The working week 

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 15: UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt leaves Downing Street with the despatch box to present his spring budget to parliament on March 15, 2023 in London, England. Highlights of the 2023 budget are an increase in the tax-free allowance for pensions which the Chancellor hopes will stem the number of people taking retirement, a package of help for swimming pools affected by the increase in energy bills and changes to childcare support for parents on universal credit. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

If the success of the chancellor’s budget can be measured by its length then this must have been a good one. I gather Hunt was on his feet for nearly one and a half hours. I wasn’t listening to it as I was busy doing other things. Washing my hair perhaps? Reading its content later however didn’t leave me with much of a thrill. 

There was little of interest from my perspective. I scratched my head over how he could find £6 billion to hold down fuel duty yet made no mention of the financial straits of the public sector. Still, politicians must make political decisions and it is clear that the motorist is more important than public services. So much for net zero!

Two things did occur to me later after a little more thought and reading the papers the day after. Sometimes these things take a while to percolate. The first was the old chestnut about money and incentive. Hunt gave away £1 billion in pension tax to encourage older people back to work. I think he was thinking mainly about doctors who had enough money to retire and are needed back in the NHS. At the same time he made it more difficult for those on benefits to claim some allowances.

I have never understood how the key to getting rich to work is to give them more money and to get the poor to work is to take it off them. It has never made sense.

The second was more of a personal revelation. Hunt made strident efforts to encourage more people into full time work. The childcare payment is a case in point aimed at getting more women back into work rather than looking after their children. Yet the concept of full time, or indeed part time, is outmoded. Perhaps it is the circles I move in but so many people these days work different patterns. Working weeks aren’t the same. People work different times, different lengths, with multiple jobs across all days of the week.

The notion of full time work needs to be put aside. The tax system needs to reflect the way that people are working now. I’m sure the Chancellor doesn’t work a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. He should reflect on this when thinking about next year’s budget.

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