All posts filed under: Unit 3 UK Issues

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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 …

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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.

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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 …

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The Impact of the NSA files on the Coalition’s civil liberty record

The Impact of the NSA files on the Coalition’s civil liberty record   The NSA files leaked by Edward Snowden to Glen Greenwald (former Guardian journalist) from June 2013 exposed the extent of international surveillance by, supposedly democratic governments, across the world. The leaks found Britain’s intelligence agency (GCHQ) working in conjunction with the National Security Agency (NSA) to bypass each other’s national laws for the sake of internet and communications surveillance. The leaks revealed that not only under the Coalition but under Labour, governments had been acting without any consent, collecting ‘meta data’ on mass, without even cabinet ministers’ knowledge. Many feel that the NSA and GCHQ have gone too far and that collecting hundreds of billions of international internet and telephone data items is a threat to their civil liberties. Edward Snowden, a self-proclaimed libertarian, perhaps with similar views to the conservative party on migration and welfare, did not intend to harm people’s safety; he also insists that he has not leaked information to Chinese or Russian officials. On an internet forum he …

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Is the UK economy rebalancing?

Is the economy rebalancing as proposed?   It is coming up to 4 years since Osborne decided the UK economy needed to be rebalanced. By ‘rebalancing’, he proposed a self-sustainable and largely export led economy. An economy that no longer relied on the financial services of the City, which appears to benefit suited men who know better how to ruin an economy better than those on Downing Street know how to fix one. Moreover Osborne pleaded for an economy with a higher propensity to save as opposed to one which will pay the price for further unsustainable private and public debt. Four years on, there seems to be a lack of policy aimed towards accomplishing a rebalanced economy. When the economic recovery began in 2009 the conditions seemed to be in place for a manufacturing exports-led resurgence. The pound depreciated significantly during the financial crisis, providing UK manufacturers with a competitive edge. And with domestic spending still slow, it wouldn’t have been surprising for UK firms to look to overseas sales for growth. Manufactured goods …

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AlevelPolitics Economy Update: March 2014

*** Economy update – March 2014 *** The tide has somewhat turned in the Conservatives favour. Less than 18 months until the General election and the economy seems to be resuscitating. Better late than never I suppose. With Mr Osborne revealing his last budget for this Parliament next week, the Tory party are trying to map out their economic stance. It is clear that the 2015 general election will be laden with tax and spend policies, as the main parties not only try to prove that they are economically credible but that their policies seek to benefit the hard working. The first three years of the coalition were characterised by flat lining growth, missed targets, a loss of Britain’s AAA debt rating and a triple-dip recession scare. However, the latter part of 2013 saw improvements in almost all macroeconomic sections. Economic growth for 2013 measured up at 1.8% compared to the sluggish 0.3% of 2012. Osborne insists that his “long term economic plan is working”, with economic growth complemented by increased investment and fast pace …

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PCCs: Powerful, Capable Crime-fighting?

PCCs: Powerful, Capable Crime-fighting?   With a 14% average turnout to the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in November 2012, is it really any wonder that news regarding PCCs has disappeared from the mainstream media and government agenda. Simply put – no one cares; a notion reflected in the poor turnout. However, despite the obvious lack of attention from media outlets the Commissioners, and their £100k pay packets, have been busy at work fulfilling their jobs of helping to guide the police and create that all important community link. Or have they? This article will aim to assess the work of the PCCs up to now, whether they have been effective in aiding communities, or if they’ve been a waste of time and resources. For many areas, the introduction of PCCs has brought many welcomed changes and benefits. It seems like the majority of the 41 elected have taken their job seriously and introduced schemes, which benefit their community. The PCC for Cheshire, for example, has launched a mobile surgery so that he can speak …

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Cameron VS the Liberal Democrats: The Green Tax Promise

  David Cameron is said to be going back on his word about green taxes despite obligations from Lib Dems.   David Cameron has come under fire for his statement on reviewing energy bills. The Prime Minister said that the green taxes had helped push up household bills to “unacceptable” prices, but a source close to the prime minister said his message in private was blunter than that. He is claimed to have said, “We’ve got to get rid of all this green crap.” Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne’s Autumn Statement in December will set out new plans to reduce the impact of environmental impacts on fuel bills. The changes have set out to cause disruptions in the coalition government because the Lib Dems vowed to prevent in any falls in levies during this parliament.   The Lib Dems are also keen to keep the green taxes, arguing they are essential to creating a sustainable and environmentally friendly energy supply for the UK. Cameron wants to scrap most of the charges, which help subsidise wind farms and pay …

The Split Coalition

Coalition United? I think not When the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition in the aftermath of the general election of 2010, it was uncharted territory for the UK. Not only was it the first ever Coalition government between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives in history but  was also the first time the Lib Dems gained some real political power in decades – poor Lib  Dems. So the people of Great Britain were naturally curious to see whether the new government would last. Leading members of the Coalition David Cameron and Nick Clegg have continuously said that they support the Coalition and that it is ‘getting things done’, but today, the cracks are appearing within this partnership of parties.   Firstly, one of the big cracks is this issue about the European Union. Now this causes a huge divide already within the Conservatives as they are naturally sceptical about the European Union. The fact that Tory backbenchers want to leave the EU is quite drastic compared to the leading Tory MPs such …

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Audio: ‘ECHR chief warns UK government on rights convention’

The President of the European Court of Human Rights, Dean Spielmann, has told the British government it would be difficult for Britain to remain in the EU if it were to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. His warning follows criticism of the court by some British judges, who say its rulings are making rather than interpreting the law. But Judge Spielmann told the Today programme’s Mike Thomson that even the highest British courts must take account of European judgements; failure to do so might require withdrawal from the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organisation, and put at risk Britain’s EU membership.

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Audio: TPims ‘a necessary evil’

BBC Radio 4 Today discussion on TPims – the Coalition replacement to control orders The usefulness of restrictions put on terror suspects by the home secretary may be “withering on the vine”, a group of MPs and peers has warned. They said the next government in 2015 must “urgently address” the role and effectiveness of Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPims). David Anderson, the independent reviewer of terror legislation, discusses.

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Would an A&E visiting fee be a ‘clear departure from the traditional NHS vision’

1/3 of GPs BACK £10 CHARGE OF A&E A poll carried out by Press Association for Doctors.net.uk with more than 800 family doctors found that 32% were in favour of the charge seeing it as the most cost effective way of cutting down on the people who could have gone to their GP or a pharmacist. One doctor argued: ‘If patients had to pay a £5 charge to attend A&E – that could be refunded for appropriate attendances – they would be more inclined to take their coughs to the pharmacist where they belong.’ Recent overcrowd and increased demand  of A&E have prompted some doctors to back the charge of either 10 or 5 pound to significantly reduce the number of  unnecessary visits where people are in no need of urgent medical attention. If the condition of a patient is shown to need attention then their money would be refunded to them. Around 30% to 40% of all visits to A&E could have been seen elsewhere because illnesses were minor or not urgent believed by A&E specialists.   …

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 13th-19th January 2014

Parliament Roundup – 13/01/14-19/01/14   Labour Speech This week, Labour leader Ed Miliband and his shadow ministers will make speeches for the electorate in order to announce Labour’s upcoming plans. The speeches are designed to broaden the debate away from spending and the deficit. Shadow Housing Minister Emma Reynolds made a speech on Tuesday reemphasising on Labour’s plans to build more than 200,000 homes a year by the end of the next Parliament in 2020 by stressing that we need to increase social housing. However, this might prove tricky for Labour as they will have to allow more borrowing in order to reach this ambitious goal. This goal in particular might be seen as Ed Miliband’s way of proving that Labour is not just about short term goals such as his established energy price freeze. Euro sceptics unsatisfied   95 of Conservative backbenchers have recently signed a vote for the law to be changed for the House of Commons to veto new EU regulations. There has been much recent disagreement with this vote and William …

The Coalition Welfare Reforms Explained

Coalition Welfare reforms Job Seekers Allowance (JSA): The Department for Work and Pensions have set up schemes aimed at getting unemployed people back to work, it has caused much controversy Critics have dubbed the programmes as “Workfare”, likening them to unpaid labour, or forcing people to work for their benefits. To get people back to work by either Work Experience (November 2011, 34,200 people had started a Work Experience placement), Sector-based work academies, Mandatory Work Activity, Community Activity Programme and the Work Programme. JSA has been cut to at least £56.80 a week, varying on an individual’s situation. Universal Credit: A new in- and out-of-work credit, which integrates six of the main out-of-work benefits. The aim is to increase incentives to work for the unemployed and to encourage longer hours for those working part-time. “The main differences between Universal Credit and the current welfare system are: Universal Credit will be available to people who are in work and on a low income, as well as to those who are out of work most people will …

Weekly Parliament Roundup:4th-11th December 2013

Parliament Roundup: 4/12/13-11/12/13 MPs to receive 11% pay rise: Click for a video explanation IPSA(Independent Parliament Standards Authority) have recently proposed to provide MPs with a pay rise of 11% which will increase their salary to £74,000. They have stated that there will be changes to the pension scheme which will save tax payer 2.5 billion pounds if the rise is to take place. Even though this might be seen as a great thing for the MPs, lots of them are scared to state publicly that they think it is a good idea. The main issue with this proposal is that it might be the wrong time to make such high rises in MP’s salaries when other public sectors are facing difficult freezes. However, of this proposal is to go ahead, it will take legislation in 2015 to stop this from occurring. The public might not like the sound of the proposal at first because many might feel that the MPs don’t deserve such a high pay rise as they have failed to improve costs …

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 13th-20th November

Weekly Parliament Roundup – 13/11/13-20/11/13 Geneva II Conference November 2013   Over the last few weeks, the Geneva conference has taken centre stage in the news, in regards to Iran’s nuclear projects. The conference was postponed to the 20th and has resumed over the past few days. Even though definite decisions have not yet been made, following his visit to Geneva, Foreign Secretary William Hague states that Britain’s aim is to create a “Interim first step agreement with Iran that can then create the confidence and the space to then create a comprehensive and final agreement”. The main question is however, is it too late for Britain to step in and try to give Iran guidance on the decision that it should make? The country seems set on making the brave choice to go ahead with their plans without the restrictions from America. Hopefully, Hague will make an influential effort to try and impose financial and energy sanctions against Iran, with the help of other countries such as France and Germany. Increase in Tax Thresholds …

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 6th-13th November 2013

Weekly Parliament review – 6th -13th November 2013 Commonwealth Summit Prime Minister David Cameron will still attend the Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka despite India and Canada boycotting the event. There have been calls for the PM to boycott the event, especially from Labour members who proposed that they would strongly support the Prime Minister if reversed his decision to attend. On the other hand, Foreign Secretary William Hague stated that if the Prime Minister decided not to attend the summit, it would damage the commonwealth without making any positive change in Sri Lanka. The summit will concern the country’s Human Rights records and Cameron has pledged to put ‘serious questions’ to the Sri Lankan President Mahinda  Rajapaksa  about his regime’s widely condemned Human Rights records and allegations of war crimes against the Tamil minority. Concerns over rise in personal debt in the UK The Conservative member of the Treasury Select Committee Mark Garnier has raised concerns over the level of personal debt in the UK. He recently stated on The World This Weekend on …

Woodhouse Weekly Pick of the Papers (4/11/13-10/11/13)

Pick of the Papers (4/11/13-10/11/13) Woodhouse’ weekly pick of the papers is devoted to keeping A level politics students up to date with the political news and on track with the Unit 1 and Unit 2 syllabus. 1.  Ed Miliband’s momentum confronts Cameron with a sharp dilemma Source: The Guardian Politics topic: Elections Summary: Labour is frustrated by Conservative stalling over agreeing to the general election TV debates between the leaders, Miliband has a “boost in ratings” and “most people, including Mr Miliband, mainly attribute this to the impact of his pledge to freeze energy bills”. 80% of voters “favour the energy price freeze but only half as many think he could actually deliver it”. ALevelPolitics help: Read the energy bill crisis article on Cameron’s dilemma 2.  Ignore Russell Brand: Vote and make MPs notice you, says think tank Source: The Independent Politics topic: Democracy and Participation Summary: Parties will change their economic decisions and policies to people who actually vote, not people who do not vote. Turnout has fallen among the young and the least affluent and “The cuts …

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UKIP: U-keep Or U-Gone?

UKIP, the UK Independence Party is a right-wing political party that was established in 1993. Their views are often seen as being more radical than the other political parties, like their immigration policies and proposed EU referendum. There is constant controversy surrounding UKIP due to its proposal of radical changes to immigration, such as implementing a five year freeze on immigration for permanent settlement and disallowing immigrants to apply for public housing and benefits until they have paid tax for five years. Some argue they are racist, as they are exploiting immigrants’ rights. UKIP deny that, claiming they are not against race but against an ‘open-door’ policy. Nigel Farage stated that in the past 10 years, there has been more migration into Britain than between 1066 and 1950. Anna Soubry, the defence minister, said that Nigel Farage was ‘scaremongering’ and putting ‘fear in people’s hearts’ with his anti-immigration rhetoric and ‘prejudice’. Farage hit back at Soubry’s remarks by calling them ‘abusive’ and it showed how the Conservatives were ‘terrified’ about the rise of UKIP. Its policy to end …

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Energy Bill Crisis: Cameron’s dilemma

Energy Bills – Is Cameron ‘panicking‘ yet? Over the past few months, we’ve witnessed politicians persistently speaking of energy prices rocketing and of the ‘Big Six’ making huge profits from the bills of their overcharged customer’s, of whom are without any knowledge of they came to be so high in price.  Many individuals who are unable to afford these high prices are left confused and deceived by their energy supplier and blame PM David Cameron for not taking action against this ever increasing issue. Recently, the problem has been addressed by Cameron in parliament and of who has even been in discussion with Neck Clegg in order to find a way to get household bills down and made sustainable. The “big” questions are;  how soon and how will he make changes to the British taxpayer’s energy bill? According to research by uSwitch, energy bill suppliers such as the likes of British Gas have a current bill at around £1,340 and the new bill is said to raise to a staggering £1,465 – an increase of £125 which …

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Unemployment and Youth Unemployment

Recent figures have shown the UK unemployment rate dropped to 7.7% between May and June from 7.8% in the previous three months. The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in July fell by 32,600 to 1.4 million, its lowest level since February 1992. In recent weeks, David Cameron and George Osborne have boasted about the UK economy “turning a corner”. It seems this statement holds some validity. When discussing unemployment, we must consider that this is a recovering economy and even the Prime Minister admits this government has “still a long way to go”. The economy is at least moving in the right direction which is good news for the unemployed. Mark Carney, The governor of the Bank of England has set a target rate of 7% before interests rates are likely to be raised. This is one of the main reasons why the unemployment rate has been brought to everyone’s attention lately. Mr Carney expects this target to be reached within the next three years. These figures suggest that the jobs market is recovering …

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Labours welfare policies

It has become an unspoken known that the 2015 general election would rely purely on which party had the strongest economic policy. However, Labour at its party conference in Brighton has tried to turn the tables and turn the clamour for power into a debate on childcare and living standards. De ja vu perhaps? Reminiscent of Blair’s plans to eliminate poverty and introduce a system of tax credits? Lest we forget measures such as the minimum wage, sure start and the new deal. Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has announced that Labour will offer parents of primary school children guaranteed access to childcare from 8am to 6pm. As part of proving Labours commitment to those struggling with falling living standards, Miliband also gave a firm commitment that a future Labour government would abolish the controversial bedroom tax. Latest evidence of a growing economic divide came as figures showed that UK living standards had dropped to their lowest in a decade after average real incomes fell a further 3% last year. The IFS has said the …

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Global tax rules ‘need updating’

The Chancellor George Osborne has told the BBC that “concrete steps” to change tax rules would be seen at the G8 summit. Speaking from Enniskillen, he said leaders could “rewrite the international rules” that allow companies to shift profits away from UK and other territories to minimise tax payments. listen to ‘Global tax rules 'need updating'’ on Audioboo