Talk of a high-wage economy will not amuse those on low incomes

Lines of traffic are forming along the A12 at Woodbridge as motorists queue up to get fuel at the Sh

Lines of traffic along the A12 at Woodbridge as motorists queued up to get fuel at the Shell garage last month. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

As I watched people queuing round local fuel stations the other week, I wondered how Boris Johnson would try to get out of responsibility for the crisis and the other shortages which his extreme Brexit is causing.

I might have guessed - it was all because he was trying to stop “uncontrolled immigration”, and the shortages were the growing pains of a “high wage economy”! 

You’d have to laugh if the issues weren’t so serious. Your government drives away, through xenophobia and totally unnecessary red tape, many of the European lorry drivers who were keeping the UK supplied with food, medicines and goods, just as you’ve driven away many of the nurses and doctors we desperately need in our hospitals. And then you blame the Europeans because they were, apparently, working for too low wages! I believe it’s called gaslighting.  

The “high wage economy” will have raised a grim smile from the tens of thousands of families in the South West who depend on wages which are so low that they have to rely on Universal Credit - and now find their incomes slashed by £20 a week, courtesy of Rishi Sunak. It won’t have seemed very funny to the thousands of NHS staff whose increase Johnson pared down to less than the rate of inflation, and are now looking forward - if that is the right word - to paying even more tax to fund the NHS, while wealthier retired people escape scot-free.  

The Johnson government rules with slogans, rather than policies. The rule is that whatever he says, it means the opposite. “Levelling up” means levelling down the low-paid - and areas like the South West where more people are on low incomes - still further. “Global Britain” means trying to antagonise the rest of the world, and especially our closest neighbours, in the hopes that jingoism will keep some voters onside. And “high wage economy” … well I think you’ve already got the picture on that one. 

Johnson and Sunak obviously take the voters for fools. After six - yes six - consecutive years in which Devon County Council has raised its council tax by an average of five per cent per year, while wages have barely gone up, their “new” idea to fund social care is - you’ve guessed it - to raise Council Tax by a further five per cent a year. That way, of course, they can still turn round and say that apart from the National Insurance rise, they haven’t raised (national) taxes. 

Don’t expect local Conservatives to help make their party see sense. The more serious ones know how bad these ideas are, but they’ll barely utter a squeak of protest. We discovered this month that a full 70 per cent of private rental properties in Devon have been lost to the holiday rental market. Let that sink in - 70 per cent. And what was the response of Councillor John Hart, the Devon Tory leader? “Airbnb has got a lot to answer for”.  

Most Read

True. But what about the Conservative governments which deliberately destroyed council housing, refused to allow councils to spend the receipts from selling them to build new homes, and pushed even more tenants into the private rental market which has now proved completely inadequate for meeting people’s needs? 


When I was county councillor for Seaton and Colyton, one of the biggest items in my postbag was the completion of the Stop Line Way cycling and walking route from Seaton to Colyford. I pressed the Council to issue a Compulsory Purchase Order for the land to complete the missing link in Seaton Wetlands, which was finally done 9 months ago. 

This week we heard that the final objection to the order has been withdrawn, allowing the project to go ahead. This is a fantastic victory for campaigners and the local community - now let’s ask the County to put the rest of the route to Axminster back on the agenda! 

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter