All entries for Thursday 22 March 2007

March 22, 2007

Gordon Brown's Budget. And some cheese.

Gordon and Cheese

A 2p TAX CUT!!! And the scrapping of the lower rate of income tax to cancel it out.

A BETTER DEAL FOR BUSINESSES!!! And an increase in corporation tax for small businesses.

AN INCREASE IN CHILD TAX CREDITS!!! And a change in the threshold so that you’ll get less.

A TAX CUTTING BUDGET!!! And firm promises that taxes will actually go up in future years.

CASH BORROWING IS DOWN!!! Except for last year, but I won’t mention that.

THE LOWEST INCOME TAX RATES IN DECADES!!! And the highest stealth taxes ever, to make up for it.

A BUDGET THAT LOOKS TO THE FUTURE!!! Ah… yes, he got that bit right. Half of the measures he introduced won’t actually start until next April. Howzat for the next Chancellor, eh?


Warnings before the smoking ban

It’s nearly a year since smoking was banned in Scottish pubs, and warnings from the landlords should be listened to south of the border.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association said pubs had suffered “collateral damage” from the smoking ban, and had been forgotten in the wrangling between tobacco companies and the Executive.

Drink sales had fallen 11% and food sales – expected to rise by some – had also fallen, by 3%. Only around 530 pubs responded to the survey by the SLTA, but the lack of help made available to small businesses rings true with the situation in Wales and England, where smoking will be banned in April and July respectively.

In Wales, small businesses have been screaming for help, but the only visible signs have been leaflets informing landlords and business owners of their duties once the ban comes in. The Scottish experience seems to suggest that local councils haven’t been sympathetic to planning applications for outside amenities for smokers.

Some good news comes from the survey though. Services which help people quit smoking had seen a big increase in the number of calls from the public, suggesting the ban might trigger some people to quit.


An Embarrassment of Riches

The Riches

Take a troubled family of Irish travellers, kill two innocent rich people, and you’ve got a TV show that looks like being the intelligent Desperate Housewives, but with more endearing characters and greater potential for plot development.

The Riches is a new show on the U.S. network FX, and stars Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard – who also acts as Exec Producer and writer on the show. The two Brits may not seem the obvious choice for their roles – nor indeed the perfect on-screen couple – but from the evidence of the pilot, they really work.

The story begins with Izzard and three children travelling to pick up Driver, mum of the ‘household’, from prison, where she’s been doing two years for crimes yet to be revealed. Inside she’s picked up some atrocious braided hair and a nasty drug habit. And they’ve been running the family business, which might be described as “back-pocket cash repository retrieval”.

They travel back to their community where the self-appointed ‘leader’ of the clan wants Izzard’s daughter to marry his son and Izzard to be his bitch. It’s a neat way of forcing the family out of the community and out onto the road. Izzard steals the community’s cash and a chase – of sorts – ensues. This results in a car accident that has far-reaching consequences for the family, who for reasons that become obvious near the end of the episode, become The Riches.

Izzard is, thankfully, brilliant, and the show feels very much his own. His contribution to the writing of the show helps, as he inserts dollops of the comic insanity present in his stand-up shows. Driver, too, is a far more mature actress than the annoying, stiff Brit she was in Good Will Hunting.

I forced two of my housemates to watch the first episode with me, and after their initial reluctance they were won over by its “unpredictability” and “convincing performances”. Izzard’s accent slips occasionally, although from a Brit’s perspective this doesn’t bother me very much.

There’s real potential for this to be a great TV show. I hope the series can live up to its witty and warm pilot.


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