All posts filed under: Unit 3 UK Issues

“The Greenest Government Ever” – Coalition environmental policy

The coalitions pledge to ‘a low carbon economy’ was declared in their 2010 manifesto. The actions regarding this promise have unfortunately been few and far between. A promising start brought a refusal of the BAA’s new runway at Heathrow airport and further banning of any new runways at Gatwick or Sansted being built until 2020. However, this was followed by the agreement to the high speed rail plans for the HS2, linking London directly to Birmingham. Despite a back lash from many in rural areas who fear for their scenic back gardens; the Coalition has gone ahead. This is an attempt to boost local economies and make up for the revenue that will be lost from the lack of an extra runway, maybe not as positive for economic growth but is far more promising for the environment. This may be short lived as 30 Conservative back benchers have wrote a formal letter to the government pleading for reconsideration of the runway ban. This followed tensions between the Climate Change secretary Chris Huhne (now replaced by …

Sunday Politics video: Andrew Lansley interview on NHS reforms in England

Andrew Lansley today was challenged on whether health changes in England would see improvements in care, reduced waiting times and no further major NHS reforms. The health secretary said the controversy getting the Health and Social Care Bill through Parliament had not damaged his career, and he claimed the NHS was better funded than under Labour.  

Is the Welfare State in Danger?

During the year of 1945 the Labour party under Clement Atlee laid down the foundations of the welfare state and subsequently, since the 1950’s the welfare state has been regarded as one of the UK’s most significant and precious assets. This staple asset was introduced as a response to the five “Giant Evils” in society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease. The welfare state utilizes a part of the annual government budget to guarantee a minimum standard of living and social protection in the event of insecurity. This social programme is expressed in a range of institutions; from the National Health Service to compulsory state education. All three mainstream political parties have reached and expressed a rare consensus to protect and uphold the welfare state. However to what extent the welfare state will be protected is debateable by each individual party. Seeing as it was a Labour party initiative, the party has continuously increased government spending on the welfare state. Since Labour came to power in 1997 there have been particularly large average annual increases …

Privatisation of Police Services

West Midlands and Surrey police authorities have invited private security companies to bid for a wide range of services, including criminal investigations, patrolling neighbourhoods and detaining suspects. While it is being done through the prism of government cuts, outsourcing “signals a shift that would allow the private sector to provide staff that can carry out routine and repetitive tasks at cheaper rates”. At present, there are many forces that have taken the initiative to employ their own non-police staff to undertake this sort of task but have been unable to do so in sufficient numbers because of the need to employ a fixed and ever increasing number of officers within a fixed budget, but some feel the private sectors presence within the police force should be deepened, allow cuts to be made from the force and remove expensive, unnecessary teams within the force, explained in this statement: “The tender offered by West Midlands and Surrey police signals a shift which would allow the private sector to provide staff who can carry out routine and repetitive …

Ken Clarke and secret justice

The Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke recently laid down plans to extend the system of secret courts (which were initially introduced by Labour under the Terrorism Act 2000.) Clarke has proposed the introduction of “closed material procedures” within the judiciary system whereby secret evidence is withheld from the claimant and press, in other words a ‘closed court’ would occur. The policy intention was first revealed through a green paper in October 2011 and could cover a diverse range of cases where the government does not want to reveal ‘sensitive’ information to an open court. This information may be evidence obtained via foreign intelligence agencies or even government correspondence which has been deemed ‘sensitive’ The reasoning behind the green paper (possibly to be included within the Justice Bill in the next session in parliament) is partially due to the Binyam Mohamed case of 2010. In this case the accused accepted a financial settlement in return for not pursuing his case against the government that would have resulted in revealing CIA intelligence information about his time imprisoned at …

Restorative Justice ‘A victim is not a bit of paper in a court’

Radio 4 Today: There was a remarkable example of restorative justice on a programme that went out on National Prison Radio last night featuring Ray and Violet Donovan, a couple from Surrey, talking about the murder of their son by a gang of youths in the street. In the programme they talked to a group of violent criminals who had been involved in similar crimes.

Young Offenders – Government policies since 1997

Youth offending has been a growing problem across Britain with 42% of first time offenders currently being under 18. Blamed on a growing gang culture and increased availability of drugs to young people in the UK, attempts have been made by both the previous Labour government and current coalition government to tackle this by making punitive measures possible for younger children, introducing police orders and by greatly increasing community based projects involving 11-17 year olds. These efforts have been met with great controversy however as despite their efforts the number of 15-17 year olds in custody has gone up by 550% since 1997. Both governments have one thing in common when it comes to youth policy; an inclination towards preventative measures. To Labour this meant stopping young people from meeting late at night and being a nuisance on the streets. With this in mind they introduced laws to allow on the spot curfews to entire communities for those under the age of 18 as part of the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act. These curfews could …

Universal Credit

The introduction of a universal credit system lies at the heart of the substantial overhaul and reform of the benefits system by the Coalition. The Coalition’s initial White Paper 21st Century Welfare focused on ‘structural reform’ of the system and broadly speaking, the objective of Iain Duncan Smith’s aim is one that was once shared by New Labour in 1997 of aiming to ‘make work pay’ (making having a job financially worthwhile). Despite this consensual goal, the Coalition have argued that the welfare reforms put forward and implemented by New Labour created a complex system of welfare payments and fiscal transfers (tax credits). This meant that the overall system of claiming became deeply problematic which, in turn, led to financial incentives to work being undermined and an abundance of under payments and over payments. Iain Duncan Smith’s answer to these problems is that of ‘Universal Credit’, a scheme that vastly simplifies the tax and benefit system. Instead of having a conglomeration of individual payments given to claimants, the universal credit is a single set of …

Coalition policing policy

Home Secretaries and the Police have typically enjoyed a contentious relationship, and the current situation has proved itself to be no different, if not considerably worse. Much of the current contention stems from the effect of central Government cuts to police budgets, as part of wider moves to address the so-called fiscal deficit. Police concern has grown at both the level and nature of cuts made to local budgets, which have led to reductions the number of resources available and the number of officers in post, leading to falling morale and increased workloads. The Coalition ultimately disagrees with the Opposition about the extent and impact of police budget cuts, with the Prime Minister and Home Secretary responding that front-line officer numbers would be protected, if not increased, and that more efficient restructuring of constabularies would achieve this simultaneously with cost savings. Under the wide-ranging Winsor Review into pay and conditions for police officers and staff commissioned by the Home Secretary in 2010, the first report into short-term changes to be made to police pay has …

Why even Merlin can’t get the Banks’ lending again

Recent statistics revealed in the Bank of England’s figures, have shown that lending by banks fell by £10.7bn in 2011, otherwise put; banks received £10.7bn more in loan repayments than they gave out in new loans. This takes the total figure of fall in loan administration to just under £83bn since the financial crisis in 2008. Many have urged the Government and George Osborne to get tougher on the banks, especially Lloyds and RBS, which are part-owned by us the taxpayer, to force them to start lending again. Even Sir Mervin King has said “For a long period I have pointed out that the Governments own two of the biggest four lenders. If they own them, they can do something about it” The ‘potential’ lying in these banks and corporations suggested by the Director General of the CBI are all but currently lying stagnant. Government demands for more liquidity against loans administered by banks are not having the desired effect of financial stability, in that banks seek liquidity from external sources to shore up loans, …

UK unemployment at 8.4%

During Brown’s government, unemployment was on the decline, now figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), show that UK unemployment rose by 28,000 to 2.67 million during the three months to January. The unemployment rate currently stands at 8.4%. Youth unemployment (16-24 year olds) rose by 16,000 to 1.042 million, a rate of 22.5%. In addition to this, the number of people claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance increased by 7,200 to 1.61 million in February. Regardless of these alarming figures, the government see this as an improvement with the rise of unemployment being at its lowest in a year, showing signs that the Labour market is stabilising. The ONS also showed a small increase in the number of people in work – up by 9,000 in the three months to January. The Coalition government believes that they need to encourage responsibility and fairness in the system, meaning providing help for those who cannot work, training and targeted support for those looking for work, but sanctions for those who turn down reasonable offers for work …

50p tax rate: Here to stay?

The top rate of tax (50%  tax rate on earnings over £150,000) has been a particularly controversial source of debate amongst the coalition and with the 2012 budget being drawn up soon, it has never been more important. Historically, the Conservative Party has adopted a low tax policy but they have been reluctant to push on to abolish it. Why? Simply because it would be too much of a high risk move with too many variables to consider.

A plan for growth?

At cabinet this week, David Cameron forced his colleagues to confront failures in the government’s economic growth strategy. It is often argued that elections are won and lost on the basis of the economy, and with a somewhat gloomy outlook ahead and a tumultuous past lingering, the government knows that the economy is its main focus for maintaining electoral support and the opposition know it as well.

Is a CBI suggested tax cut the right way for Osborne to bolster Britain’s economic stagnation?

With George Osborne’s 2012 Budget around the corner, and Britain on the brink of a double dip recession, amidst the Eurozone crisis, lobbying group the CBI has called upon the chancellor to use his 21st of March budget to drive growth by unlocking the potential of corporate balance sheets and helping businesses invest.

The RBS Bonus Controversy

The recent RBS bonuses have sparked controversy and debate among many politicians, but what’s it all about? Do not fear! We have been reassured by the chairman, Sir(?) Philip Hampton that the number of RBS millionaires was lower than a year ago – phew! (N.B the ‘Sir(?)’ picks up on David Mitchells point on 10 o’ Clock Live that titles such as Sir shouldn’t be removed but should be brandished on the peoples foreheads to show the demise of our society). In 2011, RBS made a loss of £2 billion. Yet while its bonus pool has almost halved since 2010, that still leaves £400 million to be divided up, on top of increased salaries. Last month chief executive Stephen Hester was forced to waive his bonus of almost £1 million following weeks of press, political and public outrage.

The Coalition and ‘Slave Labour’

The government’s work experience programmes have come under criticism, with some companies raising concerns over the removal of benefits from those who fail to take part. The scheme was introduced to get job seekers back to work. Employment Minister Chris Grayling gives his analysis of the state of the programmes (interview below from Radio 4 Today 24/2/12). Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSS

Audio: Health Bill Woes

A YouGov poll published on Monday for Progressive Polling and the Unite union has found that the majority of people are on the side of those opposing government’s Health Bill. President of YouGov, Peter Kellner, Policy Exchange director Neil O’Brien and LSE researcher Dr Zack Cooper, debate if the Health Bill is still alive and well. Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSS

Michael Gove’s Education Reforms

Back in 2010, Michael Gove promised a series of major reforms to the education system; which he felt had been overly bureaucratised by Labour. An overhaul of the national Curriculum was first on the agenda, involving a large slimming down of its framework. By focusing on Science, Maths and English in particular Gove’s aim is to give schools more freedom in subjects they teach. Gove also has advocated more teacher power in disciplining students and called for reforms in teacher training. In order to remove the bureaucracy started by Labour, Gove plans to tighten up league tables in an attempt to prevent teachers’ inflating rankings – Schools rewarded based on achievement in 5 core subjects, instead of all subjects.

Saving money or saving the NHS?

David Cameron was accused of “playing a dangerous game of divide and rule” by only inviting royal medical colleges and health practitioners that he believes will back his NHS reorganisation to a special summit at Downing Street on Monday. Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary has claimed doctors groups have had the door “shut in their faces”.

Ken Clarke Justice

What exactly is Cameron’s conservatism advocating? A continuation of new Labour? A bridge to Thatcherism? Or a new progressive way, one often calls ‘Cameronism’? The Conservative Party, like most UK political parties today, can be regarded as a ‘broad church’. Kenneth Clarke, the current Justice Secretary, can be described as from the left of the party, a ‘One Nation’ Tory and he has certainly made his mark on his department.

John Prescott – The Commissioner

Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has announced his intentions to become one of Britain’s first elected police and crime commissioners. Prescott who will face the polls in November if selected to stand following being nominated, said he would spend the next few months consulting the public before drafting the manifesto he would use to campaign for the up to £100,000 a year job.