Austerity deaths were foreseeable and foreseen

You report on a study by the University of York into the first five years of the coalition government’s “age of austerity” (Austerity in England linked to more than 50,000 extra deaths in five years, 14 October). The real scandal is that the results were in general foreseeable, and nothing was done nationally to mitigate them.

At a local level, the London borough of Lewisham decided to theme its annual public health report for 2011-12 on the effects of the economic downturn and austerity on the health of its population.

I researched and wrote a section of the report, drawing entirely on published research and freely available data and analyses. We predicted increased mortality, more suicides, more winter deaths, lower life expectancy, high rates of mental health problems, and serious problems arising from increasing child poverty. There was only so much that a single local authority, itself facing savage cuts, could do.
Meic Goodyear
Lewes, East Sussex

Just a few weeks ago, the prime minister and his health secretary were eager to tell us that they had fixed social care by allocating some additional funding. But as the York University research that you report on demonstrates, cuts to local government – a feature of the past 10 years, and most likely the next 10 – mean that the care system will continue to be starved of cash, even if fewer people have to sell their home to meet the cost of being cared for. Local governments assess, commission and in some cases also provide social care – they will continue to struggle to meet all their statutory obligations and will be berated for poor performance by the very people who will nod through reductions to the funds available.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

If evidence were needed to show the obscene level of wealth inequality in modern Britain, one need only turn to the three articles on page 5 of Friday’s Guardian print edition. “A partially shredded Banksy painting has sold for £18,582,000”; “Parking space near Harrods goes on sale for £250,000”; and “Early austerity cuts linked to 57,550 deaths in England”.
Paul Morrison
Derry

Polly Toynbee’s hard-hitting article on the ravages of austerity (Tory austerity caused misery – and now they want to make it worse, 15 October) makes it clear that more money needs to be spent on health, social care, housing and other basic human needs. Where could the money come from? It is past time that we made the link between having nuclear weapons and the most sophisticated aircraft carriers in the world on the one hand, and the suffering caused by poverty on the other.

We do not have extreme poverty in this country but, as Toynbee demonstrated, we have widespread misery and significant numbers of premature deaths caused by the deep cuts in public spending that began when David Cameron became prime minister in 2010.
Brendan O’Brien
London

Polly Toynbee’s article explains why “the austerity deaths were predictable” and in her final paragraph predicts more to come, “with no lessons learned”. I can understand that Tory politicians don’t want to learn, but why is it taking the voters so long?
Hugh Whatley
Bristol

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