Pay freeze outweighs savings for the ‘squeezed middle’

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Angela Hamilton took the time to watch the Budget as a break from preparing for a job interview – one that will determine whether she holds on to her public sector post.

“It’s very much a budget for business. For me as an individual or for families there wasn’t an awful lot in it,” was her verdict.

This week, the Financial Times identified Mrs Hamilton, a £34,000-a-year senior policy and research office employed in the chief executive’s director at Newcastle city council, as the embodiment of the “squeezed middle” of austerity Britain. Forced to reapply and compete for her post as public sector spending cuts bite, she is also having to live with a pay freeze, rising pension contributions and higher inflation. She drives to work from South Shields, so the Budget’s 1p-a-litre reduction in fuel duty was good news. So, too, was the slight increase in take-home pay that should result from the higher employee’s tax-free allowance. But, she says, the savings are outweighed by the freeze in her pay and the rise of three percentage points in her pension contributions.

Mrs Hamilton thought plans to boost business start-ups were “a good idea – if there is something behind it”.

Overall, she said the budget would not greatly change her finances. However, not keeping her job would – so she went back to her interview preparations.

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