Has the country got the will and the strength to effect social change?

Getting rich is good, said Sir Angus, but not if it's 'enriching the few at the expense of the many'
Getting rich is good, said Sir Angus, but not if it's 'enriching the few at the expense of the many'

A few weeks ago we took a look at the pay rise awarded to Shell boss Ben van Beurden who received a 126% pay rise last year, pocketing £17 million.

Mr Van Beurden saw his total pay climb from £7.6m to more than £12.8m as part of a long-term incentive plan and also scooped a £2.5m annual bonus as part of the award.

In the same week a number of school heads laid bare the extent of the poverty and lack of advantage available to children in some of the worst off areas of the country.

“In 24 years of education, I have not seen the extent of poverty like this,” said one.

“Children are coming to school hungry, dirty and without the basics to set them up for life.

And he warned: “The gap between those that have and those that do not is rising and is stark.”

Fast forward a month or so and up pops Tesco boss Dave Lewis who has been awarded a pay packet worth £4.6 million, four months after 9000 jobs across the grocery giant were placed under review.

Lewis earned a £1.6m bonus, on top of his £1.25m base salary and £1.3m through long-term share plans. He also earned £313,000 in pension earnings as well as benefits.

All that placed his income at 226 times the median wage of a Tesco employee, at £20,364, while poor old Mr van Beurden earned just 143 times the average of his staff though the average at Shell is doubtless and little higher.

But as with his award and the school heads’ comments, the story of Mr Lewis’ pay was accompanied on the news agenda by a truly disheartening report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies which warned that widening inequalities in pay, health and opportunities in across the UK are undermining trust in democracy.

Launching a five year review into inequality in the UK by Nobel prize winning economist Sir Angus Deaton the think tank warned of runaway incomes for high earners but rises in “deaths of despair”, such as from addiction and suicide, among the poorest.

In between, it said the middle class was also under pressure, particularly younger generations, with stagnant pay and unaffordable house prices.