank, the Resolution Foundation, and has accused the government of creating 'a country for older generations' in The Observer (25 October). He argues that older people have fared much better under the current government than younger people, thereby breaking the social contract between the generations.

David Willetts is of course right to say that some older people have done very well indeed. If you are 65-70, had a well paid job, bought your house at the right time and have a good pension, then you are very lucky.

But of course not all pensioners are in that position. Just as not all younger people are in low paid jobs without their own home.

Two things have happened. Inequality has increased substantially. The wealthy are much wealthier relatively. And secondly, younger people's expectations are much higher than previous generations for all sorts of reasons, not least the media.

But will dividing the generations bring about the change we need? Wouldn't we be stronger by promoting solidarity between the generations?

Most older people are concerned about the future for their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And younger people see the crisis in care and health as a betrayal of older people. We are united by common concerns.

The forthcoming spending review is an opportunity for the government to build a society for all ages. Investing in the future should focus on housing, care and jobs for the benefit of all generations. Better homes, care and work would produce huge returns for people of all ages.

Investment will only be possible with fairer taxation and a shift from taxing income to taxing wealth, including that of the wealthiest older people.

It is possible but requires political will and priorities to change. Britain is still one of the wealthiest countries in the world but we need to share that wealth more fairly and invest in the services and support we all need like care, health and housing.

That is the challenge for the 2015 spending review. Will it be more divide and rule or solidarity between the generations?

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