Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Category: Politics (page 1 of 2)

So all parents should move to Scotland then?

Two of the biggest costs a parent will incur before their child (hopefully) leaves home and becomes financially independent are childcare and university fees. As a parent to 2 very small children In England I have to say I find this thought more than a little worrying. But strangely the solution may be to move to Scotland.

Let me explain.

Childcare costs in the UK are at a record high, during the summer holiday the cost of a weeks childcare rose about £100 for the first time and has been increasing at 3 times the rate of inflation. For many people now the cost of childcare is at a level that one of the parents becoming a stay at home parent is the only logical decision. Going to work can actually cost you money once you factor in childcare.

The rise in tuition fees has of course been well documented; I graduated in 2005 and at that point was paying £1,500 a year in fees. I came out of university with sizeable debt but debt that I managed to pay off within 5 years of graduating. Students graduating in a few years time are unlikely to be so lucky. The maximum fees a university can charge is now £9,000 a year, that’s a scary level especially given the huge variation in quality of teaching. Graduating with over £30,000 in debt is now a reality and that’s going to take a long time to pay off.

However if you live in Wales or Scotland the reality is somewhat different.

In Wales the Welsh Assembly has pledged that you’ll never pay more than £3,575 a year in fees no matter where in the UK you study and provide a grant to offset any higher fee. That’s a pretty big deal over a 3 year course and potentially cuts your debt on leaving university by two thirds.

Scotland have gone one step further and not even introduced tuition fees for Scottish students studying in Scotland. So in theory you can have 2 students living just a few miles from each other but opposite sides of the border paying very different amounts to attend the same Scottish university.

Not only that in the white paper released this week Alex Salmond set out what an independent Scotland would look like. What caught my eye was a promise of 30 hours of free term time childcare for 3 and 4 year olds. That’s double the benefit provided in England (and Wales I believe) and how will they pay for it? By not funding Trident which if you remember has been one of my arguments for a while.

If David Cameron truly supports families and ‘hard working people’ maybe he should have a good read of the white paper and see what real family friendly policies look like.

So there you have it, as a parent the only logical thing to do here is to move to Scotland and vote for independence. That way you’ll get childcare paid for until your children go to school and you can send them to a Scottish university without paying any fees.

Now all you have to do is save up for the wedding and house deposit…..


Dear Dave…who are these hard working people you talk of?

Dear Dave,

It’s been a while since I wrote, life’s been pretty busy with 2 small children, a busy job and a fair amount of running . I’ve been working hard you could say which brings me onto the subject of this letter. You and your buddies keep talking about ‘hard working people’ like they are a well known group of people who walk around wearing badges and a hard working persons uniform. Yet I don’t think you’ve ever said exactly WHO they are, maybe you know but the rest of us need to find out what the secret handshake is to join in?

So what I thought I’d do is give you a couple of examples of family and friends and you can tell me if they are hard working or not. Although given that you say you are helping them surely it should be obvious?

My first example are a married couple; he is 64 and has worked all his life as an electrician, she is in her mid fifties and is unable to work due to long term sickness. They rent a 2 bedroom house from a housing association and if it wasn’t for his age would be subject to the bedroom tax. They have both worked all their lives, they’ve paid taxes, they’ve contributed to society yet if he was just a few years younger you would be taxing them for living in a 2 bedroom house. Incidentally they actually live in your constituency and couldn’t move to a 1 bedroom house as there are none available.

Are they hard working?

The second example is a student, he’s studying hard for a degree at a top university and on course to get a 1st. He planned to take a gap year before university had to abandon that when you put up tuition fees. Starting 1 year earlier avoided the worst of the rises but he’ll still leave university with a mountain of debt and enter a job market where 20% of people his age are unemployed. Not only that you plan to remove his ability to claim any benefits should he need to due to not finding a job.

Is he hard working?

My final example is me, 31 years old I have a degree and I have studied to become a chartered accountant. I’m married and I own my own home using a deposit I saved myself, I even have my own private pension that I pay into. That surely makes me the epitome of hard working in your eyes doesn’t it? My wife doesn’t work because child care is so expensive it makes more sense for her to stay at home. Since you have been in office you have taken away our child benefit in a grossly unfair system where me earning enough to be just over the threshold is all that matters despite us having one income only.

You’ve also put up my income tax payments and continued to increase fuel duties. To give you credit you have just announced that my wife can share part of her tax allowance with me, but why not go further and share the whole amount? Or let me offset my mortgage interest payments as in the USA?

So am I hard working?

From my perspective it looks like your definition of hard working is either someone earning more than £150k or a first time home buyer. It certainly isn’t the vulnerable who really need your support or the people trying to raise a family despite a stretched NHS and an screwed up education system.

Why don’t you stop creating policies that create such unfair situations for those most in need? Why don’t you encourage investment to get abandoned and empty houses back on the market rather than push house prices higher?

If that all sounds too tough, how about this for a simple idea. Go and talk to the guys at DIY SOS, ask them how to help those in need. In 10 days they can change a person’s world on what I would guess is a fairly small budget. Can there be a better example of big society? Give them the money to do 100 times more, then you’ll have an impact and create work for suppliers and bring communities together.

I voted for you at the last election, I can tell you now that isn’t going to happen again.


The Fool

The perfect little girls outfit?

Matilda in beige clothesToday I’m pleased to bring you a review of the very latest in children’s fashion.

Taking lots of feedback from parents into account the dull clothing company has designed this new range of clothes to meet the needs of the modern parent.

We tested the smock which is the flagship product from the range and designed to be unisex. The lovely beige colour is gender neutral and the perfect shade to suit most skin and hair colours. The lack of any picture or image on the smock also means it’ll never go out of fashion.

The smock is cut to avoid being revealing or expose too much flesh which is of course is never appropriate for a child and has the added bonus of actually hiding what sex the child is that is wearing it.

They’ve also considered the strain many family budgets are under and built in a clever Velcro system that can change the length of the smock meaning it can be used from birth right up until they go to school.

So what are you waiting for, head down to your nearest supermarket today where you will find the smock piled high near the front door for the bargain price of 99p. Amazing how they manage to keep the price so low.

The NHS – family friendly employer?

The lady of the manor is sadly due to go back to work after her maternity leave in March, of course we’d love for her to stay at home full time but for now at least we do need a second income.

So we started the return to work negotiations.

First, the lady of the manor doesn’t want to go back full time. She’d like to work 2 rather than 3 (12 hour) shifts a week. This gives us enough income but childcare is manageable as one shift will be at the weekend.

Her ward sister said no problem, happy to accommodate. All looking good so far right?

Then the question comes up “what day’s do you want to work?”. The lady of the manor isn’t demanding, she’s pretty flexible, a night at the weekend and a day shift in the week was the simple request.

The response?

And I quote “we can’t guarantee you set days each week”


So with 2 children to put into some form of childcare we have to deal with not knowing more than a month in advance which day of the week she would be working? They do know how nurseries etc work right? You have to put your name down for a fixed day each week, most likely you need to give a months notice to change and no guarantee you will be able to change to a different day.

The government is always banging on about supporting families, helping mothers go back to work and trying to reduce childcare costs. Yet even in the public sector employers don’t appear to be implementing these policies. If we truly are not going to have any certainty in the day being worked does that mean we’ll have to secure childcare for 5 days a week at a cost way above the wage she will earn for 1 day?

Anyone else experienced something similar? After I’ve finished seething I’m going to spend the weekend figuring out what our rights are. Any advice appreciated.

Dear Mr Cameron, a little piece of advice

Dear Dave,

In the past week we have seen yet another banker in the news with Bob Diamond at the heart of the LIBOR fraud at Barclays. An act which potentially impacts us all in some form through our mortgages and savings. In the same week NHS Trusts have admitted that they are considering terminating all contracts and reoffering them on worse terms including a 5% pay cut.

These 2 news stories have got me asking myself ‘what the fuck is going on in the world?’. Seriously Dave how can these 2 events be occurring at the same time? Bob Diamond resigns from his job after taking responsibility for the fraudulent activities, yet walks away with £2m after turning down another £20m. Yet nurses are working harder than ever and are being told they will be taking a 5% pay cut and losing overtime pay.

My wife is a nurse, I know first hand how hard they work. How they put they body and soul into the job. How they come home and burst into tears when a child they are looking after can’t be saved and dies. They work long long hours that start early and finish late. They work nights and weekends, bank holidays and christmas day. They pay £10 a day to park after all the hospital car parks were changed to pay and display. They don’t earn a lot of money, my wife has been a nurse for 5 years and still earns less than £25,000.

If these plans go ahead then I can guarantee you this, you’ll have one less nurse in the NHS to worry about.

So Dave, let me give you some advice. If you want to stand any home, and let’s be honest it’s a slim hope, you need to fix this issue and you need to fix it now. Yes the NHS needs to save money, but cutting staff wages isn’t the solution. That is only going to result in people quitting and then you’ll have to employ more expensive agency staff. Those that do stay will have even lower moral and work less effectively and don’t expect any school leaver to even consider training as a nurse if that is the prospects for the job.

But I’m not a man to simply complain, oh no, I have solutions for you and you can have these for free. An NHS Trust with a turnover of £200m a year needs to make savings of £9m per year, so how about these for some alternative ideas:

  • Take the £20m that Bob Diamond didn’t accept ‘because he wanted to do the right thing’ and give it to the NHS. Bingo 2 years paid for.
  • Keeping with the Barclays theme, they expect to pay bonuses totalling £1.5bn this year. If we taxed that at just an extra 5% that would bring in £75m by my calculations. That’s just over 8 years of savings paid for and from just one bank. Expand to the rest and that’s almost problem solved and those guys won’t miss 5%.
  • But there is one more little gem, another low hanging fruit and a favourite topic of mine. Let’s get rid of the house of lords, they cost us £17m a year. That’s 2 of our NHS Trusts sorted without having to lift a finger at the hospital. Sure it’s nice having a second house to debate legislation but personally I’d give that up for a few more nurses.
  • Finally how about cancelling the Trident missile replacement? According to Basic, a think tank, the UK could save £1.86bn a year if it was cancelled. I think that might just address the cost of nurses issue don’t you? Do we really need a missile system that if deployed would most likely mean the end of the world?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts Dave but won’t hold my breath.


The Fool

P.S. First thing I’m doing tomorrow morning is signing up my family for private healthcare. 

Rogues, liars and thieves

Driving home tonight I was listening to Radio 4 catching up on the big stories of the day when an MP came on to talk about why he had helped kill the bill to create an elected House of Lords. An MP who we have elected to represent our views and opinions to government. An MP who was happy, fucking HAPPY that he had succeeded.

Listening to this idiot talk and try to explain his reasoning I could feel the anger building up. How could he and the rest of his old boys club seriously stop the bill before it was even debated. That’s right the debate today was how much time to allocate for debating the bill. They weren’t even debating the bill itself. Incredible.

But in order to serve their own means and keep playing out the petty squabbles rather than actually, you know, being our voice in parliament they ensured that the bill will never see the light of day.

Now maybe the bill is crap, maybe it wouldn’t work, I don’t know the details. What I do know is that there is only one other country IN THE WORLD that has an unelected 2nd chamber. One country, that says something doesn’t it?

It’s an absolute nonsense that in this modern world we can have hereditary peers who we have no say in electing or kicking out for that matter making decisions about the laws in this country. Not only that but a House of Lords containing more than few of Tony Blair’s favourite people, put there simply because he liked them or maybe even donated some money.

For me today is just another nail in the coffin for the countries politicians, after all that has happened in the past few years they are rapidly losing any trust from the population. We are not a million miles away from large chunks of the population completely disengaging with politics completely.

Rant over.

Apparently I’m rich

Great news everyone, I’ve been reading all the coverage on the budget this weeks and it turns out that the lady of the manor and I are rich. So rich in fact that we no longer need child benefit and we definitely need to be paying more tax. Oh and to soak up some of that excess money we should probably pay more money on petrol for my commute to work. You know the place I commute to because I can’t afford to live there.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t earn minimum wage, I have a good job with a good salary at a company that is doing well. I am also a higher rate tax payer, not by much but one nonetheless. So I’m not expecting anyone to get the violins out for me. But I am rapidly beginning to feel like the ‘squeezed middle’ as the media calls it.

Right now both the lady of the manor and I work, but when she finishes her maternity leave next year after the sprout is born we’d love for her to at most work the very minimum of hours. In my opinion it’s the best possible set up for our children to have a fantastic childhood that hopefully lets them follow their dreams. If that happens then my salary suddenly isn’t looking so big.

Once the standard set of bills is paid it doesn’t leave an awful lot. Yet for child benefit you could have a couple next door both earning £49,000 and getting the child benefit when we won’t. Where’s the logic and fairness in that? Where’s the support for families that the government seems to cherish so highly?

The tax free limit for earnings is being raised, but if you’re a higher rate tax payer you actually get less because the tax bands are changing. Again how does that help us raise our families?

Should we accept that if the lady of the manor is to stay home that we cannot aspire to do anything other than raise children for the next 15 years? We sure as hell wouldn’t be able to afford to move a to a different house.

The crazy thing with all of this is that it means we spend less, we travel less, we do less. That’s not helping the economy grow or create jobs is it? Quite the opposite.

So what does this mean for the Fool’s household? Well for a start we’ll think twice about long trips in the car. We definitely need to make sure we’re saving as much as we can (have been saving £30 a month for Matilda since she was born, perhaps its not enough?). It probably also makes us consider even more seriously emigrating, in Australia for example they GIVE you money when you have children, not take away benefits.

What do you think? Are you reading this and muttering to yourself ‘he thinks he’s got it tough’? Am I way off the mark or do you agree? Have I missed anything else important in the budget?

Would love your comments and some debate.

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