Here’s my entry for the Today election weblog.
Soon-to-be-ex-boss threw this my way, muttering about the lack of budget goodies for single twentysomething smokers/drinkers living in London. Well, that’s kind of true, but then you can wear a slip as an evening dress and drink more than a half a glass of wine without passing out. Swings and roundabouts, love.
In the pre-election budget Gordon Brown (or Handsome Shrek, as he is known in this house) has increased the Child Tax Credit and we will apparently be about a thousand pounds better-off than before. As a family living in London with relatively high income compared with the rest of the country, we don’t qualify for Working Families Tax Credit, so that’ll offset about 16 per cent of our excellent childminder’s fee.
As a freelance IT contractor operating as a limited company under IR35 rules, I suppose I should be pleased to note that corporate tax has been frozen, while elderly people will still get free bus passes (my dad loves his), and a £200 rebate on their council tax. Not so keen on our VW Polo being classed as a “larger, more polluting car” under the Road Tax measures, though. I mean, have you ever tried to get two people, a baby, a week’s worth of groceries and a buggy into a Micra?
This budget is obsessed finding more efficient ways to do things, including “improved IT links for faster and more accurate benefit processing”. Considering past experiences with the Child Support Agency and the NHS IT plan, I’m not convinced that the “faster, more accurate benefit processing” will ever happen. It’s not just about getting faster computers in or outsourcing to a call centre: it’s about changing working practices, creating a more flexible, responsive culture where the worker feels secure and valued, and able to do his or her job to the best of his or her ability. Nobody seems prepared to take that one on, so we’re doomed to an eternal cycle of badly-specced high-profile IT projects to transform clunking old systems into sleek IT Ferraris foundering at the test stage.
My favourite bit of the Budget site is a neat little pie chart showing where our money goes. The biggest single chunk goes on something called “Social protection”; more is spent on repaying debt interest than on industry and agriculture, and some £49bn is listed as “Other”. This apparently includes things like international development and media/culture/sport, plus some other stuff that they haven’t thought of yet.
So, this budget chucks some more money at the likes of me and Spouse and Sproglet, takes a bit away (or threatens to, should we ever sell our tiny flat and afford something bigger), and promises to make life fairer without mentioning too many specifics. Now, if the Labour Party would promise to ban Coldplay and make it illegal to call Jamie Cullum a jazz musician in any shape or form, they might have a vote.
Sod it, if I don’t get the thing, I might still do this occasionally