News Article | October 2, 2016
Philip Hammond is facing calls to dial back the autumn statement and return instead to a single budget speech each year. The Institute for Government, Institute for Fiscal Studies and Chartered Institute of Taxation have written to the chancellor with a list of recommendations to simplify the way tax policy is made in the UK That would include resisting the temptation to use the autumn statement to announce “a proliferation” of new fiscal measures, they say. Bringing to mind the climbdowns from Hammond’s predecessor, George Osborne, on a pasty tax and planned tax credit cuts, the groups are also calling for the consultation process for tax changes to begin at an earlier stage, “to avoid the surprises that lead to costly errors and embarrassing U-turns”. On budget speeches, the letter says: “The last two decades have seen a proliferation of measures in budgets and very long finance bills become the norm. In effect, we now have a March budget and a November/December budget. The time has come to revert to one principal fiscal policy event a year, while recognising there may still be a need for technical changes at other times of the year.” Chancellors have been required to deliver two economic updates a year since 1976. Over the years, the autumn statement morphed into the summer statement, before Gordon Brown introduced the pre-budget report – a decision reversed by Osborne. Hammond is due to deliver his first autumn statement in seven weeks, on 23 November. He has already talked about spreading economic gains more evenly and raised hopes that he will pare back the austerity drive of his predecessor when he presents his tax and spending plans. Jill Rutter, the Institute for Government’s programme director, says Hammond must cut the number of surprises in his budget statements, cut the number of new measures, and engage more with the public. “When she launched her leadership campaign, Theresa May said it was time to talk about tax,” said Rutter. “We agree, and the first thing we need to discuss is how to reform the budget process to make tax policy fit for post-Brexit Britain.” Tory ministers are also being urged to use their party’s conference to set out how they will improve the UK’s woeful productivity performance across low-paying industries. This is vital to eradicate working poverty and deliver on the prime minister’s pledge of a more equal Britain, campaigners say. Ahead of speeches by Hammond and the business secretary, Greg Clark, to the Birmingham conference under the banner “an economy that works for everyone”, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is warning politicians not to get swept up by the temptation to focus solely on high-value, eye-catching sectors. It argues that by broadening plans for an industrial strategy to include low-paying parts of the economy such as retail, care and catering, the government can make greater economic gains and lift hundreds of thousands of people out of working poverty. “Productivity is at the heart of higher living standards, tax receipts and growth, but focussing on high-value sectors alone will not ensure the economy works to benefit everyone,” said Ashwin Kumar, chief economist at the foundation. An analysis by JRF found that almost 1 million workers are trapped in in-work poverty in the retail, residential care and hotels and catering sectors – all parts of the economy where productivity lags behind rates for the economy as a whole. The analysis defined people as being in working poverty if they were in work and living in a household with an income after housing costs of less than 60% of the UK average. Working poverty rates were found to be much higher in low-productivity sectors. Almost a quarter (24%) of workers in hotels and catering were in poverty, along with 18% in retail and 16% in residential care. For all other industries the average poverty rate was 11%. Experts disagree over the question of whether the UK’s poor productivity performance is a result of a reliance on low pay or whether low pay is a symptom of low productivity. But ministers and Bank of England policymakers have repeatedly warned that the UK must get to the bottom of its productivity problems to improve living standards. The country has consistently under-performed other big economies on productivity – usually measured as output for each hour worked. The gap with other countries has widened in recent years as productivity growth in the UK has stalled since the financial crisis, in what has become known as the UK’s productivity puzzle. The foundation sees links between that poor productivity performance and the make-up of the UK economy. Low-pay sectors constitute about 23% of the UK economy, but account for around a third of the UK’s productivity gap with leading western European economies, the group found in an earlier analysis with the thinktank, the Institute for Public Policy Research [pdf]. It is calling on ministers to recognise the potential gains from making those sectors more efficient and urged them to work with businesses and trade unions to improve workers’ skills, career progression and pay. Kumar added: “Boosting the productivity of low-paid sectors will not only help the UK economy as a whole but will also enable sustainable increases in wages for many of those who feel that economic growth has passed them by. “The ‘national living wage’ will help to some degree, but the government could go much further by making sure that national efforts to improve productivity do not ignore low-paid sectors,” he added, referring to new minimum wage rates for over-25s introduced in April. Business groups have largely welcomed a renewed focus on an industrial strategy by May’s government since she was swept to power in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the EU. She has also received the cautious backing of campaigners for a fairer economy for her pledge to put social justice “at the heart” of her government.
News Article | November 17, 2016
The archbishop of Canterbury will spend the next two years as part of a commission launched by a left-leaning thinktank that aims to rewrite the rules for Britain’s post-Brexit economy. Justin Welby will join other leading figures including the general secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, and the chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, Sir Charlie Mayfield, on the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) programme that will seek remedies for six key UK weaknesses. Launching its commission on Thursday, the IPPR said the apparent success of the economy masked fundamental problems: weak investment compared with rival countries; a huge trade deficit; a budget deficit that would get bigger as the population ages; the capture of the fruits of growth by a small minority; the gap between the south-east and the rest of the country; and poor progress in meeting the UK’s climate change ambitions. The IPPR said none of the six problems identified were a recent phenomenon, with each getting worse for at least a quarter of a century. Tom Kibasi, the IPPR director, said: “The economy belongs to us all but it isn’t working for everyone. We need a new national economic vision and policy that the whole country can get behind. “The Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump shows we must build an economy with economic justice at its heart. The problems we face aren’t temporary weaknesses in an otherwise sound model. “The foundations of our economy need to be rethought and the rules of the economy need to be rewritten. We need big, bold and ambitious change. Rethinking by half just won’t do.” The thinktank said a specially commissioned YouGov poll showed that 51% of Britons thought the UK economy was unfair for the majority. The IPPR’s move has echoes of the thinktank’s commission on social justice, which deliberated in the 1990s and was seen as preparing the ground for Tony Blair’s government when it came to power in 1997. The IPPR believes its new investigation into Britain’s deep-seated problems will also be of interest to the government, which has said it wants to make the economy work for the whole country. Sources said Downing Street was keenly interested in the commission’s work. Welby said: “I am very pleased and honoured to be part of the commission on economic justice. I believe this is a unique opportunity to reflect on the vision for our economy for the next 20 years and, in a time of significant change and uncertainty, seek to put our economy on a foundation of values and virtues. “I am hopeful that this commission’s work can lead to a tangible and hopeful set of recommendations, that go beyond party politics and make the case for an economy that delivers for the common good.”
News Article | February 15, 2017
There is a question that was never put to the leaders of the campaign for Brexit and has not, as far as I’m aware, been put to the prime minister since her conversion to the cause. It is this: what will you do on the morning of formal separation from the EU that you could not have done the day before? What restored freedom, what action hitherto proscribed by the tyrannical bureaucrats of Brussels, will you indulge as the sparkling English wine is uncorked? Bend a banana, perhaps. Or catch the Eurostar to Paris and savour the sensation of no longer having the automatic right to work there. Oh! Pleasant exercise of hope and joy! … Bliss it will be in that dawn to be alive. Right? Brexit enthusiasts will complain that my question is unfair. Objections to EU membership were all about democracy, sovereignty and long-term economic opportunity: not pleasures that can be consumed overnight. And while that might be so, it is also true that people tend to vote for things in expectation of tangible benefits. A weekly dividend of £350m for the NHS, for example. So the unlikelihood of quick gratification for leave voters is a problem. Theresa May identifies a deeper imperative to Brexit than was written on the referendum ballot paper. She hears a collective cry of rage against the economic and political status quo, requiring radical change on multiple fronts. So, in parallel with the prime minister’s plan for a “clean break” from the rest of Europe, Downing Street is thinking of ways to address grievances that generated demand for Brexit in the first place: stagnant wages; anxiety that living standards have peaked and that the next generation is being shafted; the demoralising experience of working all hours without saving a penny. Government thinking on these issues has so far yielded a modest harvest. Last week’s housing white paper was meant to address a chronic shortage of homes by nudging councils towards quicker approval of new developments. Last month saw the launch of an industrial strategy, embracing state activism to nurture growth in under-resourced sectors and neglected regions. Last year May appointed Matthew Taylor, formerly head of Tony Blair’s policy unit, to lead a review into modern employment practices – the decline of the stable, rewarding full-time career and its replacement by poorly paid, insecure casual servitude. A notable feature of this non-Brexit agenda is how closely it tracks arguments made by Ed Miliband in the last parliament. The former Labour leader had a whole thesis about the structural failings of British capitalism and how it corroded people’s confidence in the future, leaving them anxious and angry. His focus on the “squeezed middle” anticipated May’s promise to help those who are “just-about-managing”. Miliband’s calls for state intervention in failing markets were derided by the Tories as socialist delusion at the time, but he opened rhetorical doors through which May is now tentatively stepping. Last week’s housing paper even used a forgotten policy that Labour had launched in 2013 – a “Use it or lose it” threat to developers who hoard land without building on it. Meanwhile, Downing Street has taken a close interest in the commission on economic justice set up by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a thinktank that provided regular policymaking services for Labour in the days before its capture by Corbynism. The commission was recently invited to give a presentation to May’s leading policy advisers inside No 10. Were it not for Brexit’s domination of political debate, May’s eschewal of conventional left-right dividing lines – her willingness to jettison Thatcherite orthodoxies – might have attracted more notice. But then, as the old Yiddish saying goes, if my granny had balls she’d be my grandpa. The idea that there is some parallel realm of politics that May can develop and for which she will be remembered alongside her EU negotiation is delusional. Timid little steps on housing, industrial strategy and job security are not going to get the prime minister to the promised land of fairness and opportunity in time for Brexit day. And she insists on a diversion to set up more grammar schools along the way, despite nearly every expert in the field warning that educational selection closes more avenues to social mobility than it opens. Even on immigration the government cannot meet expectations raised by the leave campaign. There will still be new people arriving because businesses will insist on a capacity to hire from abroad. Millions who arrived in Britain over recent decades, and their children born as British citizens, will stay because the country is their home. Even the most draconian border regime cannot restore the ethnic homogeneity for which some nostalgic Brexiteers pine. At some point someone is going to have to level with the country. Much of what leave voters were promised is unavailable because the EU was never responsible for a lot of things that made them angry. The dawn of Brexit promises no significant freedom or opportunity that wasn’t there the day before. It isn’t a message that ex-remainers can deliver, for all the reasons that scuppered their campaign last year. It sounded patronising before the referendum and the tone isn’t improved by bitterness in defeat. None of the original leave campaigners will dare admit their dishonesty in making Brussels the scapegoat for every conceivable social and economic ill. There is no point expecting Boris Johnson or Michael Gove to embark on a self-critical journey of public-expectation management. Far more likely they will be drawn deeper into the old lie: someone must be held responsible when Brexit does not unblock the sluices of wealth and opportunity; when the milk and honey refuse to flow. The obvious candidates are foreigners and fifth columnists – EU governments that negotiate in bad faith; alien interlopers who drain public services; unpatriotic “remoaners” talking the country down. The question then is whether the prime minister will go along with that game. She has managed so far to sustain the pretence that dealing with the failure of Britain’s economy to share its bounties fairly and quitting the EU are kind of the same thing. If it turns out that they aren’t, and one ambition obstructs the other, who will she blame?
News Article | November 27, 2016
All roads lead to Rome, and experience would suggest, all autumn statements lead to roads. Under Alistair Darling there was an M1 upgrade in what was then called a pre-budget report. His Conservative successor George “we are the builders” Osborne pledged the biggest road investment programme since the 1970s and a permanent pothole fund. Then last week, Osborne’s successor Philip Hammond stuck with tradition and promised to push ahead with road schemes in the “northern powerhouse” and to tackle congestion on key routes under plans to revive the UK’s pitiful productivity growth. Such nods to drivers and hauliers are easily explained in a nation where cars are by far the most popular mode of transport and where almost three times more goods are moved by roads than by water and rail combined. Promises to bust traffic jams and plug potholes are easy wins for politicians – as is endlessly freezing fuel duty. Similarly, when it comes to appearing to be doing something about the productivity puzzle it is far easier to talk about roads than the thorny issue of Britain’s addiction to low-paid, low-skilled work. But Hammond will not be able to escape this reality if he is serious about raising productivity – a measure of what is produced for every hour worked. Likewise, if he and Theresa May want to address the economic discontent that was partly responsible for the Brexit vote he will have to ensure any productivity gains he does eke out are shared by low-paid workers. As the chancellor said himself, Britain’s productivity gap with its neighbours has real repercussions on living standards. “In the real world, it takes a German worker four days to produce what we make in five; which means, in turn, that too many British workers work longer hours for lower pay than their counterparts,” Hammond said. It was a welcome appraisal of a problem that is too often discussed in abstract, jargon-laden terms. But Hammond still fell into the usual trap of turning to infrastructure and innovation for the solutions. Roads and inventions like next-generation electric vehicles are all well and good, but in an economy dominated by the services sector, it too needs attention if the country is ever going to make meaningful inroads on productivity. Of course, many of the technological advances that are made under the badge of innovation can help in the services sector. Internet banking and automatic checkouts are obvious examples. But there is also evidence that services employers can make productivity gains by changing the way they treat their employees. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has been exploring this link between the prevalence of low-paid work and low productivity. In an analysis with the thinktank, the Institute for Public Policy Research [pdf], the charity found low-pay sectors constitute about 23% of our economy, but account for about a third of the UK’s productivity gap with leading western European economies. JRF is rightly telling ministers to broaden the industrial strategy to include low-paying parts of the economy such as retail, care and catering, and that by doing so they could make greater economic gains and lift hundreds of thousands of people out of working poverty. Finding ways to lift productivity in those sectors is not easy. But if solving our low productivity problem was simple, countless experts would not have dubbed it a “puzzle”. There are three key areas that employers and policymakers can explore, beyond the usual technology fixes. The first is the relationship between pay and productivity. In a classic chicken and egg situation, economists argue over what comes first: low pay or low productivity. There is an argument that employers can only afford to raise wages, when productivity goes up. But work by the Living Wage Foundation and others has found raising pay can in turn raise productivity. Better paid workers are more motivated and more likely to stick around and accumulate skills. Seen another way, when employers are forced to pay more, they are more likely to seek ways to make work more productive. Ideally, this will happen with the government’s mandatory national living wage. The second area is flexible working. Consider the case of a woman working for a retailer. She acquires years of experience, then has a child, takes maternity leave and returns to work part-time. Her employer wants to capitalise on the woman’s experience and offers her a senior role. Fearful of how that new role will fit in with her childcare arrangements, the woman turns down the promotion. When JRF commissioned research into productivity and pay in the retail sector by the economist and former MP Kitty Ussher, she found about half of retail workers who already worked part-time said they would only accept a promotion if they could remain part-time. Little surprise then, that the study also revealed half of retail workers felt overqualified for the work they did. Clearly, employers are missing a trick when they fail to help workers find ways to balance family commitments with career progression. Alongside these workers for whom the overriding priority was to have controlled hours, Ussher identified a second group who wanted to work more hours and gain promotion to increase their earnings. Among that second group there was evidence of frustration at the lack of opportunities to get on. This leads to the third area: engagement. If staff do not feel involved in deciding their hours or career path, it is unlikely they will feel ready to share suggestions on how their workplace could run more efficiently. Productivity suffers as a result. Words like engagement sound fluffy, but manufacturing – which consistently outperforms on productivity – has been doing this for decades. In a well-run factory, staff are actively encouraged to make suggestions on small changes that could raise their productivity, such as the positioning of a tool. It’s called “continuous improvement”. Ussher’s research found this kind of engagement was lacking in retail, where 72% of workers felt they could see possible improvements in how their business ran, but just 44% said those ideas were taken seriously. With management clearly failing these workers, it was welcome that Hammond’s autumn statement contained £13m for a scheme to boost UK management skills. But workers need more than just better managers to be more productive. They need better career paths, including quality apprenticeships, and they need more economic security, not zero-hours contracts. Employers are crucial in this and so too is government backing. If the chancellor really wants to “build an economy that works for everyone” he and his fellow ministers must resist the temptation to pick winners at the expense of those working in the vast, low-paying, low productivity parts of the economy.
News Article | December 8, 2016
The amount gamblers can stake on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) should be slashed and councils given powers to stop bookmakers “clustering” betting shops on high streets, an influential group of MPs has said. The recommendations, timed to coincide with a government review of betting machines, won support from gambling campaigners but were dismissed as a “kangaroo court” by bookmakers. The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on FOBTs, which are often dubbed the “crack cocaine” of gambling due to their addictive nature, is recommending a number of curbs on the machines. The findings come just days after it emerged that the boss of Paddy Power had lobbied against the explosion in the number of FOBTs. The group called for the maximum bet to be reduced to £2 from £100, an amount that can be wagered every 20 seconds under current regulations. “At the very least, the stake should be reduced on a FOBT on a precautionary basis,” said the group’s chair, Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea East. “The government has a duty to protect the most vulnerable in our society and to act in the public interest. We therefore strongly urge them to properly regulate FOBTs and to do so with immediate effect.” She said cutting the maximum stake had support from all political parties, both houses of parliament and “a significant majority of the public”. Professor Peter Collins, a veteran gambling expert who has advised successive governments, said failure to reduce the maximum stake would now be seen by the public as a measure of “corruption or stupidity” among politicians. He pointed to his own research showing that a reduction in the stake would cause less harm among vulnerable gamblers. But the Association of British Bookmakers issued an angry rebuttal of the group’s findings. “The anti-FOBT APPG is a kangaroo court,” it said. “It is a small group of anti-bookmaking MPs, funded by casinos and arcades that will benefit from undermining bookmakers. “When a properly balanced and independent select committee of MPs investigated FOBTs they came out strongly in favour of them. “As opposed to that select committee report, this is a biased and highly misleading piece of work, with no material evidence to support their claims.” The MPs also recommended that the government review the regime governing how many FOBTs are allowed in one area. Bookmakers are currently permitted to put four machines in each betting shop, a restriction that campaigners against FOBTs say has led to gambling firms opening multiple shops on the same street in a bid to circumvent the limits. The parliamentary group said local authorities should be given powers to stop this “clustering” of betting shops. And it also urged the government to review staffing levels in bookmakers to address incidents of crime linked to FOBTs – such as vandalism of the machines by people who have lost money. The gambling addiction charity GambleAware pointed to research that suggested the measure would be ineffective on its own. A report conducted by Sophro for GambleAware highlighted the ease with which gamblers can use their debit cards to access funds to keep gambling. Customers could be stopped from using debit cards to load up their betting accounts, or face limits on how often they could use their card or how much they could withdraw to gamble, the report said. It also suggested restrictions on the speed with which gamblers can play game after game and highlighted so-called near misses, where machines give the impression that a player narrowly missed out on a big win. It said these were responsible for an “increase in arousal” that convinced punters to keep gambling. “There is growing evidence that access to additional funds in a gambling venue is a significant risk factor for problem gambling,” said Dr Jonathan Parke, lead researcher at Sophro. “This may be because it facilitates the decision to continue spending more than planned. Stopping players from spending more than they can afford is important. “However, restricting stake size while failing to consider the other cost determinants, like game speed and volatility, will likely prove ineffective.” A report due to be published next week by the Institute for Public Policy Research will estimate the total cost of problem gambling to the public purse. The cost of secondary mental health services linked to gambling could be as high as £110m a year, the report will say, suggesting the overall cost is much higher.
News Article | February 24, 2017
Ministers should establish a new energy commission to spur on construction of power stations because successive governments have failed to encourage enough fresh power capacity in the UK, according to a House of Lords report. Subsidy-backed growth in renewable energy projects, such as windfarms, has deterred the construction of new conventional power plants, the economic affairs committee claimed. The peers envisage the new energy commission would oversee auctions where all technologies, including fossil fuel power plants, competed for guaranteed electricity prices. The auctions would cap carbon emissions. At present the government only allows low-carbon power, such as windfarms and new nuclear power stations, to compete in auctions for such deals, known as contracts for difference. The influential cross-party group of peers concluded that successive governments have got their priorities wrong on energy policy by giving priority to carbon emissions cuts – a statutory duty under the Climate Change Act – over keeping costs down and keeping the lights on. The report has sparked an angry response. Robert Gross, director of the centre for energy policy and technology at Imperial College, London, said: “The term ‘post truth’ has become over-used. Yet it would be possible to take all the evidence the committee presents and tell a completely different story: there’s been huge success in growing renewables and reducing emissions from the power sector.” Lord Hollick, the committee’s chair, said: “We are critical of the drift that’s taken place over the last 15 years or so, which has delivered on the decarbonisation agenda but very much at the expense of consumers paying 58% more than they were in 2003. On the affordability front we haven’t looked after consumers.” However, as the report acknowledges, most of the price increases came from higher gas prices, not the 10% added by renewable energy subsidies. The peers, who include the former chancellor Norman Lamont, and a former head of the civil service, Andrew Turnbull, said security of supply should become the key aim of energy policy, above decarbonisation and cost. “Low-carbon but chronically unreliable electricity is not acceptable. Similarly very cheap prices at the expense of frequent shortages would be unacceptable,” the report says, which also claims fossil fuels have remained cheaper than renewable sources. But Paul Massara, the former chief executive of npower who now runs the renewable energy firm North Star Solar, said the committee was simply wrong to say fossil fuels were always cheaper than renewables, and condemned the report as “backward looking”. Darren Baxter, a researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank, said: “A failure to keep the pace up with decarbonisation, as suggested in this report, would be a disaster for the north [of England] and its growing low-carbon economy.” Hollick told the Guardian that the government had micromanaged the energy market and did not need to interfere as much. He said the government “should now allow the energy commission to move forward, to run auctions, to fill the gap and to build a properly balanced [energy system]”. Hollick denied the report was anti-renewables. “Exactly the opposite. We see renewables very much as the way forward,” he said, arguing that more public money should go into R&D in renewables and energy storage. The committee also urged the government to publish its plan B if the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, which is expected to provide 7% of the UK’s electricity from 2025, is delayed or even cancelled. Hollick said the biggest surprise during the committee’s inquiry was the “fragility” of the government’s nuclear ambitions, which envisage new nuclear reactors in Somerset, Suffolk, Anglesey and Cumbria. “It is imperative that the government publishes it contingency plans for how it will make up the capacity due to be provided by these plants in the event one or more does not succeed or is delayed,” the report says. Hollick said he expected the government’s energy back-up plan to be made up largely of new gas power stations and offshore windfarms. A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Keeping the lights on is non-negotiable. Our top priority is making sure UK families and businesses have secure, affordable energy supplies.”
News Article | October 28, 2016
Just one in three people intends to house their ageing parents, finds study Tens of thousands of ageing parents will spend their later life in care homes – because just one in three families intend to give them a roof over their heads, according to a study. The study, of 2,000 adults with parents aged over 60, also found a third would have to ‘think seriously’ about the implications before making a decision. Around half who refused said their home ‘wasn’t big enough’, while four in ten said they ‘wouldn’t be able to cope’. Some 20 per cent said they feared they lacked the necessary skills to look after their parents, while one in ten said their own health wasn’t up to it. Financial reasons, having their own children still at home and not having a close relationship with their parents were other factors. The report, conducted by leading national care provider Care UK, comes at a time when the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)¹ has revealed its estimation that by 2030 there will be more than two million people aged 65 and over with no child living nearby to give care if needed. Maizie Mears-Owen, head of dementia services at Care UK, said: “We understand that the future care of a parent is an emotional topic and can be a difficult subject for many families to approach with their loved one. ”Discussing care plans with your parents can be upsetting, especially for the first time, but we encourage families to research and talk about their options so they can make informed decisions together. “Support is available but it can often be hard to find. Talk to a financial advisor about your options and seek advice online. ”We work closely with families to understand their needs and advise on all the options of care available, from respite and at-home support through to nursing and residential care.” Today, Care UK’s research has also revealed that two thirds of adults worry about the future care of their parents, yet most refuse to discuss the topic with them, and even less have made any plans. According to the survey findings, 66 per cent of adults have never discussed the issue with their parents as either side may refuse to talk about it, or it simply has not ever come up. In comparison, just five per cent discuss the topic regularly and one in five broach the subject from time to time. Worryingly, only seven per cent of respondents said they have made plans for their parents’ future care. With an ageing population and an expected increase in the need for elderly care services, Care UK say that this is a subject that needs to be discussed, sooner rather than later. Three out of four of those polled said they felt their parents would wish to stay in their own home, but two in three respondents said they wouldn’t want to leave them home alone. Seventy-four per cent also said they would feel awful if their parents wanted to live with them but they couldn’t accommodate them. In addition, the study found that while 37 per cent of those polled felt that a care home could provide better care for their parents, they felt guilty about arranging external care. Maizie adds: “From our experience, the thought of moving parents into a care home can come with great concern. ”Often the decision is made at crisis point – when parents need a level of care which families may not be able to provide. ”This can lead to a big decision that nobody was prepared for, which only heightens the anguish for parents and their families. “This is why we encourage people to discuss the subject of care with their parents before it becomes a necessity. ”This gives both parents and families a sense of control and also allows them to explore all the options available. ”For example, parents may not need full-time care, but there are day centre options in which parents can spend a few hours and receive vital care and support in a sociable setting. ”Having an open and honest discussion about this beforehand – and perhaps trying out the options available – can save a lot of stress and heartache in the future.” Interestingly, the survey also found that attitudes towards parental care seem to change according to age, with 18 to 24 year olds most likely to say that they would look after their parents compared to respondents aged 55 or over who were most likely to say they would not. Maizie concludes: “I think the idea of looking after your parents is very different from the reality. This is perhaps why younger people are more open to the idea. “As people get older, their own finances, how much space they have and bringing up their children are all factors which can make it harder for them to look after their parents. Again, this is why we encourage families to talk it through, see the best solution for all, and make the most of the help and advice available to them. “Within the community there are many places people can ‘drop in’ to find out where to go for further support – such as a local care home or Citizens Advice Bureau. ”www.carersuk.org is a great place to start. Taking this all-important step towards getting sound information and professional advice really can make a big difference further down the line.” Reasons for not having ageing parents live with you 1. Our house isn’t big enough 2. I couldn’t cope 3. I don’t have that kind of relationship with my parents 4. I lack the necessary skills to deal with them 5. I have too many work commitments 6. I cherish my independence 7. It wouldn’t be financially feasible 8. I have children to look after 9. My partner wouldn’t agree to it 10. My health isn’t up to it Reasons for not discussing future care plans with parents 1. It’s not something I worry about right now 2. It’s a depressing topic 3. I don’t know enough about the care options available 4. We don’t want to face it 5. It’s too upsetting for my parents 6. It’s too upsetting for me 7. Neither of us can afford to pay for care if and when they need it 8. If we don’t talk about it, it can’t cause arguments
News Article | April 11, 2016
According to a new report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) the UK’s government capacity market is not working. With a consultation from the UK Department of Energy and Climage Change (DECC) just finished, Byron Orme, research fellow in energy, transport and climate policy at IPRR explains what the capacity market was supposed to achieve, where it has gone wrong and how it could be fixed. Courtesy of Carbon Brief. The capacity market is the UK government’s primary policy for ensuring security of electricity supply. It offers payments to power generators for being available to generate at certain times, and to demand response providers for being able to reduce electricity demand. The market takes the form of an auction, held every year, for capacity to be delivered in four years’ time. Firms bid into the auction at the price they need to stay open to generate electricity, or to be built from scratch in time to generate. The amount of capacity that is needed is decided by the secretary of state for energy and climate change, following a recommendation from National Grid. The capacity market was introduced in 2014 as part of a wider programme of reform (known as Electricity Market Reform), designed to decarbonise the UK’s electricity supply while keeping the lights on and costs affordable. There have been two main auctions so far, held in December 2014 and 2015. These resulted in the award of £2.8bn in subsidies, mainly to existing power stations. The so-called ‘clearing price’, the amount per kilowatt (kW) paid out, has been relatively low in each auction. The chart below shows who won contracts, and how much they received in the first auction (here’s the data from Sandbag). As can be seen, coal power stations will receive £173m in contracts for winter 2018/19, with multi-year contracts adding up to £293m in total. The UK’s nuclear power stations all received payments amounting to £153m in total, despite being highly likely to have stayed open anyway. The results of 2015’s auction were similar, but it also saw a marked increase in the amount of diesel generators winning contracts, despite those being one of the most polluting form of generation. As they are able to earn money in different parts of the market, they are able to compete to deliver their capacity at a low price. In the first auction, just over 5% of contracts went to new capacity and just 0.35% to demand response providers, as can be seen in the graph below. Critics of the scheme think there are three main problems with it. The first is that it provides continuing subsidies to fossil fuel generators, and highly polluting diesel plants, at a time when the UK is trying to decarbonise its electricity system. Indeed the energy market now has two contradictory policies working against one another – the carbon price floor penalises coal-fired power stations at the same time as the capacity market rewards them. Decarbonising electricity will be even more important as the heat and transport sectors are increasingly electrified. The capacity market also awards payments to plants that would have been open anyway – in the first auction, around a third of the plants which won contracts signalled they would have stayed open with no or very little payments. These windfall payments are arguably not the best use of bill payers’ money. The market is also focussed on the needs of large fossil fuel and nuclear plants rather than new technologies which can reduce costs to bill payers by shifting demand. Such technologies can reduce the need to build expensive new power stations and the amount of time that the most expensive stations need to run. As can be seen from the graph above, demand response providers have been awarded very few contracts so far. The government is currently consulting on changes which could mean more new gas-fired power stations are contracted, mainly by purchasing more capacity overall. The risk of this is that highly polluting plant will still be subsidised, and there will be even higher payments to power stations that would have been open anyway. IPPR has recommended that a host of changes should be made to reduce the costs of the capacity market, and to better align it with the government’s principal goals: security of supply, affordability and decarbonisation. First, there should be separate auctions for new and old capacity, so that there is more control over the amount of new capacity bought, and so the same payments required to get those plants built are not paid to plants which would have been open anyway. The Committee on Climate Change should provide advice to the secretary of state on the level of new capacity recommended by National Grid. Second, there should be an Emissions Performance Standard preventing highly polluting plants from bidding for capacity contracts, to end the situation where bill payers are subsidising diesel and coal power stations. Finally, there should be a much greater role for demand response. The National Infrastructure Commission has recently shown that moving to a more flexible and efficient system of demand management could save bill payers up to £8bn a year by 2030. The capacity market needs to work in a rapidly changing energy system in which the cost of renewables is falling and new demand management technologies such as storage are becoming available. Greater visibility for investors through an extendedlevy control framework would help renewables develop into the 2020s. Along with a growing use of demand response and storage, a lower-carbon system would rely less on the fossil fuel and nuclear plant currently being subsidised through the capacity market. An even more radical reform has previously been recommended by Catherine Mitchell, professor of energy policy at Exeter University. She has argued that we can best facilitate a move to a decentralised, flexible and efficient system by looking again at the whole regulation of our energy market, as New York State is currently doing. This article was first published by the website Carbon Brief and is republished here with permission. To read IPPR’s full report, Incapacitated – Why the capacity market for electricity generation is not working, and how to reform it, published on 31 March, click here.
News Article | October 26, 2016
The UK government is being hauled back before the courts over its failure to tackle air pollution. In a case beginning today, a group called ClientEarth is asking the High Court to order ministers to come up with a better plan for improving air quality. The case concerns levels of nitrogen dioxide, an invisible gas produced mainly by road traffic. High levels of nitrogen dioxide shorten lives, by increasing the risk of heart attacks, strokes and respiratory disorders. A 1999 European Union directive set legal limits for nitrogen dioxide levels, which came into force in 2010. Six years later, these limits are still being exceeded in many places across Europe. Europe’s cities have some of the highest NO levels in the world, because a much higher proportion of cars run on diesel than in most other countries. In the UK, 37 out of 43 zones breach the limits. ClientEarth, a group of lawyers focused on using existing laws to protect the environment, first took the UK to court in 2011. The case was referred to the European Court of Justice, which ruled in 2014 that national courts can and should ensure that governments act to get air pollution below legal limits. What’s more, it ruled that governments must do this “as soon as possible”. The case then went back to the UK’s Supreme Court, which in April 2015 ordered the UK’s environment minister to take “immediate action” by preparing and consulting the public on an air quality action plan in the shortest possible time. But very little has been done. The government announced it would begin a public consultation on its plan only last week – just days before the court case began. Its plan consists of clean air zones in just five cities, and these zones will not restrict the main source of pollution: diesel cars. “It’s taken 18 months for ministers to even begin a consultation,” says James Thornton, head of ClientEarth. “This is a woefully inadequate response to the air pollution crisis.” Campaigners think the government has been deliberately dragging its feet, based on modelling suggesting that as older diesel vehicles are replaced, levels of air pollution will fall without the government having to do much. The flaw in this is that, as the Volkswagen scandal revealed, newer diesel cars emit far more NO and particulates when driving than lab tests suggest. Getting nitrogen dioxide down below legal limits will require more stringent action, such as clean air zones that restrict all highly-polluting vehicles including cars, retrofitting bus and trucks to reduce their emissions and a scrappage scheme to get diesel cars off the roads altogether. The case should not be affected by Brexit. The UK government has said it will pass a “Great Repeal Act” incorporating EU directives such as the 1999 one into UK law. In theory it could then alter the legal limits for pollutants but this will not happen for several years at the earliest. ClientEarth is not just suing the UK government. Based on the precedent set by the European Court ruling, it has launched or helped launch actions in the Czech Republic, Belgium, Poland and Germany. While we’ve yet to see much in the way of concrete action as a result of these legal battles, the ClientEarth court cases have already helped raise public awareness of the issue and put air pollution on the political agenda. “Their role has been transformational,” says Laurie Laybourn-Langton of the Institute for Public Policy Research in London, co-author of a recent report that concluded that diesel cars will have to be phased out in London if the city is to meet legal limits.
News Article | November 2, 2016
Ridding inner London of virtually all diesel vehicles would solve the capital’s air pollution crisis, according to research published as the high court is due to rule on the government’s air quality plan. Illegal levels of air pollution cause about 9,500 early deaths a year in London and a new report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) sets out a series of measures to solve the problem. Imposing charges on all diesel cars and banning diesel taxis, plus stricter limits for trucks and buses, are central to the plan, which modelling by scientists at King’s College London show would deliver clean air. Boosting public transport, cycling and walking are also vital, according to the report, as is a national scrappage scheme for old diesel vehicles. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has proposed strong new measures to tackle air pollution but the IPPR proposals go further. Khan has joined a legal action against the government by NGO ClientEarth, which says the national plan does not cut illegal levels of air pollution in the “shortest possible time”, as required by law. ClientEarth defeated the government in the supreme court in 2015 but argues that even the new plan prompted by the defeat is still illegal. The judgment from the new challenge is expected in the high court on Wednesday morning. In October, it was revealed that George Osborne, then chancellor, had blocked moves to charge diesel cars for entering cities due to worries over cost and alienating drivers. In April, a cross-party committee of MPs said air pollution in the UK was a “public health emergency”. Traffic is the major cause of air pollution in cities, with diesel vehicles especially dirty. Paris is already taking steps to phase out diesels, as are cities across Germany. “Air pollution in London is at lethal levels,” said Laurie Laybourn-Langton, one of the IPPR report authors. “Bringing these levels down will save lives and make the capital more pleasant and prosperous for all Londoners. This won’t be easy and so our plan includes a number of measures that reduce the cost to Londoners of cleaning up transport.” “The fact that air pollution is an invisible and odourless killer has meant that we have been sleepwalking into a health crisis that has already claimed thousands of lives,” said a trio of medical professors, Jonathan Grigg, Chris Griffiths and Stephen Holgate, in a foreword for the report. “The benefits of moving away from diesel and fossil-fuel vehicles to health, to the economy, and to the climate will be significant. All we need is the political courage to do so.”