All posts filed under: Unit 3 UK Issues

What are the key issues for the British Economy?

The state of the economy has consistently ranked among the top two or three issues for the British electorate during the general election. In a populus poll, 69% of voters said that the economy was ‘very important’, with 92% saying either it was ‘very or fairly’ important. There are several issues that are the main focuses and concerns of the Chancellor and the government as a whole (as well as the shadow chancellor and the opposition).

To what extent have recent governments kept their green promises?

After the inconclusive election in 2010, the coalition’s programme for government had substantially covered the challenge of climate change, some would say as strongly as it talked  about cutting the deficit. On 14 May, three days after becoming prime minister, Cameron went to the Department of Energy and Climate Change to declare his would be “the greenest government ever”. He even appointed himself the department’s “fourth minister”. Yet, Osborne’s cold wall of austerity quickly undermined meaningful green action and the few coalition environmental policies never seemed to truly take effect. Cameron’s off the cuff remark to get rid of  “all the green crap” and his reluctance to prioritise the environment over austerity meant the coalition government had fallen short.

To what extent was prioritising deficit reduction a successful policy choice since 2010?

The Coalition government from 2010 until 2015, made up of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, sought to prioritise deficit reduction above all other considerations. This was in the wake of the 2008 global banking crisis which strained the UK economy and heralded the policy of austerity connected closely with the Chancellor Osborne. It was partly successful in creating jobs and some growth but the policy has been controversial. Labour have argued it has not served the least well off, some conservatives have argued it had not reached its intended aim of removing the deficit altogether and it is claimed the government, without acknowledging it publicly, did slow down deficit reduction and prioritise growth after 2013, which stands today at just 0.3% in the last quarter.

The Bedroom Tax Explained

In April 2013 the Conservatives introduced a change in the housing benefit rules for local social housing residents called the under-occupancy penalty. Critics like Labour dubbed it the bedroom tax. Since it has been introduced, families who are regarded to have too much living space by their local authority have received a reduced payment. Families are assessed to as how many bedrooms they actually need. The new rules allow one bedroom for each adult or couple. Children under the age of 16 are expected to share, if they are the same gender, and those under 10 are expected to share whatever their gender

Measuring child poverty

The issue of measuring poverty is a problem that both Coalition and Labour governments have struggled with in recent years. The annual Joseph Rowntree Foundation report released on the 24 November 2014 defines poverty in the terms of ‘relative income poverty’ where those earning less than 60% of the median national income are considered below the poverty line. New Labour agreed to this definition, with Labour setting targets to reduce those in relative poverty to 10% of the UK population. However, the Rowntree report explains how in 2007-08 ‘23% of the UK population was in poverty – 13.5 million people’ under the New Labour government. (Foundation, 2014) This shows how Labour struggled to deal with the question of measuring poverty. However, the Conservative Party have been keen to redefine how the government measures poverty.

Disability benefits and controversial means testing

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is the test designed and used by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to determine the entitlement of disabled welfare claimants. These assessments were directed by private company Atos Healthcare. The test is controversial and has been criticised for the high proportion of those tested being found ‘fit for work’ despite having marginal to severe disabilities. The Welfare Reform Act 2007 replaced Incapacity Benefit with Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the PCA with the WCA under the Labour government. The aim was to make the medical tests more rigorous and to stop abuses of the system. However, the WCA program did not pick up pace until 2010 when the Coalition government expanded its role to reassess the 2.5 million people that the DWP had already judged to be entitled to Incapacity Benefit. The government also made changes to the framework of the test to make ESA harder to obtain. The DWP claims 980,400 people – 32% of new applicants for Employment and Support Allowance – were judged capable …

The coalition government’s deficit reduction programme

The coalition agreement states that “the deficit reduction programme takes precedence over any of the other measures in this agreement”. Deficit reduction is the raison d’être of the coalition government, and so it is always important and relevant to analyse how far this flagship policy has been achieved. The Labour opposition have often criticised the coalition for cutting “too far, too fast”, and failing to find a healthy balance between the need for growth and the desire to cut. Although it must be considered that it is the Labour government who ultimately left an economic mess behind them, it can certainly be argued that the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition’s deficit reduction programme has gone too far and too fast in order to deal with the problem.

Britain’s drug problem: Compassion vs Coercion

Over the last two weeks, the main talking point in British politics has been the televised debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage concerning the issue of Europe. As much as I hate to admit it, Nigel Farage came off far better, and Clegg was largely left mumbling about how Farage either loves Putin or was a conspiracy theorist who thought Elvis was still alive. It was clear that the two men are not obvious political allies, and that they are divided on almost every issue. I say almost, because there is one area on which the two men find consensus: drug policy reform. Farage declared that the war on drugs had been lost ‘many, many years ago’, and that he supported full decriminalisation. I never thought that I would say this, but bravo Mr Farage. Completely at odds with his party, the Ukip leader has bravely gone exactly where he should be going. Ukip advertises itself as a Libertarian Party, and by supporting full decriminalisation of drugs in the UK, Farage is showing that …