Chancellor Philip Hammond set out a more interesting budget this week than anything his predecessor ever attempted.
The proposed tax rises for us all, flagged up by a media which had clearly gone to sleep over last weekend, were aimed only at those workers who set themselves up as a company to enable them to pay less tax i.e. BBC presenters.
The Chancellor’s reason for this was that unlike PAYE workers they pay less in National Insurance contributions.
It is these contributions which help to pay for the NHS for example so why should someone earning, say £20,000, pay more proportionately for the Health Service than someone earning 10 times that amount?
He also decreed that the tax-free dividend an owner can take out of his company will be reduced to £2,000 instead of the current £5,000. It is savings like these, £5bn he said, which will enable the Chancellor to increase funding for the NHS and in particular social care which is in crisis. He proposes spending £100m to place GPs in A&E departments, starting next winter in England. We can only hope that when our hapless Executive gets up and running again, it too will find a similar contribution for that additional service here.
This week I found much to admire in our Health Service which I have, on occasions felt the need to criticise. Having suffered miserably for a week with a painful shoulder I was driven in the end to my local surgery where I was seen within an hour.
They dispatched me to A&E (the minor injuries part of it), for an X-Ray. Within two hours I was assessed, X-rayed, and seen by a doctor who gave me a diagnosis, arthritis. I should have known that myself. What else can I expect at my age?
But it was good to have a confirmation for my monthly visit to the physiotherapist who looks after my aches and pains.
This minor injuries unit at Antrim Hospital has been a significant addition to the service and if Philip Hammond can find the resources to extend his proposed GP addition to A&E in Northern Ireland, then we can all breathe a sigh of relief, assuming the Executive can get its act together.
It would be so much better too if the drunks and drug abusers were put to the back of the queue in A&E.
Since charging them for their indulgence obviously isn’t an option then some other way will have to be found to deal with them. Adding GPs to the service will be an interesting experiment.
Mr Hammond also said that wages growth had been fastest in Northern Ireland.
That’s the good news, but will that continue now that chaos reigns at Stormont?
We have Sinn Fein stomping out from a meeting with the Secretary of State accusing him of nothing but ‘waffle, waffle’.
There’s the DUP backing their leader to the hilt when we know that both leaders of these parties are not exactly confidence-inspiring at the moment.
If Foster is forced to step aside for a while, then O’Neill should do the same.
After all, she was a high- ranking Minister at the time the RHI issue was revealed.
I agree with David Gordon, Stormont’s former chief spin doctor, who told the media this week that Peter Robinson would have been able to avert the political crisis facing Northern Ireland had he still been in charge.
What does it say then, when, for the first time in our male, politically dominated history, two women, having reached the top jobs in politics (we have to assume Michelle O’Neill would have become Deputy First Minister), are shown up as intransigent, belligerent and egotistical? The people deserve better.