What price downmarket pizza?

In a (downmarket) supermarket the other day I overheard a comment which shamed me.

It shamed me because I have the luxury of being a person of extremes when it comes to shopping for food. Now and again, anyway.

Most of the time I shop in two or three small shops – bakeries, greengrocers, a farm shop – and two or three supermarkets towards the lower end of the Great British Class Scale (GBCS).

Occasionally, though, I want to feel glossy and poised and assured.

To swing my basket as I stroll past royal organic meat, expensive flowers and the latest variant on bread.

To mingle with the rich. The ones who’ve left their Porsche 4x4s straddling the lines of the too-small bays in the car park.

I want a respite from the everyday, ‘grrr, shopping for food again,’ state.

But, when I do go somewhere at the top end of the GBCS, I’m often disappointed or angry when I leave.

Disappointed because they don’t have what it takes to improve my day (it’s a tough call, I know).

Angry at the unnecessary, enticing, ridiculous things they sell. Like ordinary food made newly-bizarre by celebrity chefs.

I leave, often having bought nothing, in a fit of pique at such fripperies of foodliness.

And when I’m in the other, ordinary places, I find myself wanting to wiggle my nose – like Samantha in ‘Bewitched’ – to magic our Top Men here, for Instructive Shopping Therapy.

By Top Men I mean Top Politicians. The one who’s head boy of the government (not the Queen, obvs, she’s head of state and not a boy) and, perhaps more important, the one who looks after the national housekeeping money – the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Our Chancellor presumably knows a lot about wallpaper, including the price, given his family firm makes it. But let’s set aside the £158 a roll stuff and concentrate on pizza.

I wonder if George Osborne knows how much a pizza costs? I mean a real, shop-bought one, not an ordered-and-delivered-in-central-London one.

That comment I heard, at the check-out, it was a man, to his wife.

‘Their own brand pizza’s down from £2.50 to £2.41, can we afford one?’

Wife counts money. They decide not.

At this point, in Dickens, a philanthropist might pass by, drop a pizza or six in their trolley as they left the building. And, no, I didn’t. I did drop a tin of biscuits in the Salvation Army Christmas presents trolley, next to the wheelchairs, though. It was building up a steady layer of soft toys and baby clothes.

I spend a lot of time grr-shopping, here.

It’s a multi-cultural place – and I don’t mean that it’s awash with nationalities, though I do hear Polish, German, Spanish and Italian as I shop.

I mean that it’s a community, of sorts.

A place where inhabitants of residential homes can have a trip out with their carers.

Where a member of staff can chat with an older woman as he stocks the shelves – about the books they’re reading this week.

Where an elderly man with memory problems always goes to the same – very thin, heavily tattooed – check-out woman. He has to come back and ask if he has paid – and she always sets his mind at rest. She has no time for me, for my persimmons and my own-brand claret – but that’s fine. I don’t need her time. Not yet.

I see people sick and disadvantaged, people healthy and privileged.

I see rich, middling and poor. And once-rich, but now poor.

I see pale, tired, women working on the tills – and notice the odd black eye.

I see troubled people being nice to untroubled. I see poor people being nice to rich.

I see those who have and those who have not.

I see drunks. I see anger. I see bad behaviour.

I see life.

Top Men should see this but we know they never will. And it will never seem real, if they can’t see it. Or live it.

Which is why they’ll keep on cutting budgets for the ones who need them most, when they could do what shoppers do. Pay off that debt gradually. Keep it manageable. But keep on eating properly while you do it. You need your strength to work. You need to work to pay off the debt. Earn enough and you can pay your taxes, help the less well off. Pay off more of the debt when you’ve got a bit more coming in.

Perhaps we need a housekeeper in charge.


 

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20 Responses to What price downmarket pizza?

  1. EllaDee says:

    Interesting post and it took me a while to gather my thoughts. I’m equally perplexed by both ends of the spectrum foodie elitism and aspects of genuine food poverty. I undertsand real poverty exists, that people truly can’t manage to live, pay bills and feed themselves properly. And even when circumstances are variously self-perpetuated I still feel for them. Because I’ve always taken comfort in being able to feed myself. It’s one of my barometers of life, a decent dinner. I remember being away at school, coming home for weekends and awful sadness of seeing my Dad eating supermarket pizza, because due to family issues there was no other food in the house. Then getting cash from him, buying groceries and cooking something. That’s the difference, we did have money to eat. Which is why I was conflicted about your pizza anecdote. I detest supermarket pizza and the ready-made corporate opportunism it represents. Cheap nasty pizza vs buying cheap but decent ingredients. But I get it, they didn’t have means to choose, or to fulfil the cravings we all have for something other more than what we have ordinarily, food or otherwise, good for us or otherwise.
    Your posts reflects what I understand to be a spiralling global loss of community, food integrity & culture even in countries where cucina povera has always sustained and been celebrated. Much as I detest futuristic genre -visions of controlled societies of isolated people, the privileged living to work and impoverished sub-classes in urban areas consuming only manufactured commodities- feels a little too real, as say compared with so-called primitive but authentic lifestyles of the past but which increasingly only the weathy can afford.
    We’ve come a long way but in many ways I think we’re going backwards.

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    • Hi Elladee. A thoughtful response to my emotional outburst, thank you. Perhaps we should get together and write stuff 😉
      I’ve almost begun regretting that I posted this – not one single one of my here-in-the-flesh friends or relatives has remarked on it – I think it struck a nerve (or of course they could simply be too busy to read it as the run up to the great annual shopping festival grows ever madder).
      I have been scratching my head as to how to respond to you as I can’t quite articulate what I want to say – and then I remembered something I shared on Facebook but which seems to have vanished – don’t know why. Anyway, here’s a link (below). I came across this originally in our newspaper The Guardian with a much longer commentary on it too explaining the predictable buffeting she got in the aftermath of this going viral. For me it helped me deal with the question of nutrition (cheap convenience food versus cheap good food) and the kind of ‘why do you spend your money on cigarettes when you’re poor’ (or TVs or drink or whatever) kind of response that it’s human to have.
      After posting it (the link below) a friend and I discussed how our parents’ generation resorted to having teeth extracted to avoid dentist fees – and I thanked our lucky stars we have our NHS. We do have to pay something towards treatment but there’s a cap at somewhere over £100 for a course of treatment, no matter what’s involved, eg, root canal, but as my friend pointed out, that means people are now beginning to do the same thing as a result of new poverty.
      There are always quandaries about benefit systems and poverty – what is ‘real’ poverty is always the big big question. But it is the ever widening gap between the ends of the scale in our richer world that is so very concerning.
      http://killermartinis.kinja.com/why-i-make-terrible-decisions-or-poverty-thoughts-1450123558

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      • EllaDee says:

        Wow, that’s quite an article and a good enough reason for me although sorely tempted from time to time to understand I’ll never ever be qualified to walk in someone elses shoes.

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  2. Owls says:

    Here in the U.S. we have what are called “food deserts” in the inner cities. One small city I know of near where I live (high minority population) has no grocery stores – at all – within the city limits. People with cars have to drive 5 miles out to strip malls that have grocery stores to buy food. People without cars have to depend on 7-11 and Rite Aid for their nourishment, and that would not include fresh fruit and vegetables, and the prices are exorbitant. For your average “middle class” citizen grocery stores are filled with aisle after aisle of stuff…produce from other countries, less expensive meats and poultry that is plentiful and pumped with hormones and without any kind of flavor. It’s revolting. The elegant organic and boutique grocery stores have everything you could possibly want, at a premium, including their own pizzas. The parking lot is filled with Lexuses and SUVs, bustling with shoppers just leaving yoga classes at the Country Club, picking over local vegetables ($2 for ONE cucumber…when I was a child they were 5 cents a pound, sold by farmers out of their vegetable trucks, and so plentiful there was practically a truck at every corner). The shoppers here will definitely go to Walmart to save a nickel on a T.V., but they would never buy their food there. That is for the poor, the losers of this world, in their minds. It makes me want to cry. I refuse to go to Walmart except if I am looking for Mexican peppers or cheese. When I do go I forgive myself at the cash register by hoping I am supporting that underpaid cashier as much as I am enriching the Walton family with my $4.93 expenditure. This is an important topic and thank you SO MUCH for writing about it! Your friend, Owls

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    • I don’t know if you saw my response to Elladee’s comment – but I’ve been a bit surprised at the lack of reaction to this one – that said, we are in peak pre-Christmas frenzy so maybe no-one has read it…
      I’m afraid I really do find myself hating the lavish, upmarket ones, constantly creating and feeding new appetites (despite occasionally resorting to going there myself to get something off the normal list). And I can see the appeal, but, like private schools and so on, feel that if you pay more, you’re actually buying exclusivity – so you travel through life in a clique of like minds and like incomes. But perhaps I’m just jealous of those Porsche 4x4s – or the income that can support them!
      I’m shocked by what you say about no grocery stores in a city. I do see the same sort of thing here – one very poor area I know in Liverpool the massive supermarket is way off the beaten track and not even regular buses pass by – it has to be a taxi ride or as you say, shop at a more expensive and less well stocked ‘convenience’ store. But our convenience stores do also sell fresh food at tolerable prices and there is often a neighbourhood Co-operative foodstore – which is a big chain of large and small shops that is a run by a genuine and long-standing cooperative society.
      Now I need to go and do a grrr shop so I will sign off for now, thank you for reading and commenting, friend Owls!

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  3. mud4fun says:

    Hi M,

    I strongly disagree with you on this one. In my view the government needs to get a grip on Welfare spending ASAP and that means a drastic cut from the current £150-170 billion a year down to a more acceptable £50-70 billion. Taxpayers like myself are at the end of our tethers paying sky high amounts of tax to support a bloated welfare state. 25% of my tax bill this year went on welfare.

    We have the highest spend on welfare in the world and much of it goes to people who do not need it. While there is a genuine tiny minority who do need the help in my opinion most do not.

    The problem in this country is that too many namby pamby do gooders have redefined what true poverty is and what constitutes an ‘essential’ for life. This has meant that a growing percentage of the general public are expecting and demanding state aid to fund lifestyle choices that they have no right to expect in their circumstance.

    I would define Cars, TV’s, cable/satellite TV services, mobile phones, tablet PC’s, cigarettes and alcohol as luxury items. They are not essentials for life and as such should not be funded by the taxpayer.

    My wife and I have been crippled by high taxation to the point that we haven’t been able to afford a holiday in 12 years, we can’t afford cable TV services and we struggle to make ends meet despite me working 60+ hours per week and having done so for most of my working life from aged 16. I have been made redundant a couple of times in my life but have never claimned any benefits as I got off my backside and went and found another job. Any job. I accepted the first job that came along no matter what it entailed as I needed to pay the bills. My wife has done the same.

    As a single high wage earner supporting my wife and children we have been hit harder than most in recent taxation changes. Sure we have some luxuries such as my Land Rovers but hell I’ve worked damn hard to earn the money to pay for them and I object strongly to paying tax to fund welfare payments to people who can’t be bothered helping themselves and yet expect me to pay for their fags and alcohol.

    The welfare system should be there primarily to support people who have worked hard and through no fault of their own have lost their jobs through redunancy or ill health. Those people have paid into the system via their taxes and deserve to be supported until they can get another job. They should not have to face losing their homes during the time they are out of work. However this should be viewed as a short term support measure. ALso in the time that person is unemployed they have to accept they can no longer afford luxury items just as all of us have to revise our own finances and budgets when circumstances change. In our case when my wife left work to have a baby we had to sell her much loved car because we couldn’t afford it.

    The welfare system should not be there to provide whole life support to people that can’t be bothered to get off their backsides and help themselves.

    Helping themselves and taking responsibility for their own lives is not restricted to simply getting a job. It extends to all aspects of life. In your example of the people who couldn’t afford a Pizza – they may well be genuine but in my experience they’ll almost certainly own a car or have a TV or smoke or drink alcohol, all of which costs alot of money that could be better spent on food. In many such cases they’ll also have a garden at home yet I’ll bet they don’t grow their own vegetables. If they did they could have grown their own mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers etc and made their own Pizza very cheaply as we do. However growing vegetables is hard work, time consuming and requires dedication. My wife grows alot of our own vegetables and it has allowed us to eat quality fresh veg even when money was tight. In my experience of people living on benefits (which is quite large, having been out with half a dozen single mothers, having lived on a council estate and now living opposite some housing association houses) the majority simply can’t be bothered putting in the effort as it is far easy to demand more from the state.

    The situation has grown so bad that we have several neighbours living on benefits, in lovely three bed subsidised housing with large gardens, all paid for by taxpayers and yet they can afford to smoke, drink, by iPhones, cars and can even afford to go on holiday! My children are bullied in school because they don’t have mobile phones or don’t go on holiday or don’t go out to restaurants. The bullies are all sporting the latest mega expensive smart phone and tablets and yes you guessed correctly, they are all from families living on benefits. It is absolutely disgusting.

    In my opinion the bulk of welfare payments should be made in the form of vouchers for food, clothing and utility bills so the money is spent on essentials rather than luxuries. If people want the luxuries then they have to help themselves by getting a job etc. Yes I know there are many genuine people in dire circumstances that need help but the system has to be reformed and welfare spending has to be slashed. In theory it is actually in the interest of those genuine people living in poverty or unemployed because more money could then be spent on genuine cases instead of being wasted funding the majority who CHOOSE to live that way.

    Regards,

    Ian

    PS. The government needs to act fast as many high rate taxpayers are turning their backs on the UK and going abroad. My wife and I are seriously considering it at the moment and I have several friends who are currently moving abroad or are planning to do so shortly.

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    • mud4fun says:

      PPS. I wasn’t going to reply to this post, preferring to bite my tonque. However I think it is important for you to hear all sides of the story.

      PPPS. I would also consider any form of shop bought ‘ready meal’ including Pizza to be a luxury item. My wife and I can’t afford to buy them (not that we would want to), it is far more efficient use of your money to buy quality raw ingredients and make your own fromt scratch – especially if you plan carefully like us so that ingredients can be spread over several meals in a given week. We tend to sit down and right a menu for the week based off what veg we have available in the garden and what money we have. My wife cooks the vast majority of our meals from scratch and often we can produce a very healthy meal for a family of four for under £5, far healthier and less expesive than buying junk ready meals from the supermarket.

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    • Hello Ian,
      I’m glad you responded, I’d rather hear what you think than not hear it, please don’t hold back from disagreeing – unless it makes you even crosser! It seems you have had some very bad experiences of ‘real’ benefit scroungers. I have a lot of information that I’d like to share by way of mitigation. I need to pull it together, though, so bear with me.
      I can see that it is extremely galling to witness people who are ostensibly ‘poor’ as rated by official measures of poverty affording phones etc. And you might be surprised to find I do go some of the way with you, but not all the way. I can cite you instances of people who could and don’t claim benefits (I have been in that position myself) but they would be just a counterbalance to your experiences. I remember working in the utility sector and dealing with Age Concern on one occasion and having to sit through a presentation on poverty and finding myself harrumphing mentally. As one who spends a lot of time in rural Zambia it seems ridiculous to expect poor people, for example, to have a car. But … then you consider the night watchman working in a place to which there simply is no public transport. It is, sadly, often the poorest locations that have the worst transport. But, while I muster my response, have a read of this and see how you feel about it. America, not Britain, admittedly ….
      http://killermartinis.kinja.com/why-i-make-terrible-decisions-or-poverty-thoughts-1450123558
      m

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    • Hi again. Start with this – an independent source throwing a little more light on the 25% on welfare.
      https://fullfact.org/economy/calculating_tax_summary-36103

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    • Hello again, Ian.
      I’ve realised that your response relates almost entirely to the last few lines of my post, whereas, for me, the most important thing was what I said about shared community. But I’ll try and respond to what you said. Here we go.

      Lies, damned lies and statistics…

      ‘Taxpayers like myself are at the end of our tethers paying sky high amounts of tax to support a bloated welfare state. 25% of my tax bill this year went on welfare.’
      Putting out a notice to taxpayers stating that 25% of the tax they pay goes on ‘welfare’ was at best misleading. Most people will probably interpret ‘welfare’ as benefits paid to non-working people or benefit scroungers. In fact only 14% of this ‘welfare’ spending (£94 billion) goes to working age people.
      Read this:
      http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/7424

      ‘We have the highest spend on welfare in the world’
      The Telegraph reported OECD figures showing the UK was 13th in the developed world league table for welfare spending and I can’t spend any more time finding/reading other sources! European comparisons are easier to find, but as always, you can find different answers to the same question. And of course, ‘ what is welfare’? Our model of welfare state includes private, voluntary and philanthropic contributions – so do some of the league tables. They show us in the middle ranks below France and Italy. If you don’t and include the cost of administering the benefits that the state itself provides we are top of the European league table. You also have to consider what actual costs in the country are and how they vary, thus, what welfare needs to cover. For example, childcare in the UK is very expensive.

      ‘the majority… choose to live that way.’
      I’m assuming you mean not working, so on JSA. I can’t find any recent stats on this. But the proportion of ‘welfare’ that goes to the jobless is tiny, in the overall spend and I don’t think anyone would regard £72.40 – the maximum JSA for someone aged 25 or over – as luxurious. In fact, most people could not live on that – hence the other benefits that have to be individually claimed which are capped (£500 per couple per week, £350 single person). Turning to housing benefit, 93% of people newly claiming this in the past two years were working, which suggests the taxpayer is subsidising lowly paid work, ie, profit-making companies, not ‘welfare’ per se.

      There are always scroungers – you seem to have come across more than your fair share. Perhaps you’re just unlucky. Or drawn to the dark side!! My own experience in genuinely poor parts of Liverpool is very different.

      ‘namby pamby do-gooders have redefined what poverty is’
      What is poverty? A difficult question in the affluent west. Yes, it sounds as if a car is a luxury – but what about that security guard who can’t get to work without a car? How many buses run to lonely industrial estates (or some poor residential areas – I’ve seen this in Bristol and Liverpool) in the middle of the night, or even in the day?
      My mobile phone’s 12 years old – I’m under pressure to upgrade not because I need it (I’m freelance, work by a landline) but because I’m locked out of an increasing number of simple everyday things. Is it essential to life to have one? No, but it’s arguably essential to living a full life in the type of society we have. OK, so not an iPhone, I’m with you on that! It’s a very complicated subject – I don’t think I can say much more without writing a fully fledged paper!

      ‘growing vegetables is hard work … the majority simply can’t be bothered putting in the effort …’
      Set aside wilful layabouts – they are the minority. You cannot apply what works in your life to other people – people who have no idea how to cook, who wouldn’t have a clue how to grow a vegetable. Your wife isn’t in employment, if I read you correctly, so she has time to forage, garden, cook. Doing two jobs means a woman may have barely enough time to cook fresh food between coming in and going out, let alone tending a garden. And younger people often lack the basic skills for cooking let alone horticulture that people my age learned at school if not at home.

      We all have different abilities and skills. We all make our choices and some will always be bad.

      By the way, the pizza couple was late middle-aged I would say. Dressed warmly – not fancy, not scruffy. I have a feeling it was a possible treat for a youngster – but I can’t say. And I’m sorry, but if they can afford it, why not have a bad-for-them treat?

      Taxes.
      This is where I strongly disagree with you! I have paid taxes all my life too. I’ve paid rates from an overall 33% when very young to 40% when working in a stressful job I left a while ago. Now there’s an allowance of approx £9.5k tax free. Then 20% on the rest (£22.5) up to about £32k, then 40% on what’s above that up to £150k. My husband is a higher rate payer too. We have no children, one car. We could gripe about the money we pay in tax that goes to fund the education of children, to fund child benefits for those who choose to have three, four or five children, to pay for roads for those who have several cars – but we don’t. We’ve placed very little burden, so far, on the NHS but are happy to pay what we do – or more – to improve it. We have seen the American system at close quarters and do not want to see the market run healthcare here. Our council tax bill is high but we accept it despite the fact that we live in an area where most properties are inhabited by at least four people and thus place a bigger burden on the local services. We believe we have to pay if we want a society that cares for all its members.

      Finally, when I talked about cuts, I was talking about the overall austerity plan (which stopped the growth that was already happening in 2010 in its tracks). That includes cuts – huge cuts – to the spending of some councils.

      Our local council budget has been cut by around 40% . It’s noticeable. We live on the border between two semi-urban villages. There was a library in each (well used by the large elderly and very young populations) and each has been shut down and boarded up. There was a police station in one, it has been shut. Across the whole council area there are only two police stations open to the public. Social care has been cut back. Some people are experiencing genuine food poverty.

      At a time when borrowing is so cheap surely it makes sense to take balancing the books more slowly instead of clamping down on benefits that are a very small element of the problem and affect the poorest most? Even so, there are ‘luxuries’ that could be cut – I’d rather see winter fuel payments for the elderly means-tested, for example, so the wealthy don’t get them – a fairer ‘cut’ than the bedroom tax, for example. Mostly, though, I’d rather see the rich and the big corporations paying their fair share of taxes.

      Enough! Shutting up now….
      Here’s a couple more articles that are interesting and informative rather than biased!

      Spending is going up not down
      http://www.fundweb.co.uk/fund-strategy/the-polemic/the-myth-of-spending-cuts/2016289.article?cmpid=fsissue&741432

      Productivity not austerity is the problem …
      http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/dec/14/deficit-problem-crisis-productivity-george-osborne

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  4. mud4fun says:

    Hi Mary,

    My comment was actually in response to the pizza incident which forms the title of your post and in which you imply (whether you meant it or not) that the couple could not afford the pizza because of drastic spending cuts.

    I have not based my views on what is printed in the press and never will. You can google facts and figures all day long and you will get different results for the supposedly exact same financial calculation.

    My job often involves running reports down vast databases to generate stats for managers. I could run the same basic query for two different managers and give them two vastly differing results because of the way they worded their request and the criteria they chose to give me (or forgot to give me). For example I have been asked (often incorrectly) for reports for total annual invoice value, total turnover and total revenue. To most people they equate to the same thing however when writing a query the total invoice value is a total of all the invoice records not including the credits as they are a separate entity and were not specified. Turnover is a published figure for the total invoice value less the credits whereas the revenue is the total payment record value which is vastly different again because it excludes invoices for accounts that are terminated where payment can not be achieved. These figures can vary by millions for my company. Obviously I have simplified them above but the actual queries have dozens of criteria and join the data from dozens of sources which is what it is critical that people are clear on what they are looking at and compare apples with apples.

    Because of this I take a very dim view of anybody quoting ‘facts’ based on reported data to dispel genuine concerns from peoples actual first hand experience. This is all too common from politicians and academics and all too often results in bad feeling and anger. The implication being that peoples real world experience is either a lie, an exageration or an anomoly whereas the printed data must be fact. In my experience the printed data is often a lie. It is all too easy to massage figures and the UK government is as guilty of this as any other government. I believe we have recently been fined by the EU for fiddling our GDP figures downward to avoid paying as much contribution? We excluded income categories that we should have been including since 2002?

    It is just about impossible to compare welfare spending from one country to the next, even the politicans in the UK can’t give you a precise figure for average welfare spend per capita etc, in part because the definition is vague but also because they have spent years hiding the figures in a multitude of places over multiple department spending that I do not believe any report that compares one country to the next can be valid.

    To get as close as possible to an ‘apples to apples’ comparison you need to compare a ‘whole life package’ from one country to the next which would include hundreds of parameters such as:

    1) Housing subsidy
    2) Direct benefit payments
    3) Healthcare subsidy
    4) Childcare subsidy
    5) Additional benefits such as carer allowances, free school meals etc, etc
    6) Education subsidy
    7) Tax credits
    8) Pensions

    I have spoken in quite some detail about these with many people from around the world and without exception the UK comes out on top for the best package of benefits. Sadly this great package of benefits is paid for by the taxpayer and the burden is now far too high. However that is not to say that the package itself is wrong, far form it. The problem is that the package is being given to people who should not be receiving it and thus the overall cost to the taxpayer is many times what is acceptable.

    Many of the mothers I know or have known who have been taking benefits in one from or another have gained additional income from having their children labelled with some disorder such as ADHD. If you speak to most experts they hold the view that this condition is now more synonymous with ‘Absent Parental Discipline’ because it is all too often used by single mothers to gain carers allowances for their own children when the child has poor attention from being allowed to stay up to all hours, eat unhealthy food and have no discipline. EVERY girl/women I’ve been out with who has been on benefits and has children has applied for or has been receiving this payment. However I don’t believe it comes out of the governments welfare budget? I seem to recall reading it comes from the health budget?

    In other cases there are single mothers living in subsidised housing with subisidised rents, subsidised council tax, taking carer allowances and every other benefit going such as free school meals (yes I know they are all now free but that was only a recent change) and these girls are going out with guys on 50K+ salaries who pay for their food, mobile phones etc. They milk the system by only having their boyfriends over for a few nights and the boyfriend keeps his own place, they are not married and in theory they are not breaking the rules. However in my opinion this is still fraud. My ‘wife’ and I are not married, she has no income and because until recently I worked away from home a few days a week my wife could easily have claimed many benefits including child allowance. However we are honest people and have high moral standards so we informed the authorites the minute we got together and she lost all her benefits including child allowance. She works part time in a school and does many hours a week voluntary work. She can’t work full time as we don’t qualify for help with childcare whereas those girls defrauding the system qualify for thousands of pounds a year in childcare. I have tried reporting all such instance but the agencies involved are not interested or put so many obstacles in your way that it makes it impossible to report them. The classic was ‘Have you asked your neighbour if she is defrauding the system? if not then we can’t proceed ‘ and no I’m not joking!

    My first hand experience includes members of my own family, close friends, girlfriends, their families and neighbours. It covers people from all backgrounds and all walks of life. I’m not talking about one particular benefit but rather the whole package, the result of which is that a significant group of people can live a very nice life entirely on that benefit package. I am not alone in my concerns either and it is naive to think that my experience is in the minority. I suggest that the majority (of taxpayers) have this view but most are afraid to voice their concerns for fear of causing upset.

    I will not change my view until I see hard first hand evidence that the benefit leeches are no longer operating.

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    • Hi Ian, all read and understood, thank you. I’m sad to see you feel this way, but we will just have to agree to differ. I’m not denying your experiences are real, nor that many people have similar. We have different experiences – and I could tell you about all the mums I know who don’t claim anything – who work long, lowly paid hours and rely heavily on friends and family – but that’s my experience and won’t make any difference. Where we do agree is on the manipulation of data, as I said, lies, damned lies and statistics. I have also commissioned a lot of research and the same applies – carefully framed research can tell you whatever you want it to tell you. There are many ways in which I know that public finances could be spent more effectively. I know if I were to go in and manage almost any function it would be done for less money. In one of my more stressful jobs I reduced a budget I inherited from nearly £2 million to a few hundred thousand and did more with it… Ah, those were the days (of stress and in-fighting).
      Leeches will always exist, always have. I’d rather the safety net was too strong than too weak, I guess. Now, how about popping over to my other blog site ‘well met, stranger’ and reading about the Magic Man to divert your mind from this stuff! It really is a true story and a glimpse at a happier side to human behaviour 🙂

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    • Oops and sorry, I did refer to your ‘wife’, I knew of course… Distracted. 😦

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      • mud4fun says:

        That is OK, I call her my wife too 🙂

        After 13 years together and with us both in our late 40’s it sounds silly to call her my girlfriend.

        Will definately agree to differ, anyway if we all had the same views in life it would be very boring.

        Got to dash back to work, used up all my free time this week replying to your comment! I will have a read of your other blog next week when I get some free time. Worked almost 24 hours a day Friday till Tuesday so I’m exhausted, looking forward to a day off at Christmas.

        If we don’t speak before, have a lovely Christmas and New Year.

        Ian

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        • And a Happy Christmas to you too! I bet you’ll be having a delicious meal. We can’t decide between pheasant and beef…
          Hope that 2015 sees your workload becoming more manageable,
          All the best, Mary

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  5. mud4fun says:

    “We can’t decide between pheasant and beef…”

    We are having pheasant (as we always do) but also have a small turkey breast and some quail to roast up too. 🙂

    Did I tell you that we have solved the roast potato issue? For the last few months we have been using ‘Britannia Finest Beef Dripping’ we found in Tesco, big block for about £1’ish and EVERY set of potatoes we’ve roasted, regardless of variety (king edward mostly though), have turned out super crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, remain crunchy even when removed from the oven and have the lovely taste that I remember from childhood. We are delighted. No need to pay the silly prices for the ‘As recommended by some chef’ goose fat that you see being sold for £2-3 for a teeny pot! Be warned though that I noticed Tesco coincidentally ‘ran out’ of this cheap beef dripping at the same time as their shelves were loaded with mega expensive goose fat for Christmas I smell a rat!

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    • Beef dripping – you could make chips too! I agree about the rip-off goose fat. I bete even lard would work.
      I like quail – had a good recipe for it stuffed with rice. We can’t ever have turkey again though – my husband endured a very short spell of turkey plucking when we lived in Dorset and were strapped for cash – the smell of him when he got in – eeeurgh. The farm was not adhering to proper standards – won’t say any more as it’s disgusting – and when he decided not to carry on working they refused to pay him. The smell of turkey now turns his stomach. Then he went to work in a factory rolling scotch eggs and they had to wear white wellies – he has size 12 feet and the only pair they had to give him was size 10. Those were the days! All that apart, Dorset was lovely, the nearest thing to the north down south!
      Enjoy the meal, sound great.

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