It's Budget Day today, and if the Government is scratching around this morning for any last minute ideas here are just a few of my proposals. I thought I'd better blog about them as when Radio Lincolnshire came to ask me yesterday, Charlie did most of the talking.
So, Mr Osborne, for your consideration:
1. That hike on fuel duty from next month - you know, that 'inflation plus a penny' one. Well, scrap it. Come on, George, you've just admitted to the world that you've found an unexpected £8bn stuffed behind the Treasury sofa; so give motorists a break. It now costs us over £60 a fortnight just to fill up with fuel. We live in Lincolnshire; we have to drive to get anywhere. Or go on the train... but at over £30 a week that's hardly any cheaper.
2. Paternity leave: let's share the entitlement (as you're proposing) - and the pay. Let's be all 'Norwegian' about it, shall we? Research shows how necessary 'dads' are. The United Nations published a report only last week saying something similar. Because dads, you know, do lots of stuff. We fight crime, stop drug addiction, keep kids off the street and the country safe from alien invasion. Ok, maybe not the last one. But there's overwhelming evidence that in countries where parenthood is taken seriously and government policy reflects the importance of both parents, society as a whole is richer. And that's what you're after, George, isn't it?
3. Council tax. Look, I know it's not strictly part of the Budget. And I know it's being frozen. But it's being frozen at a rate that's sky high after seven successive years of increase. And I know local authorities are being squeezed. So here's a radical suggestion: do away with them. No, not the Town Hall employees (although I'm sure a few Chief Execs would not be missed) - the politicians. Do you know what they cost in expenses? Frightening. There could be a few less bobbies on the beat, a few more keepers in the park and a few more sweepers on the streets if there were fewer councillors.
4. University fees. Look, I know someone's got to pay but paying that much is ridiculous. I'm already hearing students saying they aren't even going to consider university next year. And why should they? Yes, I know they only pay when they earn enough; that's not quite the point is it? Families who've been paying school fees for the past ten years will probably regard it as a blessing; but for the rest, it'll be a deterrent. Do the maths, George. And ask yourself whether those hardship funds that Oxbridge colleges say they're setting up will make much of a dent in the collegiate wine budget?
5. Give the Scouts a break. I know not everyone's into 'dib dib dib-ing' but those that are could do without the swinging rent rises certain local councils have been imposing, like the one Banstead District Scout Group received from Reigate and Banstead District Council (up from the current £135 per annum to £10,500). Ask yourself what these kids are going to do when the scout troop folds? And how much that might cost. I'd guess it might even be more than the 8.3% pay rise Reigate and Banstead District Council awarded its chief executive in 2009/10. Reign 'em in, George!
Oh, and while we're at it @ModernMummyUK would like some wine, @northernmum1 would like some cake with hers, @Urbanvox would like an iPad, @NurseCazPink would like a decent salary and @LauraCYMFT wants full-time pay for part-time work. And so do I.
Mr Speaker, I commend this budget to the House.