Gimme Forty

Most of the do-gooders who delight in funding screw-ups like North Korea soon won’t have much money left to do their ‘good’ works, at least not in the UK. Home borrowing is at record levels and many people are taking advantage of low mortgage rates (around four percent) to buy second homes in the UK. However, UK fire fighters are walking out on strikes because they want a whopping 40 percent (yes, forty!) pay rise.

Now, I’ve no objection to fire fighters being paid enough to be able to afford to live in the over-priced property that exists around these parts. However, I’ve got to wonder at two things. Firstly, do other countries allow their emergency services to go on strike? And secondly, for one group of workers to demand 40 percent while everyone else is getting two percent seems completely outrageous. On the other hand, the two percent rises bear no relation to reality either so maybe it’s about time someone took a stand.

Even with the mooted compromise of 16 percent being suggested in some quarters, a pay-rise of that size for so many people will push local taxes up massively. Currently these taxes rise at around ten percent per year. Inflation is at four percent per year. So local councils are already spending more and more (and more). My local tax has doubled in the past ten years while my salary has stayed roughly the same.

To put this into perspective for American readers (I know you’re out there), council tax (levied on property and assessed by property value) is currently around 1,000-1,500 a year in St Albans. I know this is a lot less than similar taxes in the USA, however we generally pay far more in purchase tax than in most States. VAT [‘Value Added Tax’–paid on nearly all goods except food, books and children’s clothes] in the UK is 17.5 percent

One suggestion I heard on the radio this morning would be to pay more to fire fighters by increasing local tax on second homes (sic). These currently get a fifty percent discount on this tax if they’re unoccupied. This would be reduced to a ten percent discount. Not having a second home, this doesn’t affect me directly, but if it forces people to foreclose on their mortgages, it will drive house prices down. And driving house prices down would definitely push the UK into recession, according to the same radio report.

Of course, the other solution is to increase local council taxes massively, because fire fighters aren’t the only ones who’ll be wanting (and deserving) a giant pay increase.

Meanwhile, how am I going to continue paying for my films, festival entries and international jet-set lifestyle? Not to mention kitchen upgrades? And do all this while effectively working for the Government for half the year? Eh? Remortgage again, I guess. Hold on, I think I saw an interest-free TMF credit card application around here some place. More debt please–we’re British. Well, okay, some of us are. Is the grass any greener elsewhere, though? Really.

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