The Week, 29 July 2016

29 July 2016

Over the weekend, the new Chancellor Philip Hammond promised a tax and spending policy ‘reset’ in the event of a Brexit-triggered downturn. To mitigate the impact of any slowdown on the labour market, the new Government must also look to improve the delivery of employment services, a subject on which Reform published two papers this week.

William Mosseri-Marlio, Senior Researcher, Reform

Reformer of the week

The National Audit Office, which urged the Government to scrutinise tax relief policy more closely, calling into question the value for money represented by some tax breaks.

Reactionary of the week

Conservative Voice, a pressure group formed of Parliamentarians and grassroots activists, which is reportedly lobbying the Government to drop the existing ban on grammar school expansion.

Good week for…

Extending working lives

On Thursday, the Department for Work and Pensions reported that the employment rate for people aged over 50 reached a 32-year high.

Pension freedoms

Also on Thursday, HM Revenue and Customs data showed the number of people exercising their new pension freedoms nearly doubled in the last year.

The silly season

On Friday, it was announced Gladstone − a stray cat adopted by the Treasury − will join the growing ranks of Whitehall’s feline mouse patrol.

Bad week for…

NHS legal bills

On Monday, the NHS Litigation Authority suggested government will have to allocate an extra £2.5 billion to meet the cost of legal claims against the health service.

The apprenticeship levy

Also on Monday, employers urged the Government to delay the apprenticeship levy by at least a year, citing concerns regarding the current economic climate.

Infrastructure projects

On Friday, the Government decided to hold a review of plans to build a nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point. Last week, the Government’s Chief Auditor, Sir Amyas Morse, called on the Government to slow the pace of big infrastructure projects in light of Brexit.

Quotes of the week

“I want a president with a record of public service. Someone whose life’s work shows our children that we don’t chase fame and fortune for ourselves; we fight to give everyone a chance to succeed. And we give back even when we are struggling ourselves because we know that there is someone worse off.”

Michelle Obama, speaking at the Democratic National Convention on Monday.

“The biggest challenge will be addressing the housing crisis. When soaring prices in affluent areas push workers away from productive jobs, they either take up less productive ones elsewhere or waste time and money commuting. Attempts to help buyers on to the ladder inflate demand and push prices up further. What the market needs is an increase in supply for which looser planning regulations are the essential starting point. Bricks and mortar will follow.

Fiscal profligacy is never wise, whether in times of recession or expansion. A careful cost-benefit analysis, however, recommends borrowing to invest. Money has never been so cheap. Yields on government bonds, which fall as demand for them rises, hit records lows this month. Hints from Mr Hammond, the chancellor, of a fiscal “reset” in the autumn statement are appropriate given this new environment.”

The Times, published on Tuesday.

“Our job is to level the playing field for individuals and whole communities. So that wherever you live, or whatever disadvantages you set out with, you can live a good life. With excellent education and healthcare in every community; dignity, opportunity and decent pay in every workplace; and a faith in fair play in every breast.”

Owen Smith MP, launching his bid for the Labour leadership on Wednesday.

Reform’s week

On Tuesday, Reform published Stepping up, breaking barriers: transforming employment outcomes for disabled people. The paper is the third in a series on reforming the incapacity-related out-of-work benefits system. It addresses the employment support services that should sit alongside a reformed benefit system and the role of employers in increasing employment for disabled people.

Ben Dobson, Researcher at Reform, appeared on Share Radio to discuss the report and Public Finance published an article highlighting its recommendations.

On Wednesday, Reform published The future of public services: digital jobcentres. The report is the fourth in a series, conducted in partnership with Accenture, and highlights how jobcentres need to make better use of data to meet future challenges.

Following the launch, William Mosseri-Marlio, Senior Researcher at Reform, wrote articles for Civil Service World and Prospect Magazine, arguing that while jobcentres fared well after the financial crisis, a series of policy challenges will hamper performance in the event of an economic slowdown.

On Thursday, Charlotte Pickles, Deputy Director and Head of Research at Reform, was appointed to the Social Security Advisory Committee.

The Reformer Blog

On Monday, Charlotte Pickles wrote a blog entitled Stop patronising ‘Leavers’, start making the economy work for all, arguing that the new Government must focus on narrowing both the attainment and skills gaps, and delivering effective employment support.

Also on Monday, the Reform research team published three short films discussing public service priorities for the Government’s first 100 days in office.

On Tuesday, a number of blogs were published on the Stepping up, breaking barriers report. Ben Dobson argued that the design of the Work Programme should be refined rather than abandoned in favour of Jobcentre Plus. Hannah Titley, former Researcher at Reform, set out how the Government can encourage businesses to employ people with disabilities. Graeme Whippy MBE, Business Disability Consultant, outlined three key areas in which government policy can help more disabled people find employment.

On Thursday, two blogs were published to coincide with the launch of The future of public services: digital jobcentres. William Mosseri-Marlio set out the opportunity for jobcentres to improve their productivity through the use of real-time tax data. Mark Jennings, Managing Director at Accenture, argued that the future digital jobcentre, with artificial intelligence at its core, will improve efficiency and effectiveness.

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