Belfast Telegraph

Don't worry Bob, you'll be fine for the custard creams

Bob Diamond has given up his bonus. He has, said Marcus Agius, who resigned as chairman of Barclays 11 days ago, and then reappointed himself one day later, waved away more than £20m.

But he will still walk away from the bank he said he loved with more than £2m. You can buy a lot of custard creams for £2m.

You can, in fact, live a 'decent life', according to a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, even without a £20m bonus. If Bob is worried about how to make ends meet, he should read it.

If he doesn't really want to travel on public transport, he'll learn that a second-hand hatchback will, once he's paid his tax, insurance and MOT, cost him £59.55-a-week.

If he's worried about how he's going to be able to afford to go on holiday, he could find out about self-catering caravans at a family resort. He will still, he'll learn, be able to buy presents for his family on their birthdays, just as long as he doesn't spend more than £15 on each. He can even go out for the odd meal.

He could, according to the report, do all of this on £36,800, if he was married with children, or on £23,900 if he was a single mother, or on £16,400 if he was single.

If Bob thinks this all sounds rather modest, he should speak to the people who helped to write the report. These people, in '21 detailed focus groups' and from 'a range of social backgrounds', decided to look at the things they thought people needed to have an 'acceptable' standard of living.

And they thought that, even after a financial meltdown, there were certain things that most families were right to feel they had to have. The trouble is that the cost of having these things hasn't fallen, but incomes have.

Bob doesn't seem too keen on politicians, but he might want to listen to one he would, in a select committee, call Nick.

This Nick (a Tory called Boles, not a Lib Dem called Clegg) said in a speech to a think-tank that "politicians of all parties have barely begun to wrestle with the implications of stagnation in living standards, or confront the agonising choices that we will be forced to make in decades to come".

If orange juice and a few vegetables are what you need for an 'acceptable' diet, it's not really going to help anyone if you give people benefits at a level where the only things they can afford to eat make them ill and fat.

Nick Boles thinks state spending should be linked to 'productivity'. He thinks you should only spend money if it will make people more competitive, which is bad luck if you're too old, or ill, to work. He also thinks that giving free TV licences and bus passes to pensioners whose standard of living is well above the 'decent' level isn't the best use of taxes.

A few custard creams and a second-hand car doesn't seem all that much for a working family to ask. If this is our biggest problem, we need our biggest brains to address it. People who understand the modern market.

People, for example, who might want to think about giving more than a bonus back.

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