Financial burden of riots will be crippling.

Recent widespread disturbances are placing a heavy financial burden on individuals, police and insur

As businesses in cities across the UK prepare for another night of chaos, figures are constantly under revision in an attempt to predict the cost of the riots.

On Tuesday, £100m was put forward as an estimate. That was before Manchester and Salford, amongst others, witnessed serious overnight disturbances. From looted shops and street fires to a massive increase in police numbers, the costs are escalating.

As it stands, legislation dictates that the police authorities must meet the costs of rioting under the Riots (Damages) Act 1886, which specifies that local police authorities must compensate victims where damage has been caused by people "riotously and tumultuously assembled".

Although some police authorities are insured against such events, whatever costs not covered must be met by police budgets. In light of the policing budget reduction as part of the public spending cuts, this signals serious concerns for the Met in particular. Reassurances are now being sought to ensure that front-line services including policing, fire and ambulance services will have everything they require to deal with ongoing disturbances.

As well as the immediate outcomes of the riots, longer-term impacts on services such as tourism should not be overlooked. Shadow business minister Chuka Umunna has said that the riots will have a seriously detrimental impact on Britain's economic recovery, particularly on small businesses, many of whom will be forced into bankruptcy. The service sector, which makes up around three-quarters of total UK GDP, grew by just 0.2 per cent over the last quarter. It has been "massively dented" by recent events, according to the Labour MP.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) have made it clear that insurers are working as quickly as possible to deal with claims, despite limitations such as access to dangerous buildings and crime scenes. The organisation is urging people to contact their insurer immediately in order to check what they are covered for and arrange help. Nick Starling, Director of General Insurance and Health at the organisation, said: "We have every sympathy for residents and business owners who have suffered damage to their properties. This is a time of enormous stress for them".

Comments over what the social impacts of the riots have been prolific, many of them making links between the coalition's drastic austerity measures and the ongoing implications of these, particularly now in light of the past few days. Mary Riddell points out the deep social cost of high unemployment:

If there are no jobs for today's malcontents and no means to exploit their skills, then the UK is in graver trouble than it thinks. Mr Osborne may congratulate himself on his prudence, but retrenchment also bears a social cost. We are seeing just how steep that price may be.

 

Tess Riley is a freelance journalist and social justice campaigner. She also works, part time, for Streetbank, and can be found on Twitter at @tess_riley

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.