In his New Year message to the nation the Prime Minister, David Cameron, paints a picture of this year being our chance to show the world what Britain can achieve despite the economic difficulties we face.
Pointing specifically to the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the PM said that this year “…gives us an extraordinary incentive to look outward, look onwards and to look our best: to feel pride in who we are and what – even in these trying times – we can achieve”.
But while he said that “we” need to do more to bring the country growth there are signs that the financial position for many is already under pressure right after the last of the London New Year fireworks has fallen spent to the ground.
The Telegraph reports that, based on the findings of RMI Petrol and Experian Catalist, the average driver has cut their annual fuel consumption by 30 litres, which would equate to a reduction of 165 miles travelled by each of the 34 million vehicles over the year.
This could be put down to improved vehicle fuel efficiency or other factors, but even with that it possibly shows that people are not getting out to spend as much and fewer goods are being transported. Not a good situation for an economy that depends on growth for survival.
The Guardian shows another possibly more worrying feature of the times by reporting that 800,000 homes will be priced out of the reach of those on housing benefit due to welfare cuts.
This may, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), force the poor into “benefit ghettoes”. It could also lead many to have to make that difficult choice between paying for the rent or for food.
This is because the government has, from this month on, capped the rate of housing benefit payments to Â£250 a week for a 2-bed home and pegged to the bottom third of rents.
The CIH says that we will now have huge numbers of people chasing far fewer affordable homes.
But while things get tighter for the average person will Cameron be able to deliver on his pledge to be “bold” about curing the ills of our society. “While a few at the top get rewards that seem to have nothing to do with the risks they take or the effort they put in, many others are stuck on benefits, without hope or responsibility. So we will tackle excess in the City just as we’re reforming welfare to make work pay and support families.” He said.
He also said that the coalition government had already set out “big plans” for “better roads and railways, superfast broadband and new homes”. Although many would argue as to how ‘big’ these plans are in reality.
The PM stated that he will also be looking to change a public service system that stops the “brilliant and committed people” in it from doing their jobs properly. So expect to see more upheaval in the delivery of those services.
Throughout the message the common threads seem to be that times will be tough, but by focusing on the aim of getting through these difficult times the British, led by his government, have the right stuff to come through shining.
“In every area of life we will find success by being honest with ourselves about the problems, and practical about what lies ahead. I know that if we lift our eyes to the other side we have it in our power to come through this stronger, better balanced, focused on what this fantastic country does best.” The PM said.
That sounds to me like the PM expects that sacrifices will have to be made now for a better tomorrow. So expect 2012 to be a very difficult year. But the question is; who will be expected to sacrifice the most now, and who will pick up the profit tomorrow (and possibly in the meantime)?