Marlborough may be a prosperous market town but not all its residents are rich and some are suffering from the recession and are being needlessly forgotten.
That is the grim message that has come from Marlborough’s rural dean and rector, the Rev Andrew Studdert-Kennedy (pictured), who has returned to St Mary’s from a mission in the City of London talking to rich bankers and examining the ethics of fat bonuses and pensions.
Before protesters encamped at the entrance to St Paul’s Cathedral, he was on a sabbatical working on a survey in April, May and June for the St Paul’s Institute, which has asked 515 professionals working in the financial services sector for their views.
It was done to coincide with the 25th anniversary of deregulation in the City – known as the Big Bang – and it left the rector disturbed at their acceptance that a problem existed but a refusal to consider reform.
And he found the same unacceptable response in retired bankers and City bosses he met.
“Those I saw were aware that there is public outrage but they are not very willing to do a great deal to change the outrage,” he told Marlborough News Online in an exclusive interview.
“One of the telling things is that there is this recognition that a problem exists but still resistance to change.”
“I was interested in doing this because I thought it was an area of great importance that affects practically everybody in this parish, in all parishes, but one I suspected most clergy were not sufficiently knowledgeable about and didn’t understand enough.”
“Whereas in fact it is a crisis which we have all played a part in. We really have been indulging in fantasy to think that we can have economic growth exponentially like this year on year.”
And bringing the crisis home to Marlborough, the rector was asked if there are any super rich people in the area.
“Not that I’m aware of,” he replied. “It is a very prosperous place.”
“But there is a significant side of Marlborough that is far from prosperous. There is a significant number of people who are struggling financially – and we often forget that. “People just don’t believe that because they see the High Street, the grandeur of the place and forget that there are a lot of people who life very hard going.”
“They are people who have never held down particularly well paid jobs but they are now an awful number of people I am aware of who are threatened with redundancy and are having to downsize or relocate.”
“That is terrible.”
He said he found his mission fascinating and hugely valuable partly because there was a temptation to demonise bankers in particular when in fact we were all to blame and were now witnessing threatened mass strikes over pensions when changes were now vital to society.
“The idea that you can have a 25-year paid holiday at the end of your working life is just fantasy,” he insisted. “The time has come for all of us to be honest, bankers and teachers.”
“That world is just not sustainable. We will all have to contribute more, work harder and receive less. That is because we are all living longer. The figures just don’t stack up any more.”