Saturday, 31 March 2012

A missed opportunity budget

So now we have had the budget. The headlines were all about the so called 'Granny Tax' which is not a tax at all but a reduction in the age related allowance that was put in as a gimmick by Labour to avoid giving a decent basic pension. Long before you get to the average income level of about £26k it starts to be clawed back. And yes,my pension income is big enough to be affected by this & I don't mind. The rise in basic pension & other benefits are better & why should the retired be better off than those in work on a similar income? I don't have any of the expenses that my kids who are in the same £10k to £26k income bracket have to face. Nevertheless the budget is a hugely missed opportunity. The rise in stamp duty on mansions is trivial compared to the untouched and absurdly low Council Tax levied on properties worth millions. As Will Hutton says (Observer 25th March) "Anyone who believes that a 45% top rate will suddenly unleash a wave of dynamic entrepreneurialism needs to lie down in a darkened room". Meanwhile 7300 employees of AstraZeneca are to lose their jobs - presumably to pay for the two thirds increase in the Chief Executives remuneration. And just to bolster the delusions of grandeur that permeate the UK establishment we still spend more on defence than the police/the courts/the fire service/the prisons all put together.

Monday, 19 March 2012

50p is not 'clobbering'

What a shame it is that if you say the same thing often enough it becomes accepted wisdom. What a pity therefore that in her excellent piece "The one-trick coalition" [Observer 18th March] the estimable Heather Stewart uses the phrase " -- exodus of wealth creating entrepreneurs" in the context of the 50p tax. Similarly on BBC Breakfast a commentator reflecting on the tax said that the LibDems will find '---other ways of clobbering the rich'. If an extra 10p on people making over five times average earnings is 'clobbering' then I speak some different version of English. Doubtless some people making £150k+ per year do create wealth but the REAL wealth creators are the micro & small businesses that I deal with. They design & sell products around the world which are manufactured by similar sized firms in Britain. They each provide employment for perhaps between 8 & 20 people. Only the merest handful of Owners/Directors within these businesses get anywhere near £150000p.a. - many think themselves lucky to be 40% taxpayers. At the other end of the scale the Financial Services Industry has shed tens of thousands of jobs, seen share prices collapse and still thinks its executives deserve seven figure remuneration.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Time to respect the right to choose when to die

Tony Nicklinson had a massive stroke some 6yrs ago and is totally paralysed. All he can move is his eyes & blink but his brain is unimpaired. He cannot commit suicide [which is legal] by himself. Anyone that helps him may be charged with murder. He has recently [12th March] won a High Court ruling which will allow his case to be considered in open court. He doesn't want to go yet but what gives the likes of Ann Widdecombe, Baroness Finlay and their supporters the right to deny him the choice? Come to that what gives them the right to deny anyone that choice? Recently someone I knew died. His relatives were of the Widdicombe/Finlay school but were completely broken up by his suffering over the last couple of weeks of life despite the best palliative care that could be legally offered. I respect that. All I ask for is that my wish to just end it all at a time of my choosing is equally respected.

Immediately [c. 15.50 BBC News 12th March] the ruling was announced Baroness Finlay was on the TV arguing her usual case against assisted suicide. To many of us that case is threadbare. She pushed it further than usual by asserting that, if the Dutch experience [where assisted suicide is legal] was translated to the UK, there would be some 13000 such events here. This was presented as huge number but no evidence as to its origin was forthcoming. In reality there were 491348 deaths from all causes in the UK in 2009 [It hovers around half a million most years]. Twelve thousand of these were due to accidents.

Meanwhile Ann Widdecombe, whose views on assisted suicide are well known, had a headlined comment " If assisted suicide was put into law no granny would be safe" [Financial Times Magazine 10/11 March]. This reaches a new low in emotive distortion of the truth. She does not have a shred of evidence for that assertion. On the contrary all the evidence from countries, where the law is more sensible & compassionate than Widdicombe would allow, shows that her scaremongering is the opposite of the reality. The time is long overdue for the Law to recognise the consequences of advances in medicine over the last 50yrs and come up with a realistic mechanism giving freedom of choice to all.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Talent we can do without

The voices of the lobbyists threatening every kind of mass exodus & mayhem if the financial services industry is brought to heel are as shrill & persistent as ever. We must not fall for it. If one can find the time read 'The Hedge Fund Mirage - The Illusion of Big Money and Why it's too good to be true' by Simon Lack, published by Wiley. Just a couple of gems: "If all the money that's ever been invested in hedge funds had been put in Treasury bills instead the results would have been twice as good". For this spectacular achievement the rewards to the managers are indeed eye watering. Second gem says that from 1998 to 2010, once all the fees paid to those somehow involved in operating the funds have been factored in, the cumulative split was $9bn to investors and $440bn to managers and hangers on. Certainly the managers & hangers on are far from stupid but is theirs a talent that we really need?