Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Budget 2009. What Does It Mean To Us?

Another highly anticipated Budget comes and goes, so what are the key points in this one?

The Chancellor used the Budget speech to cut his growth forecasts. The economy is now expected to contract by 3.5% this year, but grow 1.25% in 2010. If he's correct, this would mean growth starting towards the end of this year
  • Public sector net borrowing will be £175bn this year, 12.4% of GDP. From 2010, it will be £173bn (11.9% of GDP), then £140bn (9.1%), £118 bn (7.2%) and £97n (5.5%).
  • National debt as a percentage of GDP, including the cost of stabilising the banking system, will increase from 59% this year to 68%. It will rise to close to 80% by 2013/14 - twice the level Labour inherited in 1997. The Chancellor expects underlying current budget deficit to come back into balance two years later. RPI inflation is forecast to remain negative, falling to minus 3% by September, before moving back above zero next year. Inflation is expected to continue falling sharply, reaching 1% by the end of this year. The Bank of England inflation target remains unchanged at 2%.
  • The UK's current deficit is expected to halve within four years

So that's all the numbers out of the way. How does this affect most of us?

Personal taxation

The following changes have been announced which will come into effect from April 2010:

  • an additional Income Tax rate of 50 per cent will apply to people earning over £150,000
  • the income tax personal allowance will be reduced for those with incomes over £100,000

Pensions and Savings

The Budget announced the following changes to pensions:

An increase of £100 to over-80s households and £50 to over-60s households in 2009/10, alongside their Winter Fuel Payment.

Tax relief on pensions contributions will be reduced for those earning £150,000 and over

The overall annual investment limit for ISAs rises to £10,200 of which £5,100 can be saved in cash.

These higher limits will be available to over-50s from 6 October 2009 and to everyone from 6 April 2010.

Housing and Homeowners

The Stamp Duty land tax threshold on residential properties costing £175,000 or less will be extended until 31 December 2009.

As a result of this 'holiday', some 60% of UK homes are currently exempt from Stamp Duty.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is being reformed - households will no longer be able to keep any surplus LHA if it is higher than their rent.

Budget 2009 announced a £600 million fund to kick-start housebuilding, with the aim of delivering an additional 10,000 homes in England over the next two years.

This package includes £100 million for local authorities to build new social housing at higher energy efficient standards. The current economic climate continues to have a significant impact on housing supply. Additional, short-term, spending during the downturn is planned to stimulate housing development as well as boost the capacity of the house building industry in the long-term.

Motoring and Transport

The Government has announced a temporary vehicle scrappage scheme - it offers consumers a £2,000 discount when buying a new vehicle to replace a vehicle more than 10 years old, provided they have owned the vehicle for at least a year.

Budget 2009 confirmed the fuel duty increase announced in the 2008 Pre-Budget report, and further increases from 2010 to 2013.

Alcohol and Tobacco

Alcohol duty rates increase from 23 April 2009. The duty will increase by 2 per cent, adding one penny to the price of a pint of beer, 13 pence to the price of a bottle of spirits and four pence to the price of a bottle of wine.

Duty on tobacco will increase by 2 per cent from 22 April 2009.

Employment and Training

The Budget announced that 18 to 24 year olds who have been unemployed for 12 months will be guaranteed a job, training or a work placement.

An extra 54,500 places will be created in the next academic year for 16 and 17 year olds who wish to take them up.

Other Changes

  • Statutory Redundancy Pay is to increase from £350 to £380 a week.
  • Help is to be extended to allow loss making companies to reclaim taxes on profits made in the last 3 years to November 2010.
  • Businesses main Capital Allowances Rate has been doubled to 40%, giving enhanced tax relief for capital expenditure of up to £50bn this year.
  • The intention is to raise £1bn of extra revenue, by closing a number of tax loopholes and schemes.
  • From April next year, the child element of Child Tax Credit will increase by £20.
  • Pensioners' Winter Fuel Allowance is to be kept at the higher level of £250 for over 60-s, and £400 for over 80-s for another year.

For a link to the full Budget report, click on the heading of this feature, or you can check out a pdf of it from the 1st Addition web site.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

G20 Summit Agrees Trillion Dollar Boost To World Economy

The G20 countries are to make available an additional one trillion dollars through the International Monetary Fund to boost the world economy, Gordon Brown has said today.

In a news conference to mark the end of the London summit, the Prime Minister said the funding formed part of a package that would shorten the recession and save jobs.
Other measures included action to "clean up" the banks - with new rules on pay and bonuses - and measures to tackle tax havens.

"We believe that global problems require global solutions," he said.

Mr Brown said the leaders agreed a "new consensus" to do what was necessary to restore growth and jobs and to rebuild confidence and trust in the financial system.

"This is the day that the world came together to fight back against the global recession, not with words but with a plan for global recovery and reform," he said.

Mr Brown said new rules on pay and bonuses "at a global level" that reflected actual performance not failure would "encourage corporate responsibility in every part of the world".

A new "financial stability board" would "ensure co-operation across frontiers and to stop risk to the economy" and provide an early-warning mechanism, he said. For the first time, there would be a "common global approach to how we deal with impaired, or toxic, assets".

The "unprecedented fiscal expansion" already under way would mean a five trillion dollar injection by the middle of next year, he said, helping save or create millions of jobs.

Central banks had agreed to "maintain expansionary policies as long as they are needed using the full range of options available to them". But there would also be an additional one trillion dollars "made available to the world economy through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other institutions".

How Feng Shui Is Your Office?

Feng shui? So what’s that all about then? Isn’t it just a load of foreign mumbo jumbo?

Well, actually, no!

Whilst it is understandable that many of us might be a little sceptical that tying three coins together with red ribbon (let’s face it, not that easy with UK currency, anyway) and placing them in the back of your accounts book, will bring you good luck, there are a lot of basic, common sense principles that many of us simply ignore in both our domestic and working environments.

The overriding purpose of feng shui is to create an environment where, through a variety of components, we are able to maximise our physical and mental wellbeing. Let's face it, we could all do with a bit of that.

We’ve all walked into a room and felt uncomfortable, and, likewise, there are places we go where we feel totally relaxed and ‘at home’. Feng shui is the 'science' that explains why this happens.

Basically, it’s all about balance. Most of us have heard of the yin and the yang, the concept of positive and negative energies, conflicting with each other to obtain dominance. Sounds like we’re heading back to mumbo jumbo land, BUT we can apply this to any real world situation.

For example, imagine a slow moving yin river, when it hits rocks, it drops, speeds up, and creates turbulence. It is now yang. As it reaches a lake, it becomes yin again. A boat travelling on this river will be at its optimum speed when the energies are balanced. Too much yang, and it could be damaged by the currents. Too much yin, and much more work is needed to paddle it.

So what about our own working environment? What can we do about that?

It’s all about creating a balanced and harmonious environment. Common sense really, but we experience our environment through our five senses, so we need to make sure they’re all accounted for.

Some of the key factors we need to think about are:


Lighting will play a key part in how we feel. Our bodies are in tune with the sun and its natural cycles. Just ask anyone who suffers with SAD (Seasonal Effective Disorder) caused by changes in lighting conditions in the winter months.

Natural light is important, and we should position our furniture and arrange our activities to make the most of it.

Ordinary bulbs produce light which is towards the red end of the spectrum, with little blue or green light. Fluorescent light is the opposite. It emits higher electromagnetic fields, and its flicker can cause headaches

Colours will also play an important part in how we feel too:

White represents a clean canvas, and black symbolises a clean slate. Both provide a base on which we can create a picture, from the main colours below:

RED: Red is stimulating and dominant. It reduces the size of a room, and increases the size of objects. It is associated with warmth, prosperity and stimulation, but also with anger, shame and hatred.

YELLOW: Yellow is associated with enlightenment and intellect. It stimulates the brain and aids digestion. Its positive qualities are optimism, reason and decisiveness, whilst its negatives are craftiness, exaggeration and rigidity.

GREEN: Green symbolises growth, fertility and harmony. It is restful and refreshing. Its positive associations are optimism, freedom and balance, and its negative ones are envy and deceit.

BLUE: Blue is peaceful and soothing and is linked with spirituality, contemplation, mystery and patience. It’s positive associations are trust, faithfulness and stability. Negatives are suspicion and melancholia.

PURPLE: Encouraging vitality, purple is impressive, dignified and spiritual. Positive associations are excitement, passion and motivation, negatives are mournfulness and force. Can’t quite see it in our office somehow!

ORANGE: A powerful and cheerful colour, orange encourages communication. Its positive qualities are happiness, concentration and intellect, and its negative is rebelliousness.

BROWN: Brown suggest stability and weight (good one for me then). Its positives are safety and elegance, while its negatives are dinginess, depression and aging. Good for studies / offices, but not for bedrooms.


Pleasant sounds, in the right place, at the right time can really add to the ambiance. Wind chimes, water features, etc or even a little background music can make a real difference to our mood.


We all know that smells can influence the way we feel about a place. Who hasn’t popped on a pot of coffee or wafted some fresh baked bread around when trying to sell a house? At 1st Addition’s offices, we always have scented oils and air fresheners in the office (even when none of us have had a curry the night before. That’s how feng shui we are)!


We are becoming increasingly aware of the negative effects of electromagnetic radiation on the human body. The effects of exposure to ionising radiation in X rays and ultraviolet rays in sunlight are well known. Also, the low frequency radiation which surrounds power lines has been linked to childhood illnesses

Despite our awareness of the effects of radiation, we are so dependent on the equipment that produces it, that we are unwilling, or unable, to live without it. We should, therefore, take precautions, where possible:

+ Laptop computers should never actually be used on our laps.

+ Mobile phones should be used as little as possible

+ Screen filters should be fitted to all unfiltered VDUs

+ It helps if we can sit as far away as possible from the computer, when not actually using it.

+ For those of us that use a microwave in the office, we should keep as far away from it as practical whilst it is on. Microwave ovens have been found to emit low frequency radiation far in excess of that known to cause lymphatic cancer in children.


Clutter is a state of mind, not just the state of our physical environment. It can be all the things we haven’t done, like unreturned phone calls and appointments not made. It’s everything we do not use or wear, inherited objects and things given to us as presents that we don’t like, but feel guilty about parting with.

We may stay in a job, thinking we are indispensable, or due to a misguided sense of loyalty, but, often it is because we are afraid to take a leap and change direction.

It is this fear of change that can cause us to stagnate. We need to clear our homes, our work places, and even our minds. This may not be something we do in one go. Often it is the little things that add up. Clutter represents stagnant energy, and the list is endless – blown light bulbs we keep forgetting to replace, dead wasps on the window sill and that squeaking door we never get round to fixing. All just a minute or two each to fix, but their accumulated affect can have a significant impact on the pace and quality of our lives.


Plants will have a variety of uses in an office environment. As well as their obvious aesthetic charm, they have a number of uses, including hiding a jutting corner, draining excess water energy from a room, breaking up long corridors and bringing life into an office environment. Some will even clean the air for you.

We should remember though that cut flowers may look beautiful in a vase, but, like dried flowers, they are, technically, dead. Potted plants are much better as they bring life to the environment.


The positioning of our desks and other furniture can also play a vital part in the feel and energy of a room. (See Below).

To finish, we have a few top tips to feng shui up your office. These are split between the workplace office and the home office. Why not give one or two of them a try?

Office Feng Shui In A Workplace Office

Here are few tips to keep the energy flowing in your office.

  1. According to office feng shui guidelines, your desk should be placed at a diagonal to the doorway, or directly facing it, rather than with your back to it.

  2. If there's more than one desk, place two on a diagonal facing towards the door and any others on a diagonal facing into the centre of the room. They should not be placed in rows in a traditional classroom layout, or back to back.

  3. If the doorways of offices that face each other across a hallway are not exactly aligned, place a mirror in front of each door.

  4. If you face a partial wall or partition, when entering an office, place a mirror on the partition.

  5. Soften jutting walls with plants.

  6. Break up dull walls with mirrors or paintings.

The feng shui elements that are easiest to blend into an office decor are pictures and photographs. Look out for pictures that represent the various aspects and display them in the appropriate areas. Very obvious feng shui symbols, though, might invite unwelcome questions from visitors or co workers.

Office Feng Shui In A Home Office

Use office feng shui, if you're working from home, to maintain a professional approach to your business.

  1. Use a separate entrance to your office, if at all possible

  2. Otherwise, chose a room near the front or back door of the house or flat.

  3. Separate your office from living areas, to keep your business and personal lives separate.

  4. If your office space is part of another room, divide it from the rest of the room with a screen or large plants. Even a large mat will help to define the spaces.

  5. Take a short walk before entering your office to work each day, and another one at the end of the working day. This separates the business and personal aspects of your life.

  6. Place your desk on the corner, diagonally opposite the doorway.

  7. Don't place your desk under a window, but let the light reflect on it from the side. Some people prefer to have their desks facing east.

  8. Leave space between your furniture (bookshelves etc) and the walls. Feng shui experts suggest leaving a 7-9 inch gap.

  9. An important aspect of office feng shui is to keep your work space tidy, to allow a free flow of energy throughout the room.

  10. Differenciate between clutter and storage. Stored items don't have to be catalogued and labeled but they should be stacked neatly in a cupboard or in binders, so as not to impede energy flow.

So why not give it a try. You never know, you might just notice a difference.