I had a pretty lazy day yesterday the weather was bright but extremely cold so it was a question of staying in on keeping warm I did my usual work publishing the blog, answering e-mails, writing the odd e-mail thank you – for example to Martin and Winifred Potter, the secretary and treasurer of The Arbitration Club, who represented the at the London Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Dinner – and then spent the rest of the day leisurely reading, listening to music and watching the television. I suppose a lot of people would think that sounds like a lovely way of spending a day. So it is, as a treat, but not day after day after day!
As much as anything. yesterday I was having another bad day with the Dragon and ‘my lovely’ said ‘why not give it a miss and not worry about it so much. Your readers will understand, and so on’. Add to that she said that she thought that perhaps my entries are far too long and that most of my readers would be busy people and hardly have time to read them. In that regard she might be right but, once I get the bit between my teeth, it is difficult not to explore the pros and cons of a particular piece of news or alternatively just to express my own opinion. I suppose it’s not so much that I set out to influence people , my objective is to try to write something of interest. Another problem I have concerns the spread of readership, a large number of them being outside this country. Obviously then I cannot spend too much time discussing something which only applies here in the UK. I have tried to explain to Alice that the blog is my lifeline to the outside world and although its main objective is to help others it also helps me. As I’ve said before., it gives me a reason for getting out of bed in the morning, particularly if I have heard something during the night on the wireless that I would like to share with my readers.
So much in the news at the moment is about the economy both at home and overseas, particularly Europe. On the European front the Spanish seem to believe that they can get themselves out of trouble by swallowing a lot of cuts in various services. The Italians are probably the most vulnerable at present but many of the top brains are working on a way round to get them out of trouble. On the home front our main problem seems to be stimulating the economy. We have two opposing objectives which to my mind seem irreconcilable. We want people to spend money in order to generate activity and employment but then on the other hand we don’t want individuals to build up vast overdrafts, which they did in the past, and were subsequently unable to service.
It doesn’t help that Christmas is upon us and families don’t seem able to bite the bullet and to tell their children that times are hard and they cannot expect so many expensive presents this year. At the mention of a cut or change in any employment terms to affect savings, even looking 30 to 50 years ahead, which is unusual for most governments, the unions threaten strikes instead of recognisng that their members are lucky to have jobs at all in these difficult times.
Unfortunately inflation is rising, partially because of the price of fuel which has risen 50% since I stopped driving. Now we’re getting into the winter those of us who have oil fired boilers practically have to take a second mortgage to fill up our oil tank. I heard of one elderly couple complaining, quite reasonably, that they needed to spend 30% of their income on keeping warm
The government is certainly tackling the million plus who are on benefit, or unemployed. In particular the 2.9 million claiming disability allowance. The suggestion is that they be reviewed, not necessarily by a doctor but by an independent assessor who would be able to say if they were able to undertake some sort of work. It doesn’t have to be heavy physical work as there are many jobs needing the simplest of skills and little or no qualifications. Work that can be done sitting down. As much as anything the government are putting a lot of effort into satisfying themselves which of those people are genuine handicapped and unable to work and the tens of thousands of people on benefit who frankly should not be there. For the unemployed generally, somehow they have to make it worth while working. I mentioned in an earlier entry, the couple who came onto the television and openly admitted that they had lived on benefit for years and intended to go on doing so, as by working they would only be about Â£30 a week better off , which they could probably by moonlighting for cash; baby sitting for exampnle.. I know amongst a lot of the young people I come into contact with, where they might well have gone on a winter package holiday this year, they are holding back and saving their money for a rainy day. This is admirable in its own way but does not, of course, stimulate the economy.
Coming back to the benefit fraudsters, how to stop that situation and not penalise the children of such families? I would have thought we could have introduced a system whereby those who were able to, would work to earn their benefit and then the Â government would contribute an amount necessary to bring that household’s income up to a living wage. Surely something on these lines would be far more sustainable than the present system.
The government have announced that they are considering capping the total weekly cash benefits to every household at Â£500 per week, equal to a post tax income of Â£32,000. This is in the face of some beneficiaries currently getting as much as Â£1500 a week plus free housing, community tax etc. Fortunately, we are not alone. Practically every country in Europe is having to consider cuts in services and benefit, raising the pensionable age to 67 and increasing slightly the amount of contribution from the employees. Without such action, by the year 2050 half the countries in Europe would become bankrupt and would simply not have enough money to pay the state pensions Even with this prospect hanging over the would-be pensioners the trade unions are still striking against these proposals. To my mind retiring at 67 will not last that long and within 10 years the retirement age will be raised to 70. Why the actuaries could not have seen the outcome of people living much longer, I find puzzling. I know that my own mother and her husband retired some 32 years ago and have long since gone past the age when they were expected to die and as a result, of course,: drawing a pension probably for 15 years more than they actuarial tables suggests they should have done. I recently read that a child born today can expect toÂ live to 102!
In all these talks of cuts, the current pensioners – and there are great deal of them -have been largely overlooked and are obviously feeling the pinch. Although the state pension will go up at the beginning of next year it is still well below the amount needed to compensate for the rise in the cost of living. Those people who worked hard and saved all their lives to accumulate a little nest egg are now faced with the aspect of losing it. if they have to go into government owned sheltered accommodation, or a nursing home. In order to qualify for freeÂ care, Â either in their own home orÂ one run by the government , they must not have more than Â£23,250 in savings. So, I have heard of a number of them spending their money on cruises and the like in order to reduce their savings below the maximum allowed before throwing themselves on the state for the rest of their lives. Who can blame them? as there is no differentiation between the careful and prudent worker who has saved a little money for their old age and the permanently indolent unemployed. Again, this cannot be right.
It is getting very difficult in this country to leave anything to the next generation with inheritance tax on all assets over Â£325,000 and the price of even the humblest house having risen dramatically over the years, almost everyone, certainly in the south of England, will have to pay something, leaving very little to hand on. I know that Australia abolished death duties, or inheritance tax , some years ago and have obviously raised the loss of tax some other way. When the Conservatives were canvassing for votes, prior to the last election, one plank of their manifesto was that they would raise the level of assets free of inheritance tax to Â£1 million, which sounds a great deal money but in view of the value of people’s houses is much more reasonable than the current level. No government has recognised the difference between a basic terraced house in London which could be worth Â£2/Â£3 million and a similar house in the North of England that would sell for a 10th of that value. Unfortunately this was one of the concessions they had to make to their coalition partners and will have to wait at least until the next general election to see if the Conservatives get a clear majority and are then able to honour some of their election pledges.
This has been a rather pessimistic entry but that sadly it reflect the mood of the country at present. Somehow the government have got to swing things round and to get people feeling more confident in the future and then build on that confidence, so that the economy starts to move forward once more. Until that happens we are in dire danger of talking ourselves into a double dip recession.
Oh dear, I’ve done it again. I rambled on far too long after lecturing myself on the necessity to make my entries much shorter. Even then I cannot resist showing you this little video which reflects my view of the protestors camping at St. Pauls cathedral, Dale Farm et al, it is a must. Click here and view it for yourself.