Wednesday, March 24, 2010

So, how was the budget for Suffolk?

Well, that was an hour of my life that I'll never get back. So, what are my thoughts, and, of equal interest, what impact will they have on my village and my community?

It was a very 'political' budget, with little economic content and much posturing about where we are relative to our competitors and how much worse it would have been if the Calamity Kids, Cameron and Osborne, had been at the controls. Now, whilst that may be true (how's that 'Economics for Dummies' book going, George?), borrowing £167 billion (that's €184 billion, or $259 billion, or ¥22.5 trillion) is hardly loose change. A structural deficit of £74 billion is eyewatering in anyone's terms.

From a personal perspective, the portents aren't good. Pay increases for civil servants are likely to be non-existent for the next two years, so I'll be worse off in real terms, and with one-third of London-based civil servants to be relocated over the next five years, there is the prospect of a pay freeze until my salary is matched by the rather lower National pay scale. That will, naturally, impact upon my future pension, so all in all, not a great day for the bureaucracy.

Locally, Suffolk is not renown for heavy industry, so the cut in the National Business Rate will be very welcome. Investment in small businesses and the creation of the new green investment bank will, if any of the funds come to Suffolk, help our local food producers, with one exception.

Our local cider producer (yes, Suffolk does produce cider), Aspall's, will be hit very badly by the huge hike in duty on cider. Now I do understand that binge drinking is a problem, but it is generally caused by the likes of 'Diamond White' and not Aspall's 'Peronelle Blush'.

The staged introduction of fuel duty increases will benefit the small towns and villages where public transport is rare and cars a necessity, but it is only a delay rather than concrete action to support the rural economy. Of more value are proposals to improve access to high speed broadband, something which will encourage the growth of small-scale service industries, retain local services and staunch the flow of populations to larger towns where public services and facilities are more available.

On the negative side, there was little to address issues of rural isolation, little on affordable housing, little to put more money in the pockets of rural poor, most of whom will be hard hit by the fuel duty increase.

All in all, there won't be much dancing in the streets of Creeting St Peter tonight...

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