Alison Broom: Don't we single people deserve a tax break, too?

Maybe the pollsters can explain why it's ok to hack off this large group while sucking up to smug marrieds

Share
Related Topics

David Cameron, George Osborne and I were colleagues as special advisers during the John Major government in the 1990s. Like them, I've spent more than 20 years working 12 and 14 hours a day to support myself. Unlike them, I forgot to get married, so I don't have a partner sharing the load and supplementing my income – or even staying at home and helping with the domestic chores (oh, for a househusband!).

When, just before Christmas, David Cameron promised tax breaks for married people, he seemed oblivious to the hardship and expense of single life. Finances are already stacked in favour of couples: singles have to pay the whole mortgage or rent by themselves, not half, as most working couples do. What a privilege to be able to share that huge expenditure with someone: a virtuous double-whammy of love, companionship and half the cost of living. I don't need a tax break to encourage me to take up that deal, I just need to find someone I want to marry.

I'm an independent, competent woman with lots of friends and a great life, but it remains a sadness for me – and many like me – that I haven't found someone to share it with. Returning to an empty home after a hard day's work, there's no one to share your tough day with, no one to share everyday domestic trivia - call a plumber, put the bins out, make a cup of tea – just the constant grind of always doing everything yourself. It's almost as expensive for one to eat as two (and very dull cooking and eating alone), and the way food is packaged and sold, it's virtually impossible to buy just enough for one, so much goes to waste. Then we switch on the TV to hear politicians of all parties glorifying "hard-working families" and the superiority of the married state.

This obsessive repetition of the "hard-working family" mantra is particularly galling. Families don't work – people do. The days of sending the kids up a chimney or down the mine are over, so that leaves Mum and/or Dad to do the "hard working". Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has talked about ending the supposed "bias" against married people – but I believe the real bias is against single people.

With the number of single-person households increasing rapidly over recent years and projected to continue rising, it is a mystery to me why politicians continue not only to ignore, but to bait this sizeable demographic. While singledom may be a deliberate option for some, for most it's just the card that life has dealt. According to the Office for National Statistics , 29 per cent of households contained just one person in 2010 – that's 7.5 million people living alone. The biggest increase in single person households over the decade 2001-10, was in the age group 45 to 64, a 31 per cent increase, coinciding with an increase in people in this age group who have never married, or are divorced. By 2031, it is expected that 18 per cent of the entire population will be living alone.

Maybe the pollsters can explain to me why all of the political parties think it is worth hacking off this large group to suck up to the smug marrieds (as Bridget Jones would put it). Worse, they imply that it is somehow morally superior to be part of this happy state and those of us who have failed to achieve it are less worthy beings. Do they seriously think that this growing band of people, who find themselves alone in life for whatever reason, will say, "Oh, a tax break, just the incentive I need to find a spouse. I wouldn't have bothered otherwise."

I recognise that bringing up children is an expensive business and hard work, and I'm happy for parents to receive child-related benefits, but to link a financial reward simply to getting married seems to me ludicrously unfair. If people are lucky enough to fall in love and get married, why should they receive a financial reward for their good fortune?

The DINKYs as they used to be called (Double Income, No Kids) are the most financially advantaged people in society. Meanwhile, as a Joseph Rowntree/IPPR report pointed out, "living costs are often higher for single person households" and "the rise in solo living will create pressures towards poverty". Add to this that single people are more likely to suffer health problems and mental health issues as a result of their isolation and they begin to look like a large disadvantaged group in society that is not only being ignored, but deliberately targeted and belittled by politicians, in favour of the fortunate ones who fit the ideal "family" mould.

I never dreamed I'd be saying this, but I agree with Nick Clegg. The idea that people would marry – or stay married – for a small tax break is utterly patronising. Does David Cameron think that he would be influenced by such a petty financial incentive in making such an enormous personal and emotional life choice? I don't think so. Maybe he just thinks that those "ordinary" people out there are a different species...

Alison Broom was a special adviser to the Conservative Government from 1991 to 1997

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game