Imagine, George (it's easy if you try)

By Jill Segger
October 21, 2010

Hi George. How's your week been?

All that public rattling through stuff that so many people are worried about can't be easy. Probably not a lot of fun browsing the cartoons either – one picture being worth a thousand words and all that.

So if you're sitting comfortably (nice home, good area, keeping warm these chilly autumn evenings?) Let's play a little game of imagination. (It's easy if you try...)

Imagine you're on the minimum wage, George (no, don't groan, just make an effort). It's just gone up by 13p an hour and it gives you £237 for a 40 hour week. That doesn't go far these days so thank goodness for the housing benefit and the controlled rent. Mind, you might not like to get too imaginative about the neighbourhood you can afford to live in. (Can't really be choosy when you don't have cash to spare.) Still, plenty of police on the beat to keep the anti-social stuff under control. But, hey, imagine what it might get like round here if the police had their budgets cut – freeze on recruitment, something like that. (Keep trying, George, don't give up on the game just yet.)

So imagine that you start getting a bit scared and upset about the anti-social activity round here. Imagine that you're anxious about what it might do to your kids – after all, you want them to grow up without getting into trouble or getting hurt don't you? So a bit more imagining – perhaps you'd like to move away to an area where they'd be safer and the schools might be better. Trouble is, you can't imagine where you might go. Social housing seems to be getting scarcer; they say there's 4.5 million on the waiting lists. And if something were to happen to put your £80 a week rent up by a big chunk, it would be hard to imagine how you could cope. You're already getting anxious about the cost of keeping the place warm this winter.

You might be getting a bit uncomfortable with all this imagining, George. So let's zero in on something a bit more cheerful. Your eldest is doing really well at school; she'd like to stay on, do 'A' levels, go to university. Going to stretch your means a bit though. Imagine what you're going to say to her now that the £30 'staying on' grant has been done away with. Think hard about how you'll find the money to keep her at home and buy her books, what with the bus fare into work going up and the pay freeze everyone's talking about.

And come to that, your job isn't too secure is it? Imagine what it might be like if it was axed? They say benefits are being cut too. Whatever's that going to do for your kids' futures? And can you imagine what the Uni fees are going to be like by the time your daughter's 18? Perhaps better not to encourage that aspiration. See, we're back to the worrying bits again. They never go far from your mind when you're insecure and anxious. Pity that some of those politicians think you're a scrounger because of the housing benefit and the tax credits.

Nice that the Child Tax Credit is going up £30 a year though. But imagine how you might feel about that when they take away the £30 a week help with your childcare (George, I know this is really difficult for you with that £4 million trust fund behind you, but just persevere). Might mean that your wife has to give up her job because it only just covers the shortfall as it is. Just possible that she might be tempted to help with the budget by doing a bit of cleaning without declaring it. (You won't find that too hard to imagine, what with your trust fund being kept offshore.)

And your local council comes into this imagining game too. They're having their budget slashed so imagine what might happen to gran's care? Imagine what it's going to be like if there isn't anyone to get her up in the mornings and wash her and.... George?... George?

Tut. He's gone. Some folk just have no imagination at all.

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