Monthly Archives: March 2012

Courageous!

Conventional wisdom says that because pensioners vote in large numbers, they can only ever be given more and more.  Not, generally speaking, increases to the nominal value of the pension, but rather the extra benefits package.  So I guess it took real courage for the Chancellor to announce he will be phasing out one of those extra benefits for those pensioners rich enough to benefit from an extra tax break.  Kudos to him for that at least!

The big question over the budget is of course whether it’s consistent with reducing that outrageous deficit.  If it is, then the minor reductions in personal tax are to be welcomed.  Definitely to be applauded (if it happens) is the reduction in paperwork promised .by the integration of different elements of taxation (headline tax and NI) in a single system.

One to watch is the falling rate of corporation tax.  My first reaction to that was why not reduce the jobs tax instead to try and stimulate employment?   On reflection, maybe what he’s done will bring in better returns, which could in turn support economic activity including not least employment.  That could have potential to attract business to site headquarters here, and domicile here for tax purposes, which could in turn do very nicely for the overall tax take – so long as we’re not in a competitive race to the bottom.  But in a country that resents successful businesses, that could bring its own political trouble.

On the downside there seems to be more complexity and obfuscation in some areas.  The much-trailed changes to child allowances is a classic of gratuitous complexity.  Can’t see how the measures to stop tax avoidance on very high value properties are going to work: surely it can’t be too hard to work around the rules?  E.g. put the property in a UK shell company, which is in turn owned by a company in an offshore tax haven which can then be bought and sold at will.  And the ‘tycoon tax’ seems slightly at odds with existing higher limits on the kind of tax-efficient vehicles I use, so only the real ultra-rich (like premiership footballers) will be able to use their  VCT and especially EIS allowances.  Not that I’ll get anywhere near that limit myself!

I do wonder about possibly-unintended consequences.  We now know (as we could already guess) that those on the highest incomes brought forward their tax liabilities ahead of the “50p” rate, thus very substantially flattering the pre-election figures.  Pre-announcing a reduction will likely do something similar in reverse, so tax take next year will be reduced as people defer liabilities.  More money printing to fill a hole?

Not sure how to summarise.  I guess we should be grateful there’s nothing worse amongst what’s new, and the daftest bits appear to be mostly on the fringes of it.

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Concert

Our next concert is next Sunday, March 25th, at the Guildhall, Plymouth.

I usually recommend our concerts with a degree of enthusiasm to match the programme.  I’m sorry to say that in this case I can only recommend half of the concert.  One lovely work that’s well worth coming for, another that … isn’t.

The work I can enthusiastically recommend is Andrew Carter’s Benedicite.  This is my first encounter with Carter’s music, and it’s been a delight!  The work sets childishly simple religious words and has a certain aura of the nursery.  But musically speaking it’s the deceptive simplicity of Peter and the Wolf or the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, with a directness built on foundations that are sometimes far from simple.  Indeed, the complexity of the rhythms make this rather challenging to sing, most notably where different performers’ rhythms cut across each other.  But to hear it you’d think it was all very simple and effortless, even when that little “waltz” tune is really in 5/4!  And it’s easy to overlook the naffness of the words when the music is so evocative as, for example, the brittle coldness of “snow and ice”.

Unfortunately the other work is the longer, and frankly makes the Victorian hymns we used to suffer in school assembly sound positively inspiring by contrast.   Karl Jenkins is surely the archetypal product of a music “industry” that decided it wanted a genre to call “classical” by virtue of using classical forces, but over which it could exercise intellectual property rights.  Jenkins’s muzak (a requiem) is so dreary as to make an hour in B&Q seem preferable: at least there one might be inspired to buy something to improve ones home.  Where there is a flicker of interest it’s utterly derivative: the first movement is the most interesting, but that’s because it’s drawn from the Fauré – echos of which recur later.  Elsewhere Jenkins even manages to dumb down Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu.

Given two such contrasting works, I leave it to those readers within evening-out distance of Plymouth to decide whether to read this as a recommendation.