Britain faces return to ‘Victorian levels’ of poverty

Labour’s strategy for tackling poverty has reached the end of the road and Britain risks a return to Victorian levels of inequality, according to a major two-year study by the Labour-affiliated Fabian Society and Webb Memorial Trust.

With 20 per cent of the population still stuck in poverty, the report calls for sweeping reform of the tax and welfare systems under which higher earners would finance more generous, universal benefits.

With all three main parties committed to cut spending to reduce the huge deficit in the public finances, the authors are worried that the battle against poverty will suffer.

They urge the parties to sign up to a new ‘poverty prevention strategy’ – not for the next Budget, but for the next 30 years.

Tim Horton, the Fabian Society’s research director, said: ‘We could be at a tipping point that sends Britain back towards Victorian levels of inequality and social segregation, and makes the solidarity which could challenge that social segregation ever more difficult to recover.’