In Nestminster today, hens and cockerels packed cheek-by-wattle into the Coop of Commons as the Chancellor of the Eggschequer announced his much-anticipated CompreHENsive Spending review.
As the HenP’s took their perches in the chamber, hackles were raised and the heckling began, causing the Prime Hennister, an Old English Game Bird called Dave, to declare that there was no joy at making these swingeing cuts, which he blames firmly on the borrow-now-pay-later policies of the ousted government- who incidentally have had their wings clipped to prevent escape. “We are all in this together,” added Dave.
As the Eggschequer fluffed up his feathers, the house fell silent. Every fowl knew that times were tight and that belts would need to be tightened. But where would the axe fall? Whose necks would be on the block?
First, the structural deficit was addressed- basically there is no money for the rebuilding of coops and henhouses- or any other structure hens may care to inhabit- until at least 2015. Draughts therefore must be viewed as extra ventilation, and it’s hoped that this positive outlook will help hens stay warm even when temperatures fall and icy winds whirl.
Another contentious announcement is the rise of the pension age, meaning that hens will be required to lay eggs for a year longer than at present before they can eggspect to retire with a state pellet ration provided. Cockerels too will have to do their bit, although as most of these become Sunday dinner long before the retirement age kicks in, they will be less affected by this welfare change.
There were no further amendments to the recent and controversial change to Chick Benefit payments. This has left some stay-at-home hens disgruntled as they struggle to make ends meet on one medium pellet ration, whilst other two-income coops will still qualify for Chick Benefit, even though they could potentially have a coop-hold income of nearly two pellet rations.
Moving on to the Cabinest Office, there will be some roost-sharing and a new-pecking order is expected as Cabinest officials are asked to move into the Treasury Coop. In addition, the Royal Flock may find that Cluckingham Palace is a little chillier to maintain, as their egg money is to be frozen next year. But on the other hand, as winter fuel payments for elderly birds are to be protected, some help is at hand. Finally, the Cabinest Office will continue to support henship and community spirit and there was yet more talk of the “big flock”.
The Office for the Henvironment will have an 8% annual cut but increased funding is to be made available for flood defence – basically all hens living on or near flood plains are to be issued with arm bands and Fenland ducks will be enlisted as swimming mentors.
Onto defence, and there was concern that the Harrier Hawk Spotter jet is to be axed. Similarly, the planned Eye Spy Fox planes will be cancelled. In future, all flocks will train small attack groups known as the Hen Guard, to scour for predators. This will not only save on the defence budget, but also engender community spirit, as hens strive to protect their patch, armed only with beaks and the occasional homemade hen grenades.
The Ark Royal is also going to be axed, a thing of sadness to the many hens who like to call an ark their home.
On a positive note, the Department for Communities and Local Government will redefine “social housing”, recognising that there’s a fine line (or a fine perch) between being cosy neighbours and being just that bit TOO close on the roost. Whilst shared featherly warmth is acceptable at night, a beak up the vent is not, hence the announcement to build 150,000 affordable coops over the next four years.
Transport news, and commuters learnt that rail fares will increase, meaning that hens may now have to travel cattle class as the price of both beak and off-beak tickets is going through the roost.
In the Justice Department, plans to build a 1,500-hen prison will be scrapped following an unexpected flurry of applications from battery hens. It seems they viewed the move as an upgrade and were keen to swap their battery cages for the classier, less crowded environs of a giant jail, where 24-hour room service was rumoured to be available. They also liked the idea of “doing porridge”.
Onto the National Hen Service (NHS) and a new treatment for red mite will be made available to all – putting an end to what has become known as a roostcode lottery.
In Education, a special “grower premium” will be awarded to flocks teaching disadvantaged chicks, such as those living below the wheat line, or whose families suffer from drug dependency, such as an addiction to Metacam- in such cases rehabilitation classes will be offered, or Henhab.
Finally, the Department for Energy and Climate Change is extending the concept of renewable energy to include a bodily by-product of wind energy. To be known as “Poo Power” hens are to harness all methane that they produce in a truly green (and brown) initiative.
As the 2010 CompreHENsive Spending review came to a close and the throng of Hen P’s left the Coop of Commons, hens up and down the countryside were left pondering how they will be affected by the cuts. Dubbed “the big squeeze”, today’s austerity measures are some of the toughest in decades and hens will be tightening their belts and metabolising excess body fat to stay alive. No doubt there will be much clucking over the (24 % reduced) breakfast mash tomorrow…