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I have just discovered an organisation that aims these courses at those who need them most – the managers. They aren’t about teaching staff to be able to add or spell, but about enabling them to manage their work more effectively and productively.
I used to despair of managers who were technically great, but terrible managers. It now seems that help is to hand. Based in the Midlands, Skills For Business is offering partly funded courses.
And if you say that you read about it here, they might even send you some chocolate!
One of the oldest concepts in international economics is the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP). PPP argues that, in the long run, exchange rates should move towards levels that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services in any two countries.
The Economist uses just one item: the Big Mac.
If a Big Mac costs £2.50 in the UK, at today’s exchange rate (£1 = $1.46677), a Big Mac in the US should cost $3.67.
If it costs more than $3.67 then the PPP concept suggests that the pound is overvalued (or the dollar is undervalued). The consequence of this is that, all things being equal, either the pound will go up, or the dollar will fall.
Too simple? Possibly, but as a measurement of exchange rates, Big Maconomics has endured.
Sometimes I think we make life too complicated and not enough fun.
Much is being said in the media these days about what economic recovery will look like. I suspect that life is too complicated to find generalised answers to this question, and that we are better looking at more specific areas.
One measurement of economic output I was told about many years ago was the “crane count”.
Very simply, how many cranes can you see on the skyline of your city?
Each crane represents an army of workers delivering a building project. Each one represents confidence in investment. There is no such thing (unless I’m much mistaken) as an idle crane.
How many cranes can you count, and are there more, less or about the same as this time last year?
Having looked at the numerous summaries of the budget, I am left feeling somewhat bemused.
The media has led us to expect a significant budget, responding to extraordinary economic circumstances. Having run the “what this means to you” calculator a couple of times I can’t see any dramatic change to my personal, or business, circumstances.
Perhaps the message is that the chancellor hasn’t got a wand to fix the problem. In fact, perhaps the problem is not tangible enough to fix. I have suspected that a good proportion of our current and future woes are self perpetuated, by the “ever ready to tell a bad story approach” of the media, and by our own insecurities.
If there is a way out of the hole we are in, perhaps the message is that it’s up to each of us to grasp opportunities as they come, and take control of our own destiny.
With thanks to Martins Money Tips (www.moneysavingexpert.com) , welcome to the new tax year, here is a brief summary of thehighlights (last year’s figures are in brackets).
Personal allowance UP! Every man, woman and child can now earn £6,475 (£6,035) before paying income tax. For those aged 65-74, it’s £9,490 (£9,030), and for over-75s, £9,640 (£9,180).
Basic rate tax threshold UP. You now pay 20% tax on the first £37,400 (£34,800) over the personal allowance, meaning under 65s hit the higher 40% rate at £43,875 (£40,835).
National insurance start point UP. You now need to earn £110 per week (£105), before paying for NI, usually 11%.
State pension UP. It’s £95.25 (£90.70) a week for a single person.
Pension credit UP. The minimum guaranteed income’s now £130 for single pensioners (£124.05), and £198.45 for couples (£189.35).
New Health in Pregnancy Grant. All pregnant women will get a non-means-tested £190 in their 25th week.
Inheritance tax threshold UP. You can leave £325,000 (£312,000) tax-free.
And the not so good:
Fiscal drag. This isn’t Alistair Darling in women’s clothes, it’s when increased allowances aren’t as generous as they seem. If wages and/or inflation increase by more than the allowances, effectively the government gets more tax revenue anyway, and the real value of the increase is less.
National insurance upper earnings UP. You will pay 11% NI on earnings up to £43,888 a year (£40,040) and 1% above that.
ISA limits. No change. Yet again, the amount savable tax-free hasn’t increased with inflation or earnings.
Child Tax Credit family element. No change. Many families get this, and the freeze at £545 is an effective cut. Yet the means-tested element has increased to £2,235.
Remember to take proper advice before making any decisions…