8 years of austerity have turned the UK into a bleak Victorian dystopia, where pensioners without electricity die from fires ignited by their candles

It's been eight years since the Conservative government of David Cameron declared its austerity programme, slashing transfer grants to local governments and putting private firms in charge of rooting out people who could be denied benefits on any technicality.

Eight years later, Peter Goodman writes in the New York Times, describing a bleak, Dickensian nation where the super rich from the finance sector enjoy the kind of luxury that we associate with Russian oligarchs, while blighted, abandoned cities sell their parks to developers to close their budget gaps, cutting the number of firefighters even as houses burn down because the pensioners living in them have lost their benefits, been cut off from electricity, and are relying on candlelight.

It's a UK where carers of disabled people are cut off from benefits because a private government contractor has accused them of taking a lover, whose children start going to bed before 7PM to save on heating bills, because you don't notice the cold so much when you're asleep.

It's a UK where Conservative politicians are unrepentant, insisting that the country — whose super-wealthy have grown ever-richer, while enjoying some of the lowest taxation in the region, as well as kid-glove treatment by Britain's network of overseas tax-havens — is simply "living within its means."

His department recently analyzed the 83 deaths that occurred in accidental house fires from 2007 to 2017. The majority of the victims — 51 people — lived alone and were alone at the time of the deadly fire. Nineteen of those 51 were in need of some form of home care.

The loss of home care — a casualty of austerity — has meant that more older people are being left alone unattended.

Virtually every public agency now struggles to do more with less while attending to additional problems once handled by some other outfit whose budget is also in tatters.

Chief Stephens said people losing cash benefits are falling behind on their electric bills and losing service, resorting to candles for light — a major fire risk.

The city has cut mental health services, so fewer staff members are visiting people prone to hoarding newspapers, for instance, leaving veritable bonfires piling up behind doors, unseen.

In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything [Peter S. Goodman/New York Times]