June 19 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
So what do the people of Norfolk and Suffolk want to see included in George Osborne’s budget? We travelled to Osborne Road, Norwich, Osborne Close, North Walsham, Osborne Street, Lowestoft and Osborne Road, Wisbech to find out.
• Like millions of other shivering Britons, Ruth Ducker would most like to see something in the budget to help bring down the cost of fuel – both to help with soaring gas and electricity bills, and with the heavy cost of petrol for her car.
“I have been turning down the heat a bit this winter if it’s just me at home but I try and keep it cosy when the grandchildren are here,” said Mrs Ducker, 65.
“I would also like to see some help with child-care costs. They are very expensive for mothers who work.”
A mother-of-four, she regularly helps with the care of her six grandchildren but says their parents still need to use paid child care.
Mrs Ducker, who worked in a butcher’s in Hainford before retiring, “downsized” six months ago, after her husband’s death, selling a large bungalow in Colby and buying a smaller one in North Walsham’s Osborne Close.
Now she is crossing her fingers that when the fuel bills for the winter months arrive, they will show that her smaller home is cheaper to heat.
The sale of her Colby bungalow also allowed Mrs Ducker to invest in a new Vauxhall Corsa which she finds very fuel efficient and which only costs £30 a year to tax.
Downsizing, which has left Mrs Ducker with some capital, has meant that she is no longer entitled to council tax benefit, or any other financial help.
But it does mean that she has some savings to top up her £471-per-month state pension, plus her late husband’s small occupational pension.
As a non-smoker who doesn’t spend money on alcohol, Mrs Ducker has no costly “vices” but she has noticed other rising costs. “Food is very expensive and I do find myself being more careful about what I buy.”
• A Norwich family who have seen their household income slashed by 40pc in the last five years is urging the chancellor to help working class people – amid concerns that they are “being squeezed more than ever”.
Daniel and Tracey Marley are calling on the George Osborne to help families with the cost of fuel and utility bills after their earnings have been hit by the poor state of the construction industry and cuts to public sector spending.
And the couple want the chancellor to use the budget to safeguard Ministry of Defence (MOD) spending to ensure young people can secure a career in the armed forces – including their 16-year-old son Jye.
Mr Marley said he is now earning £10,000 less servicing cranes then he was 10 years ago, while his 41-year-old wife, Tracey, who works for Norfolk County Council as a lunchtime assistant, has lost 25pc of her wages.
The 40-year-old father of two said: “I want to see more help for the construction industry and less tax for working families such as ourselves. I would also like to see our overseas aid budget cut, and the MOD budget left untouched.
“I think there should be more taxes on corporate companies, which I think are getting away with blue murder while the rest of us are seeing our salaries cut. I have lost 40pc of my wages over the four or five years.
“The construction industry has been really quiet and the overtime, where I earned most of my money, has gone.”
“So I would like to see government do more to boost the construction industry because economists have said that every £1 spent in the construction industry generates about £3 in economic activity.”
“I feel it is important to cut overseas aid because that could be used to help people here rather than abroad. We are giving money to developing countries like Brazil and India when their economies are growing and ours is shrinking.
“Meanwhile, I think our guys in the MOD are being stretched. Our army is being cut to the bone and I don’t know why when we have had all these guys serving in Iraq and Afghanistan – it is just wrong. My son wants to go into the army and I am worried about his future.
“I haven’t voted since I was 18 because I have found it difficult when working 90 hour weeks. Everybody blames Labour for the mess we are in, which is partly true, but Labour wasn’t to blame for the global financial crisis, and the Tories only seem to help their little elite club.
“Working class families are being squeezed more than ever. I would like to see them helped by bringing down the price of petrol and electricity.
“I earn £10,000 less now then I did 10 years ago and I have had a disc removed from my back and have been diagnose with arthritis in my knees, but I still get up everyday and drive from Norwich to London to work.”
• As a single mother living in one of the most deprived wards in the country, Miroslava Jonasova knows how tough it is to bring up a child alone on benefits.
The 22-year-old resident of Waterlees in Wisbech, which last year was named as one of the top 10pc most deprived wards nationally, gets £70 a week in Job Seeker’s Allowance while she searches for a weekend job to help pay the bills.
“I can’t save any money,” she explains. “I spend all my money on living.”
Miss Jonasova has her one-year-old son, Patrick, to look after, which means she cannot commit to a full-time job. Even if she did, the cost of childcare or transport would cancel out the benefit, she said.
“There are jobs available but it is hard to find one for the weekend,” she said. “Companies want people to work full-time.”
Her search has forced her to look further afield, to Peterborough or King’s Lynn, but she would lose a lot in transport costs, she said.
For Jim and Maggie Wharrier, the situation is somewhat more comfortable.
Mr Wharrier, 70, admits: “We’re quite well off and we’ve got a decent pension.” However he believes the “principal of universal benefits” is “silly”, as he and his wife can get by without the winter fuel payment.
All benefits, he believes, should be taxed, so the lowest earners pay less and the highest earners pay more.
The thing that has hit the Wharriers hardest is the low interest rate for savings, which they do not believe is justified when the banks charge people high interest on loans.
On balance, Mr Wharrier thinks the Conservatives are “doing as well as can be expected”, given the financial situation.
• Danish citizen Gerd Locke receives a higher state pension than most British residents but is still struggling to pay her energy bills, which she says have doubled in the last two years.
Mrs Locke is hoping the chancellor keeps the winter fuel allowance in the up coming budget.
She said: “It is extremely expensive now to heat my home. The costs have gone up quite a lot. Compared to last year I think they have doubled.”
Mrs Locke moved from Denmark to Norwich in 1996 to work as a translator. She has lived in Lowestoft since 2005 and has paid off the mortgage on her Osborne Street home.
The 70-year-old is paid a Danish pension of between £850 and £950 per month depending on the exchange rate. She doesn’t smoke and is only an occasional drinker and said her biggest outgoings were gas and electricity.
“Apart from the winter fuel allowance I can’t think of anything else that will affect me directly,” she said. “I don’t drive that much and have a fairly new car which is very fuel efficient.
“I have a daughter in Denmark and a son in Sweden but they are middle-aged now and my grandchildren are in their teens.”
Mrs Locke has retained her Danish citizenship so that she can qualify for her pension. Because of that, she is not allowed to vote in parliamentary elections.
She said she would vote Conservative if given the chance but had doubts about David Cameron’s abilities as a leader.
Businesses can breath a sigh of relief at the news that dredging operations at Wells will resume today after being suspended for more than two months over a licensing issue.