At first sight the Christmas parties of last year and Boris Johnson's dubious claims that all rules were stuck to are the cause of the post-partying hangover.
Given the unpopularity of austerity, the idea that taxes can be cut for the better off-to boost the economy, seems impractical. But the government has abandoned it's more focused interventions such as reducing taxes on industries which introduce better technology or improve productivity.
Interest rates remain low so spending does not have to be constantly cut back as the fiscal conservatives and neo-liberals demand. Spending focused on boosting the economy, and reducing the impact of rising fuel costs on consumers, seems the more pragmatic way forward. If you look after consumers they consume more, and businesses benefit. Failure to manage Covid effectively this year will also be seen as causing major economic consequences.
The myth that the Conservatives are best for managing the economy is potentially draining away.
Andrew Vass, Edinburgh
How do I tax thee? Let me count the ways: there’s income tax and National Insurance contributions which come directly out of salaries, hotly followed in April by the Health and Social Care tax. There is Value Added tax (VAT), a tax on goods and services, less obvious along with Capital Gains Tax, which gives the Treasury a slice of any profits made from selling property or belongings, and Inheritance Tax. With excise duties; the graduate tax of student loan repayments; and Air Passenger Duty, rising council tax rates seem the least of our personal contribution to the wealth of the nation.
If you run a business, there are business rates, employers’ contributions to NI and HSC and Corporation Tax on top of VAT.
Confused? The UK taxation system is complicated and expensive to run. It doesn’t stimulate the economy. It punishes the poor who pay a far greater proportion of their income in taxes than the wealthy. And there is a myth that the Conservative Party is a low-tax party, which their own backbenchers are beginning to question.
Frances Scott, Edinburgh
In 2025 BT is switching off the the traditional copper line telephone network, the Public Switch Phone Network, or PSPN. It is replacing it with a broadband connection such as Voice Over Internet Protocol or VOIP. Broadband connections are susceptible to outages and power cuts.
During Storm Arwen the only phone I could use was the BT line into the master socket using a simple cabled handset – the copper wires supply their own electricity. The digital (portable) phones were down as were all the mobile networks. If I and my neighbours had been on VOIP during the power cut, we would have been unable to dial 999 – or any other number. The same would apply to thousands in the affected rural areas.
BT is offering a battery back-up for customers who are already on VOIP, at the cost of £85, but these are in short supply, and only last for one hour. But this will only work if your broadband works and clearly this isn't always the case. It isn't really a back-up at all.
We should be making the phone system more reliable, not less.
William Loneskie, Lauder
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