So, here we go again. Another box, another budget, another set of surprises. Or not. There was little in Boy George’s shopping list of which we weren’t given prior warning.
At least, there was little which made much difference to me. Most of the damage has already been done, in the form of this year’s VAT rise and ever-spiralling inflation. I notice it every day, in the cost of lunch, the price of clothes, the frequency with which I can afford to go out. There is little shadow of a doubt that I’m poorer now than I was at this time last year, or the year before that.
Which is not to say its all bad news. On the contrary, yesterday offered a few rare glimpses of sunlight. That extra £48 – the amount the average earner will pocket thanks to a rise in the tax-free allowance – won’t go unnoticed. It is, after all, the equivalent of a lot of things: thirty bottles of Fairy washing up liquid, forty-five packets of McVities Chocolate Digestives, two weeks’ transport to work and back, at least one pair of skinny jeans. And aid to first time buyers is good news too, especially for me. I recently put my two bed roomed East London flat – a classic first-time buy – on the market. Knowing that they need raise only a 5% deposit is bound to encourage enthusiastic home-hunters; indeed, had that measure been in force while I was on the prowl, I probably would have got my foot on the housing latter much sooner.
Elsewhere, I can’t help but feel chuffed about newfound support for work experience and apprenticeships. It may not affect me directly, but I know plenty of people it will help: not least my younger sister, currently a student at Nottingham University. Without my own work experience, I wouldn’t have had a career. It’s the perfect way to meet people, work hard and try to impress. Likewise, the public service pay rise is something to be applauded (and, ideally, encored). I have only too many friends whose paltry pay at state schools makes the private sector an ever-more-tempting possibility. But that other big party-bag - a drop in fuel duty? Honestly, I couldn’t care less. I don’t drive and cars, as far as I’m concerned, are a luxurious pollutant. I’d rather there were few of them anyway.