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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Comments

Cam

I had a different take on this news... people that benefited the most were higher rate taxpayers rather than the low paid. Many schemes were not much more than glorified HP, and in many cases the supplying companies got a lot of the benefit of the tax reduction, selling high margin top end equipment to people that would otherwise have managed with something more reasonably priced. Also in real terms the computers and laptops have become much more affordable, to the point that it's better to shop around for a good deal than wait for the yearly (and now cancelled) HCI.

-Cam

Josie Fraser

Hi Cam. I'm in agreement about the benefit to the firms that set up in the HCI business – I saw a few of the schemes and the selections were pretty limited and comparable products on offer were available at lower prices. However – there wouldn’t have been so many firms dealing with HCI if there wasn’t a profit to be made.

In theory, these schemes would seem to be of most financial benefit to employees in higher tax bands. However (and only anecdotally) all the people who I know who actually took up these schemes were low-paid blue collar workers, people for who £300 (around the current entry-point cost of a monitor, keyboard and computer) represents a significant amount of their income, and who are lot necessarily eligible for credit elsewhere. I’d very much like to see the breakdown by income of people who took up the scheme.

So while I’m happy to acknowledge that there were things about the scheme I didn’t like, I did see it as actually getting computers into the homes of people who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford them – it’s strength for me was precisely because it was a HP scheme (although I can’t say I wasn’t concerned that repayment affected pension and NI contributions).

As computers and broadband packages come down in price, two things happen (in very simple terms): more people can afford them, and those that can’t afford them become more excluded.

I know that the DfES Digital Unit are currently paying serious attention to the whole issue of social exclusion, and I’m hopeful that they’ll learn from the HCI scheme and come up with a way of getting computers into the homes of our worst-off learners.

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