Gordon Brown calls for new partnership to tackle poverty

Former prime minister Gordon Brown is calling for a new multibillion-pound partnership against poverty designed to attack the UK’s “depressing and rising” levels of destitution, hunger and squalor.

In the first Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks Memorial Lecture in London on Wednesday evening Mr Brown will call on the Chancellor to use his autumn statement to raise funds  to tackle growing childhood hunger and destitution.

Mr Brown will say: “One of the most famous and best read of the 28 books of the great teacher, writer and moral philosopher Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was entitled The Politics Of Hope.

“There is no better time than an election year to rediscover our moral compass and inaugurate a new age of hope, and central to that must be a plan to end the worsening hunger, destitution and extreme poverty which divides and disfigures our country.”

The former prime minister will say that polling results make clear it is pessimism that is now the dominant mood of the country, adding: “Under current arrangements  our country risks sinking into a paralysing sense of despair and declinist thinking.”

Mr Brown will say that research shows that the UK is near the bottom of an “international pessimism league”, with most people believing the political system is broken.

He will say: “The more pessimistic you are the more you blame others, and the more you blame others, the more pessimistic you become.

“There is only one way to reverse this downward spiral and to break free of the doom loop – Britain needs to break free from this pessimism and zero sum mentality by inaugurating a new age of hope, at the centre of which must be a partnership to end what are the most socially divisive issues of all – hunger, destitution and extreme  poverty.

“For the first time for many years a third concern British people now raise after living standards and the state of the NHS is rising poverty.

“Tonight 140,000 children are homeless, 1.1 million will try to go to sleep without a bed of their own and as a new Government report on food insecurity has just reported, 2.2 million children are missing out on meals they need and 4.3 million children were last week declared to be below the official poverty line.

“A troubled decade has fast become a hungry decade and no society can, or should, be at ease when children are being brought up in homes without heating, kitchens without cookers, bedrooms without beds, floors without floor covering, toilets without toilet rolls or soap.”

Mr Brown will warn that things will get worse without action, including a plan to end hunger and destitution.

He will add: “Alongside a root and branch review of Universal Credit, we should be raising the living wage, helping the low paid upskill into higher paid jobs,  reforming various markets for utilities, travel and rented housing which today do not work well for the poorest families.

“Without breaking any fiscal rules in the coming autumn statement, anything upwards of £1.3 billion can be found by imposing a similar reserve requirement as the European Central Bank, the Swiss and others currently do, thus redirecting towards poverty eradication a small fraction of what banks currently receive in interest payments on their balances at the Bank of England.”