Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The First Conservative Budget for more than a decade

I'm still "running the numbers", but at the moment it seems like it's the first time I've ever known a Conservative budget that wasn't completely ideology-driven, and actually did more than a dismissive hand-wave at those on lower incomes.

Harriet Harman's points (Merseyside worst hit, wealthy Cheshire least; substantial job losses to come) were well made, though.

Where I felt it was weak was in support of small businesses -- well, I would, wouldn't I?

In the current economic position, Big Business is more part of the problem than the solution. It acts as a brake on economic development. Equally, since the Tories are looking towards big Civil Service job cuts, there's going to be a fallback in tax receipts and an increase in unemployment. What will boost us out of the doldrums will be small business growth -- the only economic sector that can show genuine growth despite overall recession or stagnation ... provided that that growth isn't stifled by onerous taxation or bureaucracy. I didn't see much in the Budget speech that made a difference there, one way or the other. I'd hoped for more but, given the pre-Election manifesti of the Tories and LDs, I wasn't holding my breath.

Still, not as bad as I'd feared, nor as skewed to topping-up already full pockets. The full public services cutback plans will be the pivot around which the economic recovery will move. It remains to be seen in which direction it turns.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Phone tariffs, and bizarre ways to get them

I just had an interesting chat with Carphone Warehouse's Loyalty Team. The upshot of it is...a SIM-only tariff that costs me (well, LookBox) £5 per month, for which I get unlimited internet use1, 600 call minutes and a never-going to-need number of texts each month. Oh, and 80% off call costs when I'm roaming abroad, which is often.

There's got to be a catch, right?

Yep. It's a cashback deal. £35/month up front, and you've got to send back your 6th, 12th and 18th bill in order to get each of the £180 cashbacks. "Guaranteed" cashback, though, so if you miss your "slot", you can still claim it later.

I said, "Hang on - you already know my billing details, right? You already have my bills - you ought to, you send them to me! So what's that all about?"

"It's just what you have to do to claim the cashback."

I asked, "What happens if I can't find the bill?"

Now it gets really daft.

"That's OK. Give us a call, we'll print out another copy of the bill, and post it to you. Then you can send it to us to claim the cashback."

"Couldn't I just ask you to print out the bill and send it direct to the cashback department for me?"

"Sorry, it's just what you have to do to claim the cashback."


1 The usual "Fair Use Policy" (i.e. to be fair, please don't use it!) applies, of course.