Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 12th December 2018

The principle each generation should do better than the last is one we hold in common. Surely, it’s only fair when our parents left us a better deal than they got, as did their parents and theirs’ before. That progress is why we no longer live in caves, why we have personal freedom, and why we have the rights in life and work that benefit us all, including the Christmas holiday people will soon be enjoying.

Yet, in recent years progress has stalled. Since the global economic crash a decade ago it’s less certain those young people today will get a life as good as their parents’, with a property market and cuts in public spending moving wealth from younger to older generations. As part of that generation of Crawley residents still house-sharing in my thirties, it’s something I know all-too-well.

People have always claimed that things were better in their day, but research increasingly finds not only older generations believe life was better for young people in the 1960s, but younger generations too. That’s historically unique. Even the Government’s Social Mobility Commission highlights young people now find hard work no longer enough to succeed, that who their parents are increasingly decides where they end up regardless of talent.

That’s something we have to change. Crawley Borough Council is currently running a review to look into what can be done locally, with our town rated the worst in the region for social mobility. The review is doing good work, but even if we can improve social mobility it’s not enough to just let ‘bright ones escape’, any true democracy should seek to improve the lives of all its citizens, like a rising tide lifting all boats.

That’s far from impossible, our economy has from the 1980s focused on employment sectors which increase inequality, the loss of affordable housing and cuts to public services have all made things worse. We must recapture that post-war spirit which built the comprehensive public services and the strong economy we all took for granted, to deliver a United Kingdom which again works for the many.

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