Plenty of good news in the budget
The budget offered plenty of good news and encouragement for people and businesses in Devon and Cornwall.
The economy is in a healthy position, with growth for 2019 revised upwards, employment set to increase by 800,000 by 2023 and wages to rise above inflation in each of the next five years.
This vindicates the government’s balanced approach to the economy and means we are in a strong position to boost our vital public services and help people immediately with the cost of living.
The NHS is getting an extra £20.5billion in real terms by 2023/24, to include a significant boost for mental health, while councils will receive an additional £1bn towards social care and potholes, among other things.
Perhaps the most striking announcement was the decision to cut income tax a year early, in spring 2019, enabling millions of people to keep more of what they earn.
I was also pleased to see the increase in the National Living Wage, the freezing of fuel duty and the additional £1.7billion a year to help working families on
Another stand-out was the decision to cut business rates by a third for retailers with a rateable value under £51,000.
With the economy recovering after Labour’s mismanagement before 2010, it’s important we avoid t Jeremy Corbyn taking us back to square one by raising taxes to the highest level in peacetime history and sending debt soaring. This November 5, remember, please remember that for cats and dogs, Bonfire Night might seem more like The War of the Worlds than a traditional celebration. Noisy fireworks displays are often frightening to animals.
People should make sure their animals stay safe and comfortable at home.
When startled, dogs can panic and try to flee. They may jump over fences, and some have even been known to jump through plate-glass windows to get away from the terrifying sounds. Many cats, dogs and other animals are taken to animal shelters with bloody paws and torn skin from running and breaking through wooden fences.
Lucky animals are reunited with their families, but others are never found. To avoid such upset, make sure you stay inside with your companion animals. Close windows and curtains to help muffle the noise of the fireworks, and turn on the TV or a radio to help drown out the sound. Make sure that your animal companion is wearing a collar or harness with an up-to-date identification tag – just in case.
Don’t forget about wild animals, too, especially hedgehogs, which often seek out warm nests for their winter hibernation – which could include your leafy bonfire pile. Before lighting any fires, please check for these small prickly friends. Heavy lorries are causing an enormous amount of damage to our roads. So, why not give A&P Appledore an order for a fleet of coasters?
Reintroduce active coastal traffic around our islands and European waters.
Remove large lorries from our roads and transport the goods by sea as we used to do.
This would open up a Merchant Navy fleet again and reinvigorate our ports. Navigation schools would train young people in a worthwhile career. You’ve got to feel sorry for poor old Neil Carter. It’s only a few weeks since he took over as general manager up at “pig city”, Justin Elliott’s intensive animal operation at Berrow Farm. And already he’s off sick with back trouble.
His deputy Hannah Riley, who’s in a house-share with Tom Archer, reckons they’re getting on better over there when the boss isn’t around. So as Neil sits at home, with his back propped up with cushions, is he thinking, I wonder, that he might have made the biggest mistake of his life?
It’s a shame because he’s a top man is Neil. Ask anyone in Ambridge. Family man, captain of bells, chair of the parish council, he’s got “community” running through him like letters in a stick of rock.
Outside the family his biggest love is his pigs, no question about that. They have been ever since he went to work as pigman for Phil Archer over at Hollowtree, where Toby Fairbrother now makes his gin.
For the last 20 years or so he’s had his own small herd of breeding Saddleback sows, his pride and joy. He kept them in arks on the few acres he owns near Ambridge View, the house he and Susan built. So that’s where you’d see him most of the time – with his pigs. Winter and summer, fair weather or foul. Feeding and strawing them down in the morning, tucking them in at night.
Neil and his sows were as much a part of the
Ambridge scene as Lynda and her llamas and Joe on his pony and trap. So it came as a surprise to a lot of us when, at the age of nearly 61, he announced that he was getting rid of his pigs and going to work for Justin’s intensive, high-tech unit.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not questioning Neil’s knowledge and skills as a pig keeper. No one knows more about the animal than he does. And it’s not based on theoretical facts from a text book. It’s a deep understanding that comes from caring for them as individuals in a hands-on way.
When I heard he was going to be on the move I thought I’d take a look at one of these modern intensive units. It was a very slick operation. Where I went they were turning out 50,000 baconers a year. With numbers like you have to rely on automation. There’s no chance for the staff to get to know the animals as individuals.
The place was run by a young animal science graduate in her mid twenties. She spent much of her day reading stats on average pig grow rates and the efficiency with which they were converting their food into meat. When she wasn’t checking the data she was reading online veterinary reports.
All very impressive but hardly the place for our Neil with his touchy-feely, handson approach. So while it may be just a touch of back trouble at the moment, I’ve got a nasty feeling it’s not going to end well for him at pig city.
So I’d like to offer him a piece of friendly advice.
Here in Britain about half of our pig meat comes from indoor units like Justin’s, but the other half comes from pigs running around in the clean, fresh air. And in my view that’s where Neil ought to go if things go belly up at Berrow Farm.
He could do no better than find a set-up like Pipers Farm, near Cullompton. I met some of the team from Pipers at a country fair in Oxfordshire last summer. They run a wonderful mixed farm amid the rolling Devon hills. The fields are small with pastures containing deep-rooting herbs and oldfashioned grasses. Wide, 400year-old hedgerows provide fantastic corridors for wildlife.
The pigs, reared for them on a local family farm, are a cross between the Wessex Saddleback and the traditional Welsh breed. They’re old-fashioned pink pigs with blue patches and “lop” ears over their eyes. Once weaned they live outside in family groups, ranging freely, digging for roots and wallowing in the mud. In other words living truly piggy lives.
If Neil can find a place like that in Borsetshire I frankly feel he’ll be a lot happier than at Justin Elliott’s agri-business setup. And to cheer him up while he’s laid up I might even send him a pack of the best Westcountry, free-range bacon. No doubt Susan will be happy to cook him a couple of decent breakfasts until he’s back on his feet again.
Keep pets safe on bonfire night Transport goods by coasters not lorries
Neil Carter could do no better than find a set-up like Pipers Farm, near Cullompton