The budget, housing and the ghost of Banquo

So what happened in yesterday’s budget for housing, announced by the wan Philip Hammond, a man with less colour in his complexion than Banquo’s ghost? Quite a few points actually.

1 Help to Buy

Help to Buy was extended for a further 2 years to 2023. It’s a scheme that has got many people into home ownership who would still be renting – so it is commendable, though I think it’s inevitably favoured the new build market and possibly, longer term, may affect resale values for those who didn’t climb on to (or were ineligible for) the Help to Buy wagon.

2 Stamp duty

In my experience, this is the single biggest obstacle to moving and it remains so. When we downsized two years ago, stamp duty was high on the purchase but the buyers of our £410,000 property were hit hard. Stamp duty stops people moving, in my opinion. It’s the biggest cost and that’s why so many estate agents work for say that the property market remains quite stagnant. Unless an estate agent offered to waive stamp duty (and that will never happen) on any property we were interested in, we would be reluctant to move. Pallid Philip abolished it last year for first time buyers for homes worth up to £300,000. Now he’s extended it to shared ownership of 25% to 75% of a home. The new limit is £500,000 which will presumably get a London buyer a garage in Kensington to share or a northern village. I like the idea. I bang on about cars with single occupants and I like the idea of two separate people buying a property and halving the mortgage and bills.

3 The High Street

Rest in peace. The internet and high taxation has murdered the high street. Debenhams paid £80 million in tax last year whilst Amazon paid £14 million. If Toys R Us, Debenhams, M and S, BHS buildings in town and city centres stand empty, there is a valid argument for converting these into homes. They’re in prime locations, often have ample parking attached (in the case of Toys R Us) and will breathe life back into high streets. I remember visiting a friend in Amiens who lived above a business in a flat in the heart of the city and there were no empty buildings, no ghost town feeling, instead ample footfall and a general sense of community. I felt this in Leamington Spa a few weeks ago, but many British towns are depressingly empty and grim. Repopulating them is a good start.

4 More homes

Phil put £500 million in the Housing Infrastructure Fund, used by councils for building homes. There’s something deeply ironic about a government (that legacy under Thatcher) who sold off social housing and created a mini nation of council estate Tory voters and set about emasculating them further with the Multi Academy Trust programme that they are now prodding the same beleaguered councils to build 650,000 new homes and nine housing associations to build 13,000 more. Royston Vasey’s land will benefit too as that and 499 other local communities will be able to allocate land, build and sell to local people for local prices. The cap (snapback?) on councils to borrow money to build council houses is also scrapped.

Ostensibly then, from my perspective, the budget did seem a good one for housing. I still think stamp duty needs seriously addressing for all buyers – if it’s the biggest impediment for me sticking a For Sale board on the lawn and moving, I’m sure it is for others. The town centre idea is a great one in my opinion, as long as planning regulations are maintained. A large out of town commercial units can’t simply be partitioned and people scooped in. Architects need involvement in making these fit for living and sleeping and not just shopping.

Finally, I invite Philip Hammond to get some Vitamin D along with the rest of parliament – they all look like the Walking Dead, presumably because they never get fresh air. Phil, come walk my dog with me, and I promise you won’t end up in a Norfolk ditch with twenty mortal gashes on your head. Don’t bring TM though – her dancing alarms both me and Cassie.

Content marketing strategy – why you should have one

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Get Pro Copy reached a milestone yesterday – it turned 2 years old. I knew when I began planning the business that it would succeed, namely because I love writing and I knew that the idea of providing a decent content marketing strategy for others would work.

To be honest, I never had any doubts about it “having legs” as a concept, but rather than sing “Happy birthday to me” I need to give an explanation of what content marketing is about.

Read moreContent marketing strategy – why you should have one

Dear Apple, I’m quickly posting this in case my iPhone dies

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Clearly I’m not sending this to Jonny Ives. They have more important things to deal with than a letter from some two bit freelance writer, known as Victor Meldrew in the trade, moaning about Apple, iOS 11 and the battery drain.

First world problems indeed.

But I will address this to my small band of readers, who like me, are part of the Apple clan and feel a little pissed off at the moment.

Well I do.

Read moreDear Apple, I’m quickly posting this in case my iPhone dies

Oh CD – you sound so much better than streams

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The Compact Disc is perhaps going the same way as the humble cassette, into musical heaven as a footnote in history, but I believe strongly that the CD should be saved.


To my rather large ears, they sound so much better than streamed playlists from Apple Music or Spotify.

Okay they’re cumbersome and bulky and devour a lot of drawer space and glovebox volume in cars, but aurally, they are superior.

Don’t you agree?

Read moreOh CD – you sound so much better than streams

Stop being a washing machine with your boring blogs

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I remember becoming a father 16 years ago for the first time and eagerly listening to ways to get our new-born son to sleep as we felt like we’d been through a proverbial hundred year war.

Don’t get me wrong, the pregnancy was easy (for me at least) and the delivery quicker than Amazon Prime, but we did not anticipate the fatigue.

Read moreStop being a washing machine with your boring blogs

Freelance writing – I control my business, now.

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I can count life-changing events on two hands: marriage, diagnosis with a food allergy, the birth of my two children, going teetotal and throwing off the shackles of education, through freelance writing.

They’ve all been seismic and I would not like to rank them in order of magnitude.

But as I’m a writer, who engages in freelance writing, in Norfolk as a copywriter, I better talk about this rather than placentas or the end of singleness.

Read moreFreelance writing – I control my business, now.

Is home a state of mind or an actual place?

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When we went back to Staffordshire in late December (oh what a night), it felt, as we drove from Ashbourne, along the A52 to Leek, that we’d arrived at home.

We’d not been there since we relocated north in 2002 and, instead of that general feeling of disappointment one can feel, when you return, we felt delight and elation.

Waterhouses, Cheddleton, Leek felt like a homecoming.

Leek has just been feted as one of the best places to live in Britain and we could see why two months ago.


Read moreIs home a state of mind or an actual place?

Eating gluten in early childhood

I was lucky enough to go through a four tier education phase: first school, juniors, middle and high.

First school saw me walking there daily with my mum – cars were for the privileged few and no one was driven to school as one parent (mainly mums) didn’t work.

Quite quaint really when I compare it to the torturous school runs of today and the impact school holidays have on reducing commuter traffic.

Read moreEating gluten in early childhood

The loneliness of the long distance writer.

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Despite having enough work to occupy me freelance, I quite fancy leaving the house once or twice a week.

Not just to shop, not just to meet clients, not just to exercise (those demons) at the gym, but to mix, mingle, and be merry amongst a workforce.

You see, like Alan Sillitoe’s Smith, I need, at times, to get out and do something long distance.

Read moreThe loneliness of the long distance writer.

Email Copywriting, how to get success for business

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I don’t know about you but I’m inundated daily by emails, with many examples of woeful email copywriting.

Inundated with emails offering 50 free spins, a free £10 spreadbet, £50 if I open an online poker account – and I don’t even gamble – except in Spring, accompanied by lambs, obviously.

Read moreEmail Copywriting, how to get success for business

26 reasons why you should pay a writer.

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Free writer doesn’t mean free from payment.

In this expansive publication, I thought I’d address – at great length – whether writers, document writers, article writers, should write for free.

It’s handily labelled A to Z with some decent (and some not so decent) attempts to subtitle like an acrostic poem.

X was tricky – so I cheated on point 24!

Z flummoxed me too but I went for a leading word of Zebra – seemed a good idea at the time!

Read on!

Read more26 reasons why you should pay a writer.