Budget 1999: As a high-earning mother, I expected to feel betrayed. Instead, I'm euphoric

AS A married New Labour voter in a high-income tax bracket, with a mortgage and a moral objection as a big earner to claiming child benefit for my son, I'm one of the people who have been told for days on end that I ought to feel betrayed by the much-leaked contents of Chancellor Gordon Brown's third budget. Instead I'm euphoric.

I'm most delighted about the abolition of the married couples' tax allowance. Like Gordon Brown, I'm not afraid of stating unequivocally that I consider a conventional family structure to be the ideal framework for bringing up children. And, like New Labour, I don't believe that tax breaks for adults who are married or living together are of any help at all when it comes to making that ever-more-beleaguered structure work well.

Anyway, the much-propagated idea that all the financial benefits of being married are being eroded is simply not true. For example, if your spouse isn't earning you can put your savings into his or her name, and avoid paying up to about pounds 4,000 in tax on them because of your partner's unused tax allowance. Or you can make financial gifts to your spouse without paying capital gains tax. Or you can live safe in the knowledge that anything you leave to your spouse in your will is free of inheritance tax. And so on. There are still plenty of fiscal advantages to being married, without the state giving further handouts from the public purse.

I've always found it patently obvious that two can live more cheaply than one, and when two people on large incomes sell two flats, buy a house and pool their resources in matrimony, it seems to me that they're much better off anyway - especially since their pooled income might take them into a higher tax bracket if men's and women's taxation were not now calculated separately.

Giving them a couple of hundred quid a year in tax benefits because they're being in some way "upright" is insulting not only to the people who either choose or are forced to live and bring up their children in a different structure, but also to the institution it is designed to reward.

However, it is, of course, when the children come along that the finances of couples are thrown into confusion. Which is why the replacement of the married person's allowance with children's tax credit is absolutely the correct way forward. Although the pounds 416 credit will not come into operation until April 2001, it is still fantastic news and infinitely superior to the anomalous married person's allowance. The fact that it will taper away for high-earning families is again good news. While means testing should be avoided, public money should not be squandered on further treats for affluent children, either.

For different reasons, I'm relieved that there will be no tax for the time being on child benefit for families in high tax brackets. While I don't claim child benefit myself, it is true that even within wealthy families mothers can be kept cash-starved by controlling partners. That is why the benefit should remain independent of all other family earnings. I do, however, believe that it should be a matter of conscience for well- off families as to whether they in fact claim benefit. Tony and Cherie Blair don't set much of an example here, and neither do many other left- leaning affluent couples. This may be because there is no mechanism whereby unclaimed child benefit can be redirected to help poorer children. Child benefit should never be taxed, but it might be a good idea if better-off families were encouraged to covenant their benefit into one or other of the Government's ever-more dynamic schemes to target particularly needy families.

It need hardly be added that another rise in child benefit, to pounds 15 a week for the first child and pounds 10 a week for subsequent children, is also excellent news. While the childless are often heard complaining that they subsidise the welfare and education of children enough already, Gordon Brown's prediction that "while children now make up 20 per cent of our population, in the future they will make up 100 per cent of our population" should surely console them that at least this state of affairs will not continue for ever. Or maybe Mr Brown was simply suffering a moment of confusion on a day of crystal clarity.

I feel a little disappointment that Mr Brown has chosen not to offer tax benefits to couples when one of them decides to give up work, and be a parent full-time.

And again, while it is good news that benefits will continue when lone parents first start work, there is still not quite enough recognition from this Government that full-time parenting for pre-school children is also an investment in the future of the country, and a choice that is difficult for families who made their financial commitments on the basis of two incomes.

But I'm more than happy about the abolition of Miras. This is a reward for being affluent enough to get a mortgage together and make an investment for the future. There's no tax relief if you're paying an extortionate rent, and in that case you don't get to flog the property for a whacking profit when you manage to move out. So it's always seemed unfair to me that everyone who has a mortgage can claim tax relief. Again, lots of people just don't need that kind of state handout.

However, there is a difficulty here with the many people on the margins of owner-occupation. While the Government believes that this is a good time to abolish Miras because interest rates are low, the fact is that low interest rates have not made the tiniest dent in repossessions. Some mortgage lenders start repossession proceedings when as few as two mortgage payments have been missed. And while the Government is encouraging people to take out mortgage indemnity insurance, it's obvious that those who need it most are least likely to be among the one in five mortgage holders who are finding the money to afford it.

I suppose you could argue, with some moral force, that other measures in the Budget that are designed to decrease the tax burden on the poor more than compensate for the loss of Miras.

But since the problem is so huge, I'd argue that it needs separate attention anyway. The most sensible suggestion I've heard for dealing with this problem, which, of course, devastates many families, was floated by the Institute of Housing last year. It believes that there should be schemes up and down the country whereby families who find themselves unable to cope with their mortgage payments should have the option of teaming up with housing associations that can take over part-ownership of homes, thus cutting the mortgage commitment of the family and at the same time investing in the property themselves. Surely this is preferable to the current system, whereby there is little or no help for families in danger of losing their homes. This is the major gap in a Budget that is otherwise a triumph for the parents and the children of this country.

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Law Costs

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?