Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Family Finance

Earlier today British Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Autumn Statement - a sort of mini-budget/update on how the economy is doing.  I'm struck at these moments by the emphasis politicians give at these moment by 'families'.  It was particularly striking in George Osborne's speech today.   It goes to the heart of how a political class views society at any given time.  Osborne's speech makes it clear that this society is comprised of businesses and families.  There are no individuals.

This is significant if through choice, or outside forces you find yourself single, or without children.  When society seeks to dis-incentivise and punish these choices, it enforces a heteronormative view of the family that fetishes a model of parents (more than one, fewer than three) and children (knock yourself out, but after one, we reward you less).

Osborne was particularly impressive for how the family crow-barred it's way into this statement.  
According to Osborne, the plans of the Government have thus far ensured that: 'low interest rates are passed on to families and businesses.' He added that 'at every opportunity [the Government are] helping families with the cost of living.' We will not take this risk with the solvency of the British economy and the security of British families.

On homes...

The Chancellor stated:

'The Government can use the low interest rates we’ve secured to help young families too, who want to buy a home but can’t afford the very large deposits that banks are now demanding. We will use mortgage indemnities to help 100,000 such families buy newly built homes. Families in social housing will be able to buy their own homes at a discount of up to 50%. And we will use the receipts to build, for every home purchased, a new additional affordable home. So new homes for families that need them. New home ownership for families who aspire to it.'

Can individuals not aspire for such things?  Of course, individuals get the benefit of this message but it is striking that the government is not interested in promoting it in those terms.

On water bills...

The Chancellor stated:

'And for families across that region facing the highest water charges in Britain, the Government will cut the household bills of all South West Water customers by £50 a year.'

So, if it was just individuals he wouldn't bother?  If you have children, that necessitates specific water 'relief'?  Other cynics might note that this also targets the affluent Tory South West but I shall resist going there...

On superfast broadband....

The Chancellor stated:

'The Government is funding plans to bring superfast broadband to 90% of homes and businesses across the country, and extend mobile phone coverage to 99% of families.'

Really?  Are we to see mobile phones handed out at birth?  Baby hats and cell phones for all?

Council tax... 

The Chancellor stated:

'I have already offered councils the resources for another year’s freeze in the Council Tax. That will help millions of families.

It also helps single occupancy households but I guess we matter less.

Fuel prices... 

The Chancellor stated:

'But millions more use their cars to go to work, and pick up the children from school. Families will save £144 on filling up the average family car by the end of next year.'

How much will I save?  I don't have to do those school runs so I suppose I'm laughing already in the eyes of the Government.  Here towards the end of a speech we have the vision made clear.  Work and family.  Work and family.  A very Conservative message.

What would I say instead? Well how about 'households', 'citizens' and 'Brits' (if you want to throw in  a bit of informality).

Read the statement in full here.

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