Half of families worse off under Boris Johnson but richest are getting wealthier, report says

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson seen outside No 10 Downing Street, London after his gamble on early election paid off as the Conservative Party won a majority in the 2019 General Election. The Conservative Party's commanding majority will take United Kingdom out of the European Union by the end of January 2020. (Photo by Steve Taylor / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Boris Johnson after winning the election in 2019. (SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

Half of families across the UK are worse off since Boris Johnson won the general election two years ago, a report has found.

According to the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the poorest 50% of families are £110 worse off a year than they were before the Conservatives were elected in 2019, while the richest 5% have seen their wealth jump over £3,000.

The stark analysis also reveals the growth in inequality, with 300,000 more families living in poverty now than they were two years ago when the prime minister won his thumping majority.

NEF's analysis shows stark regional inequalities, too – with London and the South East performing better than the rest of the country.

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London has seen a growth in income of around 1.3% since 2019, but the average income increase in the North East has been just 0.1%.

And families in every region of the UK, except London and the South East, have seen a fall in living standards – while the top 50% of those with disposable incomes have seen an improvement.

NEF analysis using the IPPR tax and benefit microsimulation model, based on data from the DWP Family Resources Survey and various OBR and Bank of England forecasts data. (NEF)

When it comes to the cause of these inequalities, the NEF's report suggests that it is rooted in the government's response to the pandemic.

NEF say the government's slow action on implementing measures like lockdowns, which triggered a sharper contraction of the economy than elsewhere due to the need for longer, tougher lockdowns - is one of the root causes.

And, while the think tank praises the government's furlough scheme, they say the UK's less generous social security schemes compared to wealthier countries also helped deepen inequalities.

“These results show that the government’s handling of the pandemic has led to the richest families and regions getting richer, while the poorest families are even poorer," said director of research and chief economist at NEF, Alfie Stirling.

"With prices expected to continue increasing, the threat of a rise in interest rates and ongoing effects of Brexit, things could get a lot tougher for families that have already suffered most."

Dominic Caddick, assistant researcher at NEF, said the new findings show the government is failing in its pledges to "level up" the country post-election.

NEF analysis using the IPPR tax and benefit microsimulation model, based on data from the DWP Family Resources Survey and various OBR and Bank of England forecasts data. (NEF)

“Far from ‘levelling up’, on this prime minister’s watch the families and places that were already poorest have fallen even further behind the rest of the country," he said.

"This would be an indictment on any government, let alone one where the promise to “level up” sits at the heart of its political and policy agenda.

“This analysis exposes the vulnerability of the UK’s current safety net in responding to real world change. We need a bold reimagining of income support: NEF’s argument for a Living Income would help people deal with the challenges and opportunities presented by the fast-changing economy we’re all living in.”

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This is not the first time that the government's delivering on their pledges on 'levelling up' the country have been called into question.

Tackling regional disparities in poverty and opportunity was a key part of the Conservatives' 2019 manifesto, and helped them sail to victory by bagging many "Red Wall" seats in Labour heartlands across the Midlands and the North.

However, from accusations of unequal coronavirus financial support to cancelling aspects of HS2 in the North, anger has mounted both in and outside of the party on whether or not Johnson's government is delivering on their promises.

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