The Week, 16 June 2017
This week the domestic policy debate turned on the “end of austerity”. Reform pointed out that no political party should offer “an endless prospect of cash-strapped services, steadily deteriorating”. Nevertheless, the poor position of the public finances cannot be ignored. Net debt stood at 35.4 per cent of GDP when the Blair government began its big spending increases. It currently stands at 88.6 per cent. Today, Martin Wolf makes the key points that higher spending must be accompanied by higher taxation and that money be well spent, otherwise “the effort would be a huge waste… that would be quite senseless.”
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Andrew Haldenby, Director
Reformers of the week
The SNP, who made a decisive step towards autonomy in schools in new proposals on Thursday.
Martin Wolf, who pointed out that if the UK opts for higher public spending, it will have to be “honest” that taxes would rise; that those taxes be well designed; and that extra resources be well spent.
Good week for…
On Monday, The Times reported that the NHS may be carrying out tens of thousands of unnecessary operations a year, giving hope of significant savings.
Scottish school reform
On Thursday, the SNP announced increases in school autonomy over the employment of staff and over curriculum.
Honesty, sustainability and social justice
On Thursday, Nick Timothy said that asking elderly people with means to pay for their social care, with “certain protections”, was “honest”, “sustainable” and “socially just”.
Bad week for…
The Government’s ambitions on grammar schools
On Monday, leaders of two academy chains said that they would not introduce any further academic selection.
Consistent pension saving across the economy
On Friday, DWP figures revealed that public sector staff save 105 per cent more into their pensions than the private sector.
On Friday, the BBC reported that the Conservative Party had given health and local government Ministers less than 24 hours’ notice of manifesto proposals on social care. Reform’s fully researched and consulted proposals are forthcoming.
Quotes of the week
“There’s a conversation I particularly remember with a teacher who had voted for me in 2010 and 2015 and said ‘you know I understand the need for a pay freeze for a few years to deal with the deficit but you’re now asking for that to go on potentially for 10 or 11 years and that’s too much’.”
Gavin Barwell, the Prime Minister’s new chief of staff, quoted on the BBC on Monday.
“What is needed is honesty: the country can choose to raise spending. But, if it wants to run a sound fiscal policy, this will mean substantially higher taxes …. That additional taxation also needs to be well targeted and designed. The extra money raised needs to be well spent, too. Otherwise, the effort would be a huge waste. That would be quite senseless.”
Martin Wolf, writing in the Financial Times on Friday
“Borrowing may have fallen in the past eight years from £152 billion in 2009-10 to £58 billion, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, but it still remains high compared both with other countries and historically. At 2.9 per cent of GDP this year, the UK will have the fourth-highest deficit of 35 advanced economies, the International Monetary Fund estimates … Unfortunately, the OBR estimates that population ageing will add another £20 billion to spending by 2025. Rather than an end to austerity, it looks like being a temporary reprieve.”
Philip Aldrick, writing in The Times on Wednesday
On Tuesday, Reform hosted a speech by former Metropolitan Police Commander Makhdum Ali Chishty QPM on the challenge of policing violent extremism.
Also on Tuesday, Reform held a policy dinner led by Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, on the theme of “Where now for post-Brexit, post-Election Britain?”
On Tuesday, Mak Chishty’s speech was covered by several national news organisations, including The Telegraph, The Times, and BBC Radio 4.
On Friday, Louis Coiffait, Head of Education at Reform, argued in Education Executive that schools should be the ones to decide whether to become academies or not, but that all should be seeking greater cooperation with each other.
On Monday, Andrew Haldenby, Director of Reform, argued that the ‘end of austerity’ should not mean the end of public service reform.