Living in a highly unequal society for me means living in a socially dysfunctional society. I live in England. So many of the problems I complain about have, at their root, our local tolerance of gross inequality.

In January 2014, when I was last asked the question of ‘what one thing would I do’ I gave what for many was an unexpected answer. I suggested promoting reducing speed limits on residential roads, by shops and schools to 20mph. You may not think of fast cars as being a product of economic inequality, but in more equitable countries people are far more likely to live in cities where the cars are restricted to 30kmph speeds (about 18.5mph). The effect of slowing down cars is not just to reduce accidents and deaths, especially for children and the elderly. When cars are slowed down we all become a little less individualistic and intolerant.

During the last twelve months Transport for London has announced 20mph trials on certain red routes in London. Greater Manchester has announced that some 1,800 roads will be limited to 20mph. The cyclist Chris Boardman has backed the 20’s Plenty campaign and NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, released a report titled “Preventing unintentional injuries among under-15s” which recommends, on preventative clinical grounds, 20mph limits where children and young people are likely to be”.

It is easy to think that progress is hard to achieve if you do not stop, take stock, and realize just how much is being achieved all the time. More so under the most difficult of circumstances, when the greatest of cuts are being made and in an atmosphere where it is usual to say that the devil can take the hindmost, even when the hindmost is a child who crosses the road too slowly.

We cannot just do ‘one thing’. We have to do many things, but we can only do one thing at a time, and we need to keep on doing this otherwise the pressure of those who lack empathy and understanding will drive us backwards.

So, what one thing would I suggest for 2015? I think we have to ask “why are housing prices so high in London and so unaffordable in much of the rest of the country?” One answer is that London is an attractive place for the super-rich and mildly super-rich to park their money, to promulgate their views and to congregate. They do this for one reason above all others. In London their money is safe; safe from being taxed.

Read the full text in Among Equals (Spring 2015) published by the Equality Trust:

  • Download from the Equality Trust
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