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Best in Show
Every week, The Friday Speed Read goes from door to door trick or treating, collecting the best news stories before creating a veritable pick n mix for your reading pleasure.
This week we watched TM the PM get off her broomstick and let Fiscal Phil takeover as Monday saw the Chancellor deliver the final Budget speech before Brexit with a focus on the people and the end of austerity. Unsurprisingly, reaction was similar to finding a house is only giving away Bounty Bars on Halloween.
First off – the treats. It’s hard to argue that it wasn’t a great Budget for British SMEs, with a wide array of measures taken to support their growth in these testing times. Whilst, Hammond set out to save the high street by cutting business rates for a third of independent retailers, cafes, pubs and restaurants – a measure estimated to save 90% of UK retail SMEs money, he also took aim at the much-maligned skills gap while taking the pressure off small businesses, halving the apprentice levy to just 5%. As a budget for the people this, alongside rising the National Living Wage and increasing the National Insurance threshold means it was the Budget everyone wanted, right? umm afraid not…
Hammond wasn’t without his tricks though. The following day the Daily Mirror ran with the simple but effective “Is that it?” focusing on the Chancellor’s £400m to UK schools so they can invest in the “little extras” they need, such as whiteboards or an extra computer. Headteachers across the country came out swinging, stating that such a small amount isn’t enough to make a difference. I mean “What use is a whiteboard if there is no teacher to use it?” as stated by Labour MP Paula Sherriff in PMQs.
One Budget announcement that was much more treat than trick was the UK Digital Services Tax, aimed at global tech giants with global revenues of at least £500m. Hats off to the Daily Star, which made the most of Halloween as it ran with the inspired “Tech bloodsuckers get it in the neck”. Yes, it could be argued that £400m additional tax is a pittance amount for companies that regular enjoy revenues in the tens of billions, yet for Google this week really couldn’t have got much worst.
With allegations of “thousands” of instances of sexual misconduct against senior executives, Google employees staged global walkouts in protest, whilst social media was bombarded with images of protesters from Singapore and Haifa to London and New York. This came a week after the outrage caused by Google handing Andy Rubin a $90m severance package, while attempting to conceal the sexual misconduct allegations that caused his departure. We think it’s fair to say that increased tax is the least of the company’s worries!
So back to our favourite topic and looming B-day, as it seems that the longest ever game of Deal of No Deal could be coming to an end – sorry Noel. That’s right, Dominic Raab has claimed that we’re now less than three weeks away from a Brexit deal. For anyone planning a party to commemorate such a monumental occasion, the 21st November is currently the day the Conservatives seem to expect the deal to be struck. I suggest we don’t get too excited just yet – especially as the 21st is International False Confession Day. We’ll let you come to your own conclusions, but fingers crossed that the nightmare is almost over.
Onto the story that really has made headlines and crowned ‘Speed Headline of the Week’ (patent pending)… wait for it. Yes, the government this week announced plans to ban all day drinking at UK airports, much to the chagrin of stag and hen do planners. The Sun’s sub-editing team summed it up best with the sublime “Departy’s over” – take a bow.
I mean they talk about the end of austerity – yet how can you ban people from drinking before 10am, a ritual for many holiday making Brit whose first step on airport land means the opportunity to drink constantly at any time of the day? What a scary thought….
Although it potentially could be for the best given that this week saw a Japanese pilot arrested at Heathrow while being ten times over the legal limit shortly before he was due to fly to Tokyo. That’s two bottles of wine and three pints of beer the night before a long-haul flight. Ouch.
And, who can forget our trusted police who were slightly forgotten in Fiscal Phil’s Budget speech, which caused the Police Federation to accuse the Tories of “prioritising potholes” over reducing crime rates. How bad is it exactly? Well pretty bad, apparently, given a Dorset Sergeant this week claimed the service was getting so stretched it would soon be asking victims of burglary to solve their own crimes by looking on eBay. Whatever next? Maybe we’ll soon go to A&E in need of stitches and simply be given a needle and thread…that’s next generation healthcare for you!
And, finally how can we miss an opportunity to talk about our favourite baking show – the one that has taken over our lives since August – the Great British Bake Off. This week saw rampant Rahul take home the prestigious trophy after producing a show-stopping edible rock garden in the final challenge. Even GBBO didn’t go without controversy though – the heat in the tent was so extreme that a glass storage container shattered, meaning Rahul was forced to start again. He was given an extra 15 minutes to finish, making up for the time he lost due to the accident but that was enough for cries of “Fix” to be thrown around on social media and in a number of the red-tops. Given that Rahul seems to legitimately be the nicest person alive and has openly admitted that he “bakes to make friends”, let’s just let him enjoy the win, shall we?
So that’s it for another week of tricks and treats but before I disappear to gorge myself on post-Halloween goodies, here’s the only way I believe any Budget week should end. Enjoy…