By Confused of Crackley
“Dad, I don’t want to be a pain, but it would be great to have more space.” The teenager was being quite affable for once. “The cupboard under the stairs isn’t really big enough to do my homework and Pete’s too young to understand that he can’t have all the bedroom all the time.”
Cratchit smiled at his son. “Yes I do understand and we’ll move house as soon as we can. My new job’s better paid, so we can afford it now. Timing’s the problem. The situation is… complicated.” Cratchit held the door open and watched Timothy walking towards the bus stop. A scene of carefully choreographed activity in the field opposite interrupted his gaze. A man in a high visibility jacket was striding towards him, beaming – a small instrument in his hand.
“119…123…127… Good news mate! You’re in the Zone!”
“Zone? What zone?”
“Long Term Hardship Zone mate. You’re in it.”
“No, things are easier now, we’re fine.” said Cratchit, starting to close the door.
“You don’t understand” said the surveyor. “For the railway. It means you can get Compensation, even though your house won’t be demolished. You’re one of the lucky ones.”
Cratchit knew the system would be fair, when it was finally announced, but had to admit he couldn’t quite understand how it would work. Perhaps he could get further details from this enthusiastic state representative. “So how does it work then? We want to move to a bigger house.”
“Divorce,” the surveyor replied without hesitation. “Just get divorced. You have to show hardship. The Government supports divorce.” He almost seemed to be serious, but the smile hadn’t faded.
Chuckling, Cratchit replied “We’re happily married actually. Not very politically correct these days I know, but it works for us. So, what else can we do?”
“Critical Illness. The Government supports illness. A child preferably – always looks good on the forms – but an elderly relative would do.” The smile was a little less convincing.
Somewhat taken aback now, Cratchit made it clear he wouldn’t be hoping for anything critical in his close family. There must be something else.
“Death,” said the surveyor.
“Let me guess, the Government supports death.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” The surveyor’s turn to affect shock at the suggestion. “It’s just that liquidating an estate is one of the eligibility criteria.”
“Look,” said Cratchit, “we’re just a normal hard-working family who want to move to a larger house. My boys are getting too old to share a bedroom, that’s all. Our situation is perfectly ordinary. There are lots of people in similar circumstances.”
“Yes, but that’s the problem isn’t it?. The Government can’t support every family affected by the railway. It’s just too expensive. And there’s nowhere for that on the form. You have to show hardship. Being successful and ordinary isn’t good enough. Where would we be if the Government supported that? Your only option is to use a Company.”
“How does that work?”
“It’s simple. You have a quantitatively challenged private limited company, supported by an EIS, needing equity from property to expand, while routing profits offshore through a tax haven to avoid unnecessary costs. Everyone does it. You do have one don’t you?” The surveyor grinned. He found his job rewarding, especially when he could help people who didn’t know how to help themselves.
Cratchit closed the door uneasily, as the surveyor bounded over to his neighbour to preach the good news. Perhaps tomorrow’s meeting would be rather more productive.
Part Two is available via this link.