In Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Mother Courage’, the eponymous Mother says you know there’s trouble about when people start going on about the virtues. My recent post-bag has brought this to mind. As a local Councillor more and more small businesses have asked me to write to public authorities on their behalf.
The two most common complaints are about the taper for Universal Credit (UC) and the premises condition for grants to businesses. The former is something that many business people would not have been aware of before the crisis but as a means tested benefit UC is not available for anyone with savings of more than £16,000 and starts to reduce for anyone with savings of more than £6000. These are the precisely the sorts of sums that small businesses put away to pay their annual tax bill. Why, people reasonably ask, should they be penalised for their prudence?
The second issue is that grants that the Government made available to businesses are the start of the crisis are only available to businesses with premises, a condition that rules out thousands of small businesses including many creatives and art-based companies who do their work in schools. Their income has been just as likely to fall as businesses with premises.
Both of these complaints are about injustice. Whilst we all like to think of ourselves as just and fair-minded people who believe in a distribution of rewards based on some sort of merit, it is also true to say that we only start complaining when we feel the blows of injustice raining in on us. And this is what’s happening right now – as things become tougher we become all the more aware of how we are being treated compared to others. It turns out that Brecht had a point.