Okay, so we all now know that the country is skint, totally skint. Where all the money went I do not know, but failed computer projects and consultancy have munched through more billions than I care to add up, and a nine year war in Afghanistan has also helped empty the nation's coffers.
I read this with horror: "Today, there are some families receiving £94,000 a year (£1,800 per week) in benefits. The cost of that single award is equivalent to the total income tax and national insurance paid by sixteen working people on median incomes." (around £25,000 oer year).
Very few people in horticulture, groundcare or greenkeeping ever get the slightest sniff at a wage anywhere near £100,000 per year. After all, there are very, very few golf clubs that could afford a greenkeeper on £2,000 per week after tax.
The article continued: "The study also shows that more than 750,000 families receive benefits and tax credits worth in excess of £20,000 a year."
That is over £15,000,000,000 - yes, fifteen billion pounds a year, which is two and a half times the six billion pounds that is being cut as the first stage in reducing the national deficit. This is the tax take on 15 million people on £400 per week.
Hang on, at this rate we are running out of working people to pay this bill alone.
For one of my employees to take home just £400, after tax and National Insurance, would require an exceptionally long week. To maintain this level of earnings, long term, is illegal because he is classed as a mobile worker, subject to the transport working time directive, that limits working time to an average of forty-eight hours per week. Unlike other industries, 'transport' has no provision for opting out of these rules.
I pay a reasonable salary for the work I need done, yet I cannot find suitable extra employees, despite heavy unemployment amongst younger men. Why? Principally, because they claim that they would be only marginally better off working for me than if they were to remain on their existing benefits. One guy freely admitted he would need to earn £550 per week in take home pay (£700 gross) just to maintain the standard of living he currently enjoys courtesy of the benefits he receives.
Have we all gone stark staring bonkers to pay these sort of payments that encourage people not to work?
So, here come the cuts but, with the benefits bill running out of control, where is there room to cut?
We all know that local authorities have certain legal requirements, pensions for former employees, housing the homeless, looking after the aged, poor, child protection and social services etc. and these cannot, and should not, be cut - except where blatant inefficiencies can be rooted out.
However, this means that the cuts will be concentrated on discretionary spending, which will disappear as the first thing to lop off. I have been on site for several local authorities recently and, without exception, the grounds managers are looking at widespread redundancies amongst the ground staff, and they are also looking to cut higher up backroom staff.
I find it rather sad that many of the parks staff, who have worked so hard to return their charges to their former glory, will now lose their jobs as the parks are deprived of the funds needed to maintain them.
Unfortunately, the next few years look very black for all of us who work for local authorities in areas such as leisure facility provision and maintenance, that are almost entirely funded by discretionary spending
Once finished with cutting, the only alternative is to raise yet more tax - VAT up to 20% will further stoke fuel price inflation that is already running at 25% year on year.
It would seem that the business rate is also to be used to plug some of the gap in the local authority budgets. The latest rate revaluation - the third in three years at my workshop - now includes charges for the number of car parking spaces available at the workplace, and the extra fittings, fixtures and/or systems that I have paid to install in the unit.
I work out of a rented farm building surrounded by at least two acres of concrete hard standing. Should I declare this area as available parking space or just the three spaces immediately adjacent to my unit? Of course, the farmer pays zero for having all this available parking space, simply because agriculture has exemptions from almost all planning and rating legislation.
How British Industry PLC is to drag itself out of the recession when every investment that improves the workplace, in my case up rated electrical and compressed air supply, attracts extra business rates, I do not know. I do know that business rate payers have no votes, are seen as cash rich, are easy targets and can do nothing but furnish the relevant information - penalty £100 just for being late with the return - and pay whatever is demanded. I now pay more rates for my workshop than I do for my house, yet I have to dispose of my own business waste and I am actually present on site for less than 100 days per year.
It is not only the local authority that is on the make. I, like many hundreds of others, have a radio in my workshop. Last week I received a demand that I pay a performing arts licence fee, one month in advance, because I was playing music in my workshop that could be heard by my employees. It appears that my workshop is now classified as a public space, despite being over a kilometre from the nearest public road, in the heart of a privately owned farm and privately rented for the sole use of Terrain Aeration Services, my privately owned company! How this was determined when I was the only person in my unit and I own the only radio, I do not know. So, now I have removed the radio from my workshop and, instead, I simply leave my vehicle radio playing loudly with the window open!
Only in Great Britain!