This week, I had my booster vaccine. Unlike the first, the jab seemed to have no effect. This piece of magic produced no reaction: the silent miracle of my immune system in full flow.
Every day the rules that govern our society should function in the same way. They should work like our white blood cells – quietly preventing harm, keeping us safe and resilient, helping us to thrive. But unlike the body of a relatively healthy forty something year old like me, in the UK these protections are breaking down, and we can see increasing evidence of the harm that result – like an infection that affects us all.
Our enforcers – society’s antibodies – are struggling. Our most recent report on labour market protections (alongside FLEX) is but the latest illustration of this malady. Official statics show that an average a UK employer can expect to be investigated only once in 500 years. Local Authorities have 98% less money to pay for health and safety inspections than they did in 2009. The bodies that ensure we can feel safe and fairly treated at work, like the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the Health and Safety Executive, have been hollowed out by budget cuts.
The result unsurprisingly is a sickly labour market: almost have a million workers were receiving less than their entitlement in April 2019 and progress on safety in the workplace, an area where the UK has historically led the world, has all but stalled.
Cuts and deregulation have been like a brutal pandemic – eroding the institutions that keep our society fit and well. Whether it’s the Environment Agency, Trading Standards, the HMRC or the planning system, the system is struggling – our collective immunity is compromised.
Fortunately, our work at Unchecked UK confirms that this is very much at odds with what the public want. Both in polling and focus groups we find consistently that people understand the importance of strong regulations. The recent public outcry over sewage pollution of rivers which followed the campaign orchestrated by several Unchecked UK supporter, suggests that there is also an increasing awareness that rules are being undermined. Our aim as we enter 2022 is to activate this support.
Phoebe Clay is co-Director of Unchecked UK