Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Budget 2013

*Deep breath. The Budget has just been announced. 

The Government has just announced a new Childcare subsidy. Unfortunately, for people like myself, trying to get back into work but the rising costs of childcare causing a barrier, this scheme doesn't kick in until 2015 and will take a year or so to reach school age children. 

These tax-free childcare vouchers, worth £1,200 per child, will be on offer, along with increased support for families with children on universal credit. From the autumn of 2015, working parents will be able to claim vouchers to subsidise the cost of childcare for every child under five. Parents earning up to £150,000 will be able to claim back up to £1,200 of childcare costs a year. The byline for this measure on Tuesday is that the Government are paying for 20% of your childcare but in reality by 2015, this 1,200 will not reflect anything near 20%. 

This move seems to reflect the governments inconsistent approach to supporting families in the face of last year's measures. Why to stop Child Benefit for families where one earner who earns over £50,000 per annum are no longer eligible to claim Child Benefit when families with a combined income of up to 150,000 can claim tax free childcare?

Also for low income families affected by the change in benefits to the Universal Credit means that any measures to help with childcare are effectively cancelling each other out. The most benefit felt from these measures will be directed at the 'aspirational' lot while those on the lowest incomes suffer. Those at the top and those at the bottom are the hardest hit again even according to the Governments own assessment on impact

This diagram by the Joseph Rowantree Foundation shows the changes and their effects:

Copyright JRF

The rest of the key points of Chancellor George Osborne's Budget.


September's 3p fuel duty rise scrapped
April's 3p rise in beer duty scrapped. Instead, beer duty to be cut by 1p
Annual inflation +2% rise in beer duty to be ended but "duty escalator" to remain in place for wine, cider and spirits
Cigarette duties unchanged - continuing to rise by inflation +5%

Limit at which people start paying tax to be raised to £10,000 in 2014 - a year earlier than planned

Shared equity schemes extended, with interest-free loans for homebuyers up to 20% of value of new-build properties
Bank guarantees to underpin £130bn of new mortgage lending for three years from 2014

Growth forecast for 2013 halved to 0.6% from 1.2% in December
Office for Budget Responsibility watchdog predicts UK will escape recession this year
Growth predicted to be 1.8% in 2014; 2.3% in 2015; 2.7% in 2016 and 2.8% in 2017.

Borrowing of £114bn this year, up from previous £108bn forecast
Borrowing set to fall to £108bn, £97bn and £87bn, £61bn and £42bn in subsequent years
Borrowing as share of GDP to fall from 7.4% in 2013-14 to 5% in 2015-16
Debt as a share of GDP to increase from 75.9% in 2012-13 to 85.6% in 2016-17

Most government departments to see budgets cut by 1% in each of next two years
Schools and NHS will be protected
£11.5bn in further cuts earmarked in 2015-16 Spending Review, up from £10bn
1% cap on public sector pay extended to 2015-16 and limits on "progression" pay rises in the sector
Military to be exempt from "progression" pay limits.
Proceeds of Libor banking fines to be given to good military causes, including Combat Stress charity

600,000 more jobs expected this year than at same time last year
Claimant count to fall by 60,000


Corporation tax to be cut by 1% to 20% in 2015
New employment allowance to cut National Insurance bills cut by £2,000 for every firm
450,000 small firms will pay no employer National Insurance
Government procurement from small firms to rise fivefold
Tax relief for investment in social enterprises
Stamp duty axed on shares traded on growth markets like Aim.
Tax avoidance and evasion measures, including agreements with Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey, aimed at recouping £3bn in unpaid taxes

Tax incentives for ultra low-emission cars
Pottery industry in Midlands to be exempt from climate change levy
Tax allowances for investment in shale gas

2% Bank of England inflation target to stay in place
Bank remit to be changed to focus on growth as well as inflation

Single flat-rate pension of £144 a week brought forward a year to 2016
Cap on social care costs confirmed

20% tax relief on childcare up to £6,000 per child from 2015
£5,000 payments for those who lost money on Equitable Life policies bought before 1992. Extra money for those on low incomes

For a full view of the Budget see here.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Boys will be Boys? Well...Women will be Women!

Cue time for another post of the politics of blogging. Oh well, it has been a while...

I attempted a while ago to break into parent blogging networking with disastrous consequences. My face didn't fit and all attempts at communication were ignored. I didn't really put a serious amount of effort into this so I wasn't gutted when my attempts elicited little reaction. I tried to reach out to find way to promote my blog and was barked at by so-called experienced parent bloggers. My questions were derided by one high priestess of bloggers and so I couldn't be bothered pursuing it. My questions weren't banal nor stupid but genuine, I'm not exactly as thick as mince as we say here in the North. I wasn't kissing someone else's feet for information that if I spend half an hour on Google, I could work out for myself. This post in no way reflects sour grapes regarding my experience but a general dismay and musing at the unsurprising (gendered) politics that have invaded and taken over the blogging experience for some.

My readership is wide and features people from all walks of life and I like it that way. My blog is read by cooks, by academics, by parents, by my parents, in laws, friends and writers. This mix makes comments and feedback a challenge which apparently helps to bump up your stats, but I'm not that bothered. I don't bother manipulating a post so that it requires comment. I don't really write constant developmental posts and posts about all of the cute things that Miss B and A do. I would never be off of the computer and would miss all of the things that they do as a consequence. I can take or leave my blog sometimes and don't stress about lacking the inspiration needed to write. As I watch others go through all of this stress over boosting stats and getting free stuff, I ask can they really be enjoying their blogging experience? It looks so stressful worrying about all of this peripheral stuff. I occasionally pimp my blog but see blogs with huge readerships implode as the pressure to post becomes too much, too time consuming.

Despite my half-arsed approach to blogging, this my numbers keep rising and falling and I meet new bloggers all of the time. I am happy and proud of my blog. I am zen about my blogging experience but have discovered that a blogging war has been going on in the background.

Maternal mafias have sprung up all over the internet. A kind of Calabrian vs Sicilian factional war. Ruling one network or another and making the lives of other bloggers unpleasant. For the uninitiated I'll give you a quick run down of the various networks.

There is:
Netmums Bloggers Network
Parent Bloggers
Mumsnet Blogging Network
(I'm sure there are others but you get the point)

So what you (the blogger) do is once you have created your blog, you enroll it on one or all of these networks. Now given the number of networks it may come as no surprise that it takes a HUGE amount of time and energy pimping out your blog on these networks. Creating contacts, bonding with other like-minded bloggers. The amount of time this takes (I don't do it but occasionally trawl through the days events when the kids are in bed) leaves me wondering when do these parent bloggers get time to blog or in fact, parent the kids that they are writing about? This is not a slight, just a general wondering about how these women manage this. I barely have time to blog and I'm not working outwith the house at the moment and I only have two kids. Answers below if you are one of these fantastically multi-tasking women.

Rather depressingly, these networks have bloomed and now because there are so many of them, you get groups of women using whichever one suits them best. From this activity you get cliques. Cliques who decide who is worthy and who is not, crowding round anyone who has an alternative opinion to them. One of them attacks another saying something about their parenting skills or opinions and then a whole crowd come out of the woodwork, reciting "yeah, that's what we think too!" until said blogger is pushed out of the network or banned altogether. There is a general muttering amongst those who have found this activity distressing that have suggested forming new network, creating new cliques because they didn't fit into another one. You can see the vicious circle happening...

I find this depressing because it's such a stereotypical gendered activity. If we were men, we'd all be punching each other and then having a pint afterwards but no, words are exchanged cutting deep and wounding the reputation and pride of others. Why is it in our natures to behave like this? There should be a modicum of solidarity  Although I have tried to keep my blog genre neutral, I am a parent and it is what I post about the most. We're all parents, grandparents, step-parents and we all have aspirations, goals and dreams. To steal the words of a cruel and unusual dictator "we are all in this together", however insincere his words were. I have watched this crap happen online and in real life and it depresses me. Some women are horrid, nasty creatures who keep a lid on things until they pick a moment to unleash their nastiness. It may have nothing to do with you but you might walk into the firing line of their frustrated, angry existence and so kablam! You get it.

We are all women are we are all mothers and this aspect of womanhood should be celebrated. It’s obvious that gender equality is still misunderstood by many, including women. Gender equality doesn’t give women the right to male-bash and womens’ rights is no more a man’s responsibility as it is a woman’s responsibility to propagate. Equality isn’t just about being equally good, it can also be about how both sexes are equally flawed. This aspect of celebrating womanhood intrigues me more.

I love being a woman. I celebrate it when I look at my children and I am continually in awe that my little, knackered body has produced these two wonderful things. This is what makes women special. Nevertheless, I myself know that women aren’t always united. I come from a family of strong women and they fight more than I like. I suppose it’s nature for us lionesses to fight, to compete, to be wary of all others and to circle our prey before a vicious attack. But perhaps we should strive to be more. 
It is most important that this support comes from within not only when necessary but in case it ever becomes necessary. Women are natural nurturers and protectors. Under what circumstances do these instincts diminish?

Is there really no way of avoiding this behaviour? What do you think?