It’s impossible these days to trust any of the political parties in my opinion, if indeed it has ever been. Manipulation of figures, jargon, different measures for inflation and cost of living rises, changes to manifesto promises. How is the man on the street possibly able to keep up with the complex world of Westminster? I don’t know if any of us can and yet the politicians making these statements are still accountable to us, the voter and the taxpayer so understanding in real terms what the Autumn statement or the budget means is key to us in informing our vote and our engagement with the democratic process.
As a person with an interest in politics I have found since becoming a parent that I have moved from ideological positions on the things that matter to me to a more pragmatic how does it affect us kind of view so in my half hearted approach to following the Autumn statement this morning via the BBC live feed and social media channels I was skimming to see which bits would affect our family and I came up with three.
Firstly free school meals for infant children, there has been some debate about whether this should be a universal benefit and I have to say I am fully in support of this, it removes the stigma of free school meals registration for many families who are on low incomes and means that all children ‘should’ eat a balanced meal at lunch time. In an age where the use of food banks in Britain is on the rise making certain every child gets a meal should be a priority for a modern day progressive nation but it is more than that. The children of parents who are not on the lowest income can also miss out on meals, two parents both working full time have very little time to shop and prepare healthy and nutritious meals, sometimes children come to school not having had breakfast and obesity is on the rise, if we can set a standard in school of at least one healthy balanced meal we are going to help children concentrate better, help hard pushed parents who are trying to do their best and educate children about healthy eating and everyone will be doing it so there is no stigma, no form filling and no children missing out. This will affect Rosie when she starts school next September and as a parent to a child in this category and as an educator I can only welcome it as a positive.
The second thing I am in favour of which will help me as a working parent is that there will not be a fuel duty rise. The combination of paying for fuel and childcare means that over three quarters of my salary is used on these two things and working seems hardly worthwhile on particularly stressful days. Successive fuel rises have increased my fuel bill significantly and I am glad that due to extra taxes I will not be paying more in the immediate future.
The final thing and this is the sting in the tail for me the Autumn statement changes to the retirement age. It has leapt up much quicker than expected and is quite likely to go up again in the future. While for some politicians it may be quite possible to keep the brain in gear and exchange argumentative comments in the chambers of power in fact a little bit of age combined with grumpiness might be just the ticket but what about those of us working away in the real world? What about those with more physically demanding jobs and not just the obvious ones, how many near 70 year olds do you know who could cope with a class of 30 children day in day out teaching a reception class? How many 70 year olds can physically work full time in nursing or healthcare? How many near 70 year olds do we want working as builders? How many 70 year old HGV drivers will be safe on the roads? What I want to know for my generation and my children’s is just what compensation are we going to get for busting a gut to fix the economy having our quality of life reduced and our services cut. Just because we live longer does it mean we will be living healthy lives at 68, 69 and 70 and what healthcare provision is being put in place to care for us? Of course this will hit the poorest workers hardest as they simply will not have the level of savings investments or pension provision to take early retirement. I am set against these changes and any subsequent moves in the same direction.
So they are the top three biggies in today’s politics news for me, of course if I was a small business owner I would be pleased by changes to the rates announced. I wonder whether you have any thoughts on today’s announcements, could the government have done anything different?