The majority of  indicators fuel a good degree of optimism with regards to the recovery of the British economy in the second quarter of the year. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that the UK economy grew 0.8 per cent and similarly the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasted an economic growth of 3.2 per cent which is higher than any other European country. At the same time, thanks to greater labour market flexibility and to economic migration, there are 1.3 million more people in employment and the government praises itself for having cut income taxes and National Insurance contributions. As a matter of fact everyone earning under £100,000 is, under the current government, about £700 better off than they used to be thanks to the raising threshold of the personal allowance.

Quite undoubtedly the  recovery is ongoing, and optimism in the country is on the rise. However, confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy in the sense that it seems reasonable that after such a deep and dramatic recession people want to feel more optimistic even if their economic situation is still fragile. In addition, it is imperative to ask ourselves who is actually feeling more confident. Is it only those people in the top 1 per cent, or is it also young people and middle income families? Surveys gathered from the GFK’s Consumer Confidence Index have shown that amongst median British families’ personal financial situation and general economic situation, major purchase index and saving index have dropped from -7 in June 2014 to -9 in July albeit  the economic recovery. After the 2008 recession, but as part of a twenty years trend, the gap between the richest and the poorest has grown deeper and deeper despite the ‘Big Society’ project.

It looks as if behind the reports of economic recovery there is a hidden tale of poverty and widening income inequality which our political class seem to be incapable of tackling. Unfortunately, steady growth of the economy is necessary, but not enough to guarantee an improvement in wages, employment and living standards, especially for middle and low-income households. The disparity between rich and poor is greater in London than in any parts of the country; being the main financial centre in Europe, London has turned to a paradise for the wealthiest. Hosting the largest number of millionaires in the world, London aptly fits Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities with the number of food banks rising considerably next to the flashy Lamborghinis and Maseratis parading in Knightsbridge.

Really and truly there is a huge imbalance between data from official statistics on the one hand, and what people actually feel on the other. Despite both IMF forecasts and rising GDP levels injecting enthusiasm and hope, Britons still feel they are worse off than they used to be before the 2008 breakdown. This incongruity can be extremely frustrating for citizens, especially after having experienced four years of austerity during which VAT was increased and family credits, childcare and public spending more broadly, were all cut. Whilst I am not entirely against the practice of cutting welfare spending in order to undermine the culture of welfare dependency, I feel strongly that the most vulnerable in society must be taken care of by the state.

It seems to me that the Tory-led coalition with its policies is giving with one hand whilst taking away with the other. Quite strikingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, a report issued by the Bank of England in 2012 highlighted the ways in which quantitative easing policies introduced after 2008 mostly benefited the wealthiest households, because asset prices have been inflated as a result of money being pumped into the economy, which in turn has favoured the ones who own the assets. Average families by contrast are anxious about how they will make ends meet in years to come due to a sharp decrease in their spending power. In the last five years the average households in Britain have been squeezed by a decrease of 5.5 per cent in median wages alongside growing inflation which is soaring to 1.9 per cent. Moreover utility bills went up 37 per cent, rail fares  heightened and tuition fees increased threefold. Surveys and sociological studies have highlighted how the cost of studying and the fear of getting into debt act as a powerful deterrent for wannabe students from low social background. This seriously undermines social mobility and contributes to rising inequality as there are more people competing for low skilled, low paid jobs at the lower end of the spectrum rather than getting the qualifications and the necessary skills to get those high paying jobs at the higher end of the income scale.

It is reasonable to say that despite George Osborne defining the economic recovery as a success of the Tories’ ‘long term economic plan’, the housing crisis and the increase of part-time employment alongside a sharp decrease in full-time employment indicate that the picture of the British economy is not as rosy as politicians paint it. In this grotesque scenario where bonuses and wages in the finance sector and for NHS managers soar, those of us working in retail, nursing and education have seen their wages falling or rising below average.  As the Resolution Foundation on living standards uncovered, hourly income for workers has not grown at the same pace with increasing GDP levels which means that more value is being retained as profit instead of being fairly distributed amongst the employees.

Frankly, it is disgraceful that there is such a big gap not only between the richest and the poorest but also at regional level. Politicians should realise that the major threat to social cohesion is inequality, not immigrants, or hoodies or broken windows, and that we should find the right ways to make the recovery more equal. Our ruling class has to reverse the awful irony of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer by implementing comprehensive, overarching policies committed to the  wellbeing of all citizens and to the preservation of the environment.