Fortunately for those living and working in vulnerable areas, expenditure will be protected for flood defences. Less understandable are the funds which will remain available for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Beauty. On the whole these ‘areas’ are quite able to look after themselves.
It seems that funding for investment in science and technology, and research and development is now less secure. This is a concern for arable farmers and fruit growers. They, like livestock farmers who have already witnessed the closure of animal research centres over the past few years, rely upon R & D to ensure the health of the national herds, flocks and crops.
It was difficult the get very excited about anything the Chancellor announced last Wednesday. However MPs on the Conservative benches did appear to get fairly over excited as he progressed through his script. The following day some headlines understandably stated ‘Whatever Happened to Austerity’?
It seems George Osborne, instead of “fixing the roof while the sun shines”, decided to go on a spending spree. Instead of lowering taxes, cutting the deficit or paying off some of the national debt, he decided to spend the unexpected and unreliable £27billion “windfall”.
He has channelled additional billions into foreign aid, which now is in line to receive more funding by the end of the parliament than the Home Office.
Expenditure is now set to rise by almost 9pc. Before the May election Mr Osborne laid out plans for departmental cuts of 19.4 per cent by 2019. Following Wednesday they are set to fall by just 2.3 pc over the next three years.
Much of the extra burden of balancing the books will now fall upon business. Firms must pay a 0.5pc payroll tax, and an “apprenticeship levy”, on top of the 28pc rise in the minimum hourly wage between now and 2020.
The hike in stamp duty for buy-to-let properties represents a 3pc increase in purchase tax. This will particularly hurt small friendly landlords, and families trying to invest wisely for their children. It will also cause havoc with many elderly couples who have worked hard and put money into property for their retirement, which could now become a burden to them.
For a Chancellor who has previously promised to balance the books by 2020, it would seem somewhat risky to borrow an additional £18billion over the course of this parliament. For the country’s sake we can only hope his confidence is rewarded.
Last week he said that “the UK is ready for whatever the world throws at us”. He has gambled that the British economy has a ‘fair weather’ ride. Let us hope his luck is in, for if the seas become choppy with more crises in Europe, China’s economy declines further, there is increased terrorism, and escalated tension between Russia and the West as the Syrian crises intensifies, and oil prices rise, the British economy could look very different and less stable.
The weather is blamed for many things but it seems fanciful that certain individuals have claimed that the chaos engulfing Syria, was caused by climate change induced drought, which forced people to leave the land and flock to the cities. The move to the cities was due to Assad tripling diesel prices and badly hitting farmers who relied on irrigation-pumps to feed the Syrian population.
However, the idea that the weather can influence people’s movements thus starting wars and unrest, is just the kind of propaganda which fuels discussion at events such as the ‘Climate Summit’ this week in Paris. 40,000 delegates from around the world will go to Paris and we can be sure the people who will benefit from such stories will be those promoting ‘green energy’ who have financial interests in commercial companies producing the hard ware.
A fund should be created to support communities having to cope with climate change. Nations cannot change this process but they should prepare to cope with the outcome.
I have been told what I should want for Christmas is a ‘Humanoid Robot’! This robot known as Pepper, is the new ‘must have’ addition to every family home. He has ‘a heart’, and can recognise human emotions. He also has a personality, which could be challenging, and would certainly be a novel addition in our household.
It seems that Pepper can play music and dance, and will converse on any subject. He would even enquire if I am tired and would like a cup of tea. I am not sure what the dogs would make of him, and his household skills maybe suspect, but if he could gather up leaves and shovel grain that would put him in my good books.
For now Pepper is only available in Japan which is probably just as well as he only speaks Japanese. However, when he learns English, cooking and has a practical head on his shoulders, (forget the emotions) he could prove useful and I may put him on my ‘List for Santa’. But for now I will settle for good health and ‘world peace’.