Migration for education in the UK

Foreign students barred from studying in the UK – What does this mean for Education policy

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to accomplish the 2019 Conservative manifesto in reducing net migration through only enabling international students into the UK if they have secured places at ‘top universities’.

Data from the Office for National Statistics highlights that the UK has hit a ‘‘record high’ in the level of net migration of about 504,000. The Government has said students from foreign countries coming into the UK to study at non-Russel Group Universities, and ‘low quality’ degrees, are to be restricted from coming into the UK. This is as a possible policy approach to reduce net migration in the UK, particularly in a time where individuals are struggling with the Cost-of-Living crisis, energy prices soaring as well as crisis within the NHS and the housing sector.

However, there are many concerns regarding which students are given entry into the UK. Immigration plays a significant role for expanding the UK’s economy and to reduce net migration of students and their families who, as Home Secretary Suella Braveman described as ‘piggy banking onto the students’ student visa’.

The education sector plays perhaps the biggest role and responsibility in exporting the biggest revenue for the UK’s economy and cracking down and creating a barrier in who is allowed to study in the UK may create further tensions to the already crippled economy.

While ensuring that only those with admissions at ‘top’ institutions cracks down on the level of migration to the UK, it does so at a significant price to the Education sector. With a crackdown on international students, many universities that are not considered ‘top’ or Russell-group universities will lose out on funding, significantly impacting the fee’s paid by students at home. Not only that, lack of international students may also mean some courses will be forced to shut due to the lack of students enrolled, thus impacting the funding a university receives.

COP27

Updates from COP27

The latest updates from COP27 brought to you each day by the Vuelio Political Services team.

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

COP27: Biodiversity Day

  • Thérèse Coffey, the Environment Secretary, set out UK support to protect the world’s oceans and natural habitats. She called on countries to come together at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal to agree a robust plan for tackling nature loss.  
    • The Government pledged £30m to the Big Nature Impact Fund – a new public-private fund for nature in the UK. 
    • An additional £12m was pledged to the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance to protect and restore vulnerable coastal communities and habitats. 
    • A further £6m to provide capacity building support to developing countries to increase commitments to nature and nature-based solutions under the Paris Agreement. 
    • A new UK climate finance contribution of £5m toward the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Multi-Donor Trust Fund for the Amazon. This hopes to tackle deforestation. 
    • Coffey outlined the importance of mangroves and the climate benefits of blue carbon.
  • The COP26 President convened Ministers and senior representatives to accelerate the transition to Zero Emissions Vehicles:
    • Launching the new Accelerating to Zero Coalition – a platform for leading initiatives to work together to deliver a Paris-aligned Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) transition globally.
    • Announcing a total of 214 ZEV Declaration signatories, committing them to a global all-ZEV sales target by 2040, and 2035 in leading markets, including new signatories France and Spain.
    • Launching a support package for emerging markets and developing economy (EMDE) countries, backed through a Global Commitment by donor countries including the UK, US, Germany and Japan.

 

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

COP27: ACE & Civil Society and Energy Day.

  • The Government have announced the launch of the Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership at G20 which builds on momentum from COP27. The partnership will mobilise £17bn over the next 3-5 years to accelerate a just energy transition. The UK will support delivery of the partnership, including a $1bn World Bank guarantee.

 

Monday, 14 November 2022

The second week at COP27 begins with Adaptation & Agriculture Day.

  • Alok Sharma made a speech at the High-Level Ministerial round table on pre-2030 ambition
    • He reiterated the need to stick to 1.5 degrees, noting the harm caused by exceeding this for many countries globally.
    • He said we have the business community on-side: 200 international businesses on Saturday signed an open letter in defence of 1.5
    • There is work to do on finances: more in terms of Multilateral development bank reform, more on the Just Energy Transition Partnership.
    • He called for progress on mitigation, and on loss and damage.
    • He asked G20 leaders to reaffirm their 1.5 commitment at the G20 summit.
    • There are four mitigation outcomes that need to be achieved: (1) Countries that have not set Nationally Determined Contributions need to do so (there are 33 that have set NDCs); (2) Clear commitments to science; (3) Further steps to phase out coal and phase out fossil fuel subsidies; (4) The legalities of the Mitigation Work Programme need to be agreed.

Saturday, 12 November 2022

Day 6 at COP27 was Adaptation & Agriculture Day.

Friday, 11 November 2022

Day 5 at COP27 was Decarbonisation Day. COP26 President, Alok Sharma spoke at the COP27 Breakthrough Agenda event.

  • The Business Secretary, Grant Shapps has announced at least £65m investment to help speed up the development of new green technologies globally. This will be part of the Industry Transition Programme, by the Climate Investment Funds. The Government will also support a new funding window from the Mitigation Action Facility for projects developing clean tech.
  • The Breakthrough Agenda was first launched at COP26- a commitment by 47 signatory countries to work together internationally this decade to accelerate the development and deployment of the clean technologies and sustainable solutions needed to meet our Paris Agreement goals, ensuring they are affordable and accessible for all.  Countries today on the 11 November launch a package of 25 new collaborative actions to be delivered by COP28 to speed up the decarbonisation under five key breakthroughs of power, road transport, steel, hydrogen and agriculture.
    • The UK and Morocco have agreed to co-lead the Power Breakthrough: Clean power is the most affordable and reliable option for all countries to meet their power needs efficiently by 2030.
    • The UK, US and EU have agreed to co-lead the Hydrogen Breakthrough: Affordable renewable and low carbon hydrogen is globally available by 2030.
    • The US, India and UK have agreed to co-leads the Road Transport Breakthrough: Zero emission vehicles are the new normal and accessible, affordable, and sustainable in all regions by 2030. 
    • Egypt and UK have agreed to co-lead the Agriculture Breakthrough: Sustainable, decarbonised agriculture with investment in agriculture research, development and demonstration addressing challenges of food security, climate change and environmental degradation.  

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Day 4 at COP27 was Science, and Youth & Future Generations Day. 

  • COP26 President Alok Sharma met with Vietnam’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources to discuss Vietnam’s energy transition. They recommitted to finalising the details of a political declaration and package of financial support for Vietnam’s energy transition, reaching an agreement before the end of 2022.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Day 3 at COP27 was Finance Day. The Prime Minister made a statement to the House of Commons, reiterating the UK policy announcements made during the World Leaders’ Summit.

  • UK Export Finance have announced as part of COP27 Finance Day that it will become the first export credit agency in the world to offer Climate Resilience Debt Clauses in its direct sovereign lending. The clauses will offer low-income countries and small island developing states the ability to defer debt repayments in the event of a severe climate shock or natural disaster.
  • The Exchequer Secretary, James Cartlidge,announced the publication of the UK Transition Plan Taskforce’s Disclosure Framework. It outlines the key design principles which will underpin Climate Resilient Debt Clauses for use in private sector lending, and called for all creditors – including private banks, other bilateral lenders and the international financial institutions – to explore adopting these clauses. 
  • The UK has announced its support for Colombia’s emergency plan to stop deforestation in the Colombian Amazon. The Joint Declaration of Intent between Colombia, Germany, Norway and the UK from 2015 has been extended until 2025. Norway and Germany announced new contributions of $25m. There has been no new funding commitment made by the UK.

Tuesday, 8 November 2022

The 2nd and final day of the World Leaders’ Summit began with reports that the UK and US are about to announce a major fossil fuel deal following COP27, with the US planning to sell £10bn of cubic metres of liquefied natural gas to Britain in 2023 in order to improve energy security.  

New funding commitments  

  • The Foreign Secretary has announced £200m financial support to the African Development Bank’s Climate Action Window to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This is part of yesterday’s commitment to triple adaptation funding targets from £500m to £1.5bn (2019-2025).

Scottish commitments

  • Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, has pledged £5m funding to tackle loss and damage caused by the climate crisis in developing countries.

Monday, 7 November 2022

The new COP27 President, Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry, opened the World Leaders’ Summit today. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spent the day meeting other heads of state and delivered his speech to the conference floor. His speech followed warnings from the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, that the world is ‘on a highway to climate hell’, saying that in order to save humanity, we must ‘co-operate or perish’. Meanwhile, the UN Environmental Programme has labelled progress on cutting emissions ‘woefully inadequate’ since COP26 in Glasgow last year.  

New funding commitments

  • General commitments 
    • The Prime Minister confirmed that his new Government would stick to the £11.6bn international climate fund that was pledged last year, but it’s possible the plan could take longer than the five years originally planned. 
    • Sunak announced that the UK will triple funding for adaptation programmes from £500m in 2019 to £1.5bn in 2025.  
    • £65m for the Nature, People and Climate Investment Fund, supporting indigenous and local forest communities. 
    • £65.5m for the Clean Energy Innovation Facility which provides grants to researchers and scientists in developing countries to accelerate the development of clean technology. 
    • As part of the new Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership, Sunak confirmed more than £150m for protecting rainforests and natural habitats, including the Congo Basin (£90m) and the Amazon. 
    • The Foreign Secretary will announce £100m to support developing economies to respond to climate-related disasters, including £20.7m in Disaster Risk Financing to support countries who face climate-related disasters, and £13m to support vulnerable countries to adapt to climate impacts.  
    • Speaking today, Nicola Sturgeon said her government are set to announce a proposal on aid for vulnerable countries, criticising the poor delivery of the $100bn climate finance commitment. 
  • Place-specific commitments 
    • New financial support for Egypt’s COP27 initiative, ‘Nexus on Food, Water and Energy’ to develop projects including solar parks and energy storage innovations. 
    • Climate finance support for the UK-Kenya Strategic Partnership. 
    • £95m for Nigeria to support the development of climate-resilient agriculture. 

International partnerships

  • The UK has launched the Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership. The new group will meet twice a year to track commitments on Forests and Land Use Declaration from COP26 (aiming to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030). The Partnership has 26 members, accounting for 33% world’s forests.  
  • The UK and Kenya have reaffirmed their commitment to the UK-Kenya Strategic Partnership, including progressing on green investment projects: new and expanded solar and geothermal power plants, financing railway and a dam hydropower project. 
  • The UK will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Colombia to renew the ‘Partnership for Sustainable Growth’. 
  • The UK, alongside the US, Norway and the Netherlands pledged to roll out ‘green shipping corridors’ with maritime routes decarbonised from end to end. The UK and US agreed to launch a special Green Shipping Corridor Task Force to bring together sector experts to encourage research and development.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

Autumn Statement 2022 predictions

Autumn Statement 2022 predictions

At the Autumn Statement on Thursday, the Chancellor will set out tax rises and spending cuts totalling £60bn, roughly divided into £35bn of spending cuts and £25bn of tax rises.

Here is what you can expect:

Tax, Pensions and Benefits

Last week, the Chancellor and the Prime Minister met to plan this month’s Autumn Statement. It looks like they will bring ‘stealth’ increases in income tax and National Insurance by freezing the thresholds at which people start to pay different rates. It was already expected that the two thresholds would be frozen until 2026, but the new plan sees this being extended for two years or even longer.

While it was previously understood that Sunak and Mr Hunt have ruled out increasing the rates of income tax, National Insurance and VAT, as to do so would breach the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto, there have been reports that they might increase the number of people paying the highest rate of income tax by lowering the threshold from £150,000. However, the Treasury has ruled out changes to higher-rate pension tax relief, over concerns it could disincentivise people to save and would hit middle earners.

Government officials said Jeremy Hunt was drawing up plans to extend a freeze in the inheritance tax ‘nil-rate band’ from 2025-26 to 2027-28. It is also understood that the pension lifetime allowance is set to be frozen for two more years, with a rise in line with prices delayed from 2025 to 2027. The approach comes with the future of the pensions triple lock, still hanging in the balance. Mr Hunt could decide that pensions should only rise in line with earnings rather than the current 10.1% inflation rate. Another big decision for Chancellor and the Prime Minister is whether to raise benefits in line with inflation. There have been reports that Rishi Sunak will bow to pressure, however, a Government source stressed no final decision had been made, so a real-terms cut could still happen.

It seems like Treasury officials are examining whether the Autumn Statement could include changes to non-dom status and moves to raise taxes on dividends by cutting tax-free allowances. Changes could include reducing the time period over which high net worth individuals can avoid tax on their worldwide income. The Chancellor could also cut the tax-free threshold for shareholders’ earning from dividends from the current level of £2,000. Jeremy Hunt has also been asked to consider changes to capital gains tax, which has the potential to bring in billions if it were changed to match income tax rates.

Moreover, it looks like No.10 and No.11 have returned to discussions about allowing local authorities to raise more in council tax by removing a requirement to hold a referendum if they are increasing it by more than 2.99 per cent. A Government source thought Sunak and Hunt would ultimately reject the plan, but said the fact that it was being discussed again made it more likely than before.

Capital Spending

All capital spending is under review, with a view to making billions in savings on infrastructure projects. No 10 denied reports that plans for the new Sizewell C nuclear power station could be scrapped, but big energy projects along with every other major infrastructure plan such as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will have costs reviewed. The biggest ticket item under threat appears to be the northern rail scheme, which was a manifesto promise in the 2019 election. Asked whether HS2 could also be subject to cuts, the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘I am sure everything will be reviewed.’ This came as the head of the HS2 expressed confidence that that project would not face cuts.

Health

Having made repeated references to the need for ‘difficult decisions’, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Chancellor are expected to announce at least £35 billion pounds in spending cuts.

However, with public support for the NHS so high – and the service already stretched to a breaking point – any significant cuts to the health service would likely prove unpopular. Sunak has said in Cabinet that health spending would not be cut and that he ‘would always support the NHS and that it would continue to be prioritised as difficult decisions are taken on spending’, however the NHS will be expected to ‘find efficiencies’. An important issue will be public sector pay, with speculation that that pay rises could be limited to 2% for 2023/24, despite inflation being over 10%. This would likely anger unions representing workers from across the NHS, who are threatening to walk out over below inflation pay deals. The specificities of pay deals will not be decided until next year, though the Autumn budget is likely to give a good indication of how much money the Department of Health and Social Care will have to work with.

Energy

Following former Prime Minister Liz Truss’s introduction of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme and news that the scheme will change following 31 March 2023, it is expected that further details of the Government’s plans will be announced in the Autumn Statement. The Chancellor has already explained that ‘any support for businesses will be targeted to those most affected and the new approach will better incentivise energy efficiency’.

There are renewed questions over whether the current windfall tax on oil and gas companies will be extended, whether that is increasing the temporary levy, the time frame and/or extending the tax to electricity suppliers. Mounting pressure comes from reports of more record-breaking oil and gas profits in the last few months.

International Development

The Government notified the International Development Committee at the start of the month that the FCDO’s temporary pause on non-essential ODA spending would be extended to 17 November. The question will be whether the suspension will be extended beyond the Autumn Statement, especially in light of future Foreign Office funding commitments made at COP27. The proportion of spending will only be restored from 0.5 to 0.7% once the Government is not borrowing for day-to-day spending and debt is falling.

Home Office

The UK Government had previously announced that the IR35 regime reforms were to be repealed from April next year. Chancellor Hunt announced in his statement on the 17 October that these repeals will no longer be going ahead, scrapping Kwarteng’s previous plans, meaning the current IR35 regime will stay. Staffing companies and end clients will continue to be liable for personal service company (PSC) contractor tax and, given HMRC’s likely refreshed focus on enforcement, should keep going with their procedures relating to determination of the IR35 tax status of PSCs. The UK seems likely to face a period of greater-than-expected economic uncertainty and this will put pressure on the revenues and profits of many involved in the use or supply of contingent workers, as well as potentially impacting the right to work checks for employees through the Identification Service Provider method to check passports of non-nationals. If the Government is serious about the status of this, Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement will address this.

Science and Technology

In an attempt to demonstrate a return back to serious financial management of the economy and the tax system, it is rumored that the Government may overhaul Research and Development (R&D) reliefs. R&D reliefs are used to support companies that work on innovative projects in science and technology and can be claimed by those that seek to research or develop an area in their field. The rumored overhaul could therefore impact the UK’s position as a global science and technology superpower.

Education and Skills

The Prime Minister so far vowed to protect only one area of spending, the NHS, meaning education could face much deeper cuts. This is put into context by research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies showing the costs faced by schools are by more than economy-wide inflation.

However, in keeping with the Conservative Government’s focus on skills over the last few years, it has been reported Sunak is preparing a radical set of reforms to transform the nation’s education system, including a British baccalaureate and a network of technical institutes to transform vocational training. This approach contrasts his predecessor Truss, who neglected to address skills in her plan for growth, and follows a recent Education Committee session on the International Baccalaureate. This builds on his leadership campaign pledges over the summer, which included requiring all pupils to continue to study core subjects like English and Maths.

His campaign pledges for education also covered other areas of education; to build on the Early Career Framework and improve professional development, establishing a new headteacher shadowing programme and giving the DfE a ‘new mandate to explore how more digital technology could be used in schools, building on the Oak National Academy, to provide teaching resources, and use AI to reduce workload outside of teaching time’. However, given the pressures of this budget and the heavy investment on skills, it is unlikely other parts of the sector will experience the same focus as the 16-19 landscape.

Defence

The Defence Secretary has denied threatening to resign if the Chancellor didn’t maintain the commitment to spend 3% of GDP on defence by 2030. At a meeting of the Defence Committee meeting, Ben Wallace said he would instead be fighting for as much money as he could get for defence. He described the target as an ‘aspiration’ and would later complete the roll back on the target, saying he would like there to be a real terms investment in defence but conceded he would like the country to meet the 3% target at ‘some stage’, with acknowledgement that there is a new Prime Minister and new Cabinet.

DCMS

With a plethora of competing issues to contend with this year, the Budget is unlikely to deliver any big announcements for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. A Whitehall source revealed earlier this month that ‘every department that tried to put bids in has been quite harshly rebuffed’ going on to specify: ‘If DCMS was asking about arts funding or whatever, that has been rebuffed’.

The sector has faced other funding woes of late; DCMS recently ordered Arts Council England to postpone its new three-year funding commitment to arts organisations, although it has since been announced that there will be £446m per annum available for ACE’s 2023-26 Investment Programme.

This follows the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s most recent report, which found that urgent financial support is needed for the sector as many organisations are facing an ‘existential threat’ from the cost-of-living crisis. The report touched on the Government’s levelling up agenda, a manifesto commitment, by suggesting the Government neesd to tackle geographical funding imbalances for arts and culture. However, links to the levelling up agenda have been drawn out in recent DCMS funding announcements, with Greater Manchester; the West of England and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly; Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire; Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire; Kent, Essex and East and West Sussex; and the North East of England all set to benefit from a new £17.5 million funding pot to help creative businesses expand their operations.

Whether indirectly or directly, arts organisations will need financial support if they are to survive the cost-of-living crisis this year, as many in the sector have pointed out.

Housing

With UK house prices falling at the sharpest rate in almost two years, the Government will be hoping the budget can stabilise the housing market. Many believe that the fate of market could determine the result of the next election.

Jeremy Hunt has reversed almost all the tax cuts set out in Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget. One of the only two elements that was retained was the cut to stamp duty in England and Northern Ireland. (Scotland and Wales have their own property purchase tax regimes). This means that the SDLT nil-rate band – the threshold below which Stamp Duty does not need to be paid – will be doubled from £125,000 to £250,000. First-time buyers, who currently do not pay SDLT on the first £300,000 on homes costing up to £500,000, will see the nil-rate band extended to £425,000 on homes costing up to £625,000.

During the summer leadership election, Sunak committed to tackling the problem of land banking, where housebuilders delay construction on sites earmarked for development in order to drive up property prices. He vowed to look at a new levy with the aim of boosting the number of new homes being built.

On retrofitting, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and its Chairman Lord Deben wrote to Jeremy Hunt, stressing the need for urgent action on decarbonising buildings, through measures like loft and cavity insulation, and through a heat pump rollout. He wrote ‘The next two years should be a period for a concerted push to improve rates of loft and cavity wall insulation, draught-proofing and installing modern tools to manage energy use (such as smart thermostats, thermostatic radiator controls and smart meters)’.

Friends of the Earth head of policy Mike Childs said ‘Fixing the UK’s heat leaking homes will cut energy bills, help keep people warm, boost energy security and slash carbon emissions. The Chancellor must recognise this in next week’s Autumn Statement by committing to investing at least £5bn annually on insulation over the coming years.’

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

Crisis in the NHS Workforce: Government and Stakeholder Responses.

Crisis in the NHS workforce: Government and stakeholder responses

Winter is always a challenging period for the NHS, but this year may prove particularly difficult with patient backlogs at an all-time high and services stretched to the breaking point.

In addition to this, the sector is potentially set to experience an unprecedented wave of industrial action, with the Royal College of Nurses having just concluded a ballot for strike action of its 300,000 members for the first time in its 106-year history, after rejecting a below inflation pay offer by the Government earlier this year. The BMA estimates that because of inflation, doctors have had a 26% real terms pay-cut over the past decade and junior doctors are preparing for a ballot of members in early January in a call for pay restoration. UNISON, Unite and the GMB are all balloting members working across the healthcare sector; including porters, cleaners, paramedics, ambulance drivers and health care assistants.

These developments are not completely unexpected; earlier this year after hearing evidence from professionals across the sector, the Health and Social Care Select Committee concluded that ‘the national health service and social care sector are facing the greatest work force crisis in history’.

What are the underlying causes of the workforce crisis and what are politicians pledging to do in response?

The chronic workforce shortages within the NHS have more than one cause. For example, the impact of Brexit cannot be underestimated, as the number of healthcare staff immigrating from EU countries has plummeted. The NHS has always relied heavily on immigration and to an extent, gaps in the workforce have been plugged by professionals coming from outside the EU. However, there are still an estimated 132,000 unfilled vacancies which are placing an increasing strain on overstretched services.

In response to the crisis, the Government has promised to recruit 50,000 extra nurses by 2024, yet new analysis by the Kings fund suggests that while they are on track to meet their targets, demand for nurses is still far outstripping supply. The problem is that nurses and other healthcare professionals are leaving the NHS at roughly the same rate they are being recruited, recent research by the Nuffield trust suggests. Furthermore, the nurses who do leave are often more senior, leaving the work force lacking in clinical skills and experience.

Labour has remained evasive about its position on the strikes. Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting has said that industrial action would ‘certainly not’ be ‘in the best interest of patients, and it’s not in the interest of the NHS’, and refused to commit to nurse’s demands for above inflation pay rises. However, he also said he sympathised with NHS workers going on strike and said that ‘staff feel [that] their back are against the wall and they no longer have any choice’. Streeting has also pledged that Labour will ‘train a new generation of doctors, nurses and midwives to treat patients on time again’ paid for by abolishing non-dom tax status.

Stakeholders warn that a narrow focus on recruitment fails to address the underlying cause of the crisis and that in order to save the NHS, the Government must take measures to improve staff retainment. Chronic under-staffing creates a vicious cycle, as it causes existing staff to be forced to work unpaid overtime, and therefore more prone to burnout. The Health and Social Care Committee recommended a radical review of staff working conditions in order to prevent workers leaving; proposing measures such as flexible working options, basic staff facilities provided at hospitals childcare arrangements and, most crucially, an above inflation pay rise.

Tackling the immense challenges the NHS faces will require serious long-term planning, and yet the 15-year NHS Workforce Strategy – promised under former Health Secretary Sajid Javid – shows little sign of being published. Saffron Cowdrey, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts across the country, urged the new Health Secretary to prioritise ‘tackling severe workforce shortages with a long-term, fully costed and funded national plan to secure for the NHS the staff it desperately needs…without which, patients and staff will continue to suffer’.

Following Rishi Sunak’s election as Prime Minister, Steve Barclay has been reappointed Secretary of Health and Social Care – after being out of the role for just one month during Liz Truss’s brief time in premiership. Barclay responded to topical questions about workforce shortages in the House of Commons on Tuesday, promising to boost recruitment ‘across the clinical workforce – whether we are talking about dentistry, nursing, social care or doctors’. He refused to comment further on questions about pensions or the long-term workforce plan, and we will likely not hear more fleshed-out policy announcements until after the Autumn Budget on 17 November.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Summer Policy Pledges

What can we expect from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak? Summer’s policy pledges

Rishi Sunak has officially become Prime Minister after being invited to form a Government by King Charles. He did not make any policy pledges during the four-day contest, give any speeches or media interviews which means that his unsuccessful battle against Liz Truss to replace Boris Johnson over the summer remains the best indication of his policies. Below you can find the main policy pledges made during the summer:

Tax

Sunak said he would not cut taxes until inflation is under control [BBC News]

As Chancellor, he raised National Insurance by 1.25p in the pound, a policy he defended throughout the campaign as necessary to fund health spending [BBC News]

Sunak also announced plans to cut the basic rate of income tax from 20% to 16% by 2029 in what he described as the largest cut to income tax in three decades. He said ‘it is a radical vision but it is also a realistic one’ [Bloomberg]

He has repeatedly said he would prioritise bringing down inflation before cutting taxes if in the role of PM. He has said he would introduce more targeted support for households, and has promised to reduce VAT on domestic energy bills from 5% to zero and to cut 3p off income tax by 2029 [BBC News]

Sunak planned to scrap VAT on energy bills. He was planning to implement a temporary measure to save the average household £160 [Sky News]

Health

Sunak planned to eliminate NHS one-year waiting times by September 2024 and bring down overall numbers by 2023. As part of a number of measures, he is promising to offer more diagnostic services such as MRI and CT scans in repurposed empty high street shops [BBC News]

He pledged to fine patients who miss GP appointments £10 [Sky News]

He pledged to reform dentists’ NHS contract, and ringfence the annual £3bn NHS dentistry budget [BBC News]

Education

Sunak wanted to introduce a ‘British Baccalaureate’ that would see students study maths and English beyond GCSE, in a bid to follow the model of other countries where maths must be studied until 18. Expressing his belief that the current A-level curriculum is too narrow and does not prepare young people for future employment, he also said he would create a ‘Russell Group’ of technical colleges to provide an alternative to universities [The Telegraph]

He pledged to set up a multibillion-pound science research programme, following the exclusion of British scientists from EU funding. He said that he would create a British version of Horizon as a row continues with Brussels over access to the EU’s £80bn funding programme [The Times]

He highlighted the risks China potentially poses, saying he will close all 30 of China’s Confucius Institutes in the UK [Sky News

Welfare State

Sunak previously promised to be ‘much tougher’ on how the UK’s benefits system works as Prime Minister, suggesting that he would force unemployed claimants to take jobs when they become available. He said that this would help businesses which are currently struggling to fill staff vacancies [The Telegraph]

Brexit

Sunak said he would task a Brexit minister, and a new Brexit Delivery Department, with reviewing all 2,400 EU laws transferred over to the UK statute book after the UK’s exit from the bloc as well as prioritising business tax cuts [inews]

He expressed support for going ahead with the Northern Ireland Protocol, but said that the legislation will take a long time to come into force [Belfast Telegraph]

Climate

Sunak has been accused of undermining the Government’s climate policy after he vowed to boost the production of oil and gas in the North Sea. Sunak said as Prime Minister, he would immediately order a new licensing round for oil and gas drilling permits, with a further round from 2024. Climate campaigners said that the proposals would go against the legal target of cutting emissions to zero by 2050 and is inconsistent with Sunak’s plan to act on climate change [Independent]

Transport

Sunak has pledged to ban new all-lane smart motorways and clamp down on rip-off rogue private parking fines. The former Chancellor said he would ‘end the war on motorists’ by reviewing low-traffic neighbourhoods that shut off streets to general traffic, arguing that ‘many local residents are currently concerned that LTNs have led to difficulties for emergency vehicles such as ambulances’ [The i paper]

Scotland

The incoming Prime Minister has promised to increase scrutiny of the Scottish Government. Sunak has indicated that Scottish civil servants would face greater scrutiny from Westminster, with UK ministers required to be more visible in Scotland [Sky News]

He has also previously promised to do more to oppose Scottish nationalism. He promised Conservative members he would oppose the SNP with ‘an argument that speaks to people’s hearts’ if elected as PM [The Independent]

Civil Service

Sunak has committed to cutting Civil Service jobs as part of plans to address a ‘bloated post-Covid state’. The plans include cutting the ‘back office’ headcount by around 90,000 and changing pay rewards from being based on longevity to performance, including requiring senior civil servants to spend a year working outside of Whitehall if they want promotion. The plans would also see the return of the suspended fast-stream graduate recruitment programme and championing the use of apprenticeships [Evening Standard]

The former Chancellor suggested senior civil servants should have to spend a year in the private sector as a corrective to Whitehall groupthink. Under this policy, people running Government departments would be made to spend time outside the civil service, or at least outside of London [The Times]

Other

Sunak has vowed to slash the number of empty shops on high streets [Sky News]

He vowed to increase police powers to tackle anti-social behaviour in public spaces [Sky News]

He also previously announced plans to reform the Prevent anti-terror programme and has included ‘vilification of the UK’ as part of his definition of extremist views. He said that ‘There is no more important duty for a Prime Minister than keeping our country and our people safe’ but came under some criticism for allegedly misunderstanding the Prevent programme’s aims, conflating them with tackling non-violent extremism [The Independent]

Where is Liz Truss?

Where is Liz Truss and what will happen now?

At the time of writing Liz Truss has been Prime Minister for just under seven weeks and it has been a rollercoaster seven weeks. She finds herself in a situation where she is fighting for her job and the prospects of the Conservative Party.

Truss has lost one of her closest allies in Kwasi Kwarteng and has appointed Jeremy Hunt as her Chancellor. Hunt’s first major action was to undo almost everything Truss and Kwarteng had laid out in their mini-budget. She has now lost Suella Braverman as Home Secretary which granted is not for political reasons, however Braverman did not shy away from policy concerns in her resignation letter.

Truss now has two people in four of the great offices of state she did not feel warranted a seat at the Cabinet table. It is well documented that Shapps has been plotting against Liz Truss and has been openly criticising her, so it is hard to see this as anything other than a move to get influential MPs in the camp.

This is all before the situation that emerged on Wednesday night. Labour put forward the ‘Ban on Fracking for Shale Gas Bill’ and it has probably had more than the desired effect. The vote was classed as a confidence measure with a three-line whip meaning there could be severe consequences for those who don’t support the Government in the vote. Conservative MPs asked during the debate whether they would lose the whip to which the minister responding, Graham Stuart then declared it was not a confidence measure.

There have now been allegations of Conservative MPs being physically manhandled into the Government’s voting lobby. And the confusion around whether the Chief Whip Wendy Morton and the deputy Chief Whip Craig Whittaker had resigned. Downing Street did eventually clarify that they are both still in post but if such a statement is having to be put out it does not appear like things are running smoothly. What will happen to the MPs who did not vote with the Government and had no reason not to will be interesting and presents a real dilemma for Truss. Does she let MPs not give their support to the Government on a three-line whip and nothing happens, or does she act and risk upsetting even more of her follow Conservative MPs?

Truss will now likely be hoping she can get to the 31st of October without incident. The presentation of the Medium-Term Fiscal Plan is the milestone she will be working towards with the hope it can provide her with a much-needed boost. Hunt has had a somewhat steadying influence since becoming Chancellor, however decisions still need to be made. We saw evidence of this with the Prime Minister committing to the triple lock for pensions after her new Chancellor did not. This is either a sign the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are not completely in sync, or it was an effort by Truss to box her new Chancellor in. It is worth noting that the triple lock was a manifesto commitment so she may be able to get some support with sticking to this. However it is difficult to see how what matches up with her stance on fracking.

It is already quite likely that Truss could be in a place she cannot recover from. There are a few things that could happen from here onwards.

The most likely scenario seems that Truss loses more support and is asked to go and a short leadership contest takes place. And the leader waits until time runs out (January 2025), when there must be an election.

A new Prime Minister could be put in place, and they want to call a general election, which would seem appropriate (but not required) considering we would be on the third Prime Minister of this term. It is also possible a new leader gains some popularity and wants to seize upon it.

The Government seem unlikely to lose a formal confidence motion considering they have a majority of 71 and given current polling Conservative MPs are unlikely to vote in favour of something that sees them lose their jobs.

With more Conservative MPs calling for the Prime Minister to resign at the time of writing, we may have either Penny Mordaunt, Jeremy Hunt, Rishi Sunak, Ben Wallace or even Boris Johnson as Prime Minister before we know it.

Cabinet Office

Progression in the cabinet amid a time of change

As we turn a corner away from the stresses of Brexit arrangements and the worst (hopefully) of the COVID-19 pandemic, our new Conservative leader and Prime Minister Liz Truss faces yet another battle, this time with the spiralling energy crisis, just in time for the winter months.

Facing what Nicola Sturgeon warns has the potential to become a humanitarian crisis, Truss’ cabinet arrangements needed to be based on expertise and experience. Her choices will also go down in history for creating the most ethnically-diverse cabinet ever with none of the great offices of state held by a white man, allowing for this cabinet reshuffle to display significant milestones for future Government.

For the first time there are no white males in any of the four most senior positions of the UK Government; Prime Minister Liz Truss, Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng, Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. Further to this, for the first time, the UK has its first non-white Environment Secretary (Ranil Jayawardena) and International Trade Secretary (Anne-Marie Trevelyan). In addition to this, 23% of those attending cabinet are non-white.

Truss’ cabinet also shows significant progression for women in Government, portraying something much greater for wider society. Nearly a third of cabinet attendees identify as women, making it the highest proportion noted in modern times – this is also the proportion ever for a Prime Minister’s first Cabinet.

Women have held the role of Home Secretary for the past 13 years, with Suella Braverman as the fifth woman in history to hold the post, the first being Labour’s Jacqui Smith (from 2007-2009), Theresa May (2010-16), Amber Rudd (2016-18) and Priti Patel (2019-22). Wendy Morton is the first woman to serve as Conservative Chief Whip, while Labour has had four female Chief Whips, the most recent being Dame Rosie Winterton, who held the role from 2010 to 2016. Further, Therese Coffey is only the fifth person to formally hold the role of Deputy Prime Minister, and the first woman to do so.

However, while these achievements show progress, the turnover of the last 12 months has meant inconsistencies across these important cabinet roles. Five separate people have held the job of Education Secretary, with Kit Malthouse serving as the ninth Education Secretary in the past 12 years. Further, since 2010 there have been nine ustice secretaries with Brandon Lewis taking current hold, following Ken Clarke (2010-12), Chris Grayling (2012-15), Michael Gove (2015-16), Liz Truss (2016-17), David Lidington (2017-18), David Gauke (2018-19), Robert Buckland (2019-21) and Dominic Raab (2021-22). In addition to this, Nadhim Zahawi makes history as the second shortest serving Chancellor of the Exchequer, at just 63 days in office, after being given the job by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 5 July.

In order for this hard Conservative Government to deliver effectively, it remains to be seen whether cabinet members will align with Truss’s economic priority to cut taxes, her commitment to supporting the NHS, her promise to double down on the policy of deporting asylum seekers and other immigrants to Rwanda, as well as her toughness over the Northern Ireland Protocol with the potential for her to trigger Article 16.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

Reputation in business

Business leaders, listen up: Stuart Thomson on maintaining reputation in business

Whether you are the CEO of an international business, a politician with power or a high-profile celebrity with millions of fans, reputation matters. Here to offer advice on building, maintaining and, where needed, rescuing reputation in business is BDB Pitmans’ Stuart Thomson in his new book Reputation in Business: Lessons for Leaders.

For 30% off, use the code VUELIO30 at checkout here

Read on for which businesses are getting their comms right, how to handle a reputational crisis and what leaders can learn from Lizzo.

Reputation in Business

Can you introduce your new book?

The book, Reputation in Business: Lessons for Leaders, aims to be a practical guide to building and protecting reputations. A lot of leaders recognise the vital intangible asset that reputation represents but too many don’t really understand what reputation is and the steps that should be taken to build it. So, this is my effort, drawing in the valuable experience of others, to deliver that sort of practical guide.

What inspired you to write it?

I’ve always enjoyed reading books about communications partly to keep myself up-to-date on the latest trends and ideas but also because I find the issues really interesting as well! I find it fascinating to learn from the experience of others. There is no doubting the importance of reputation management in so much of what we do in communications but I thought that while many books were great on the theory, they were less good on ‘and here is what you should do’. That was my inspiration!

Having written other books I had a good idea about what would be involved and the time needed so I spent my evenings and weekends writing. Luckily, I have a very understanding family!

Have your experiences with blogging helped with writing a full book?

I think so. It has helped me to develop a style which is not too formal but also allows me to convey information as well. Regular readers of the blog seem to enjoy that and the book is very much is the same style.

Blogging also focuses you. In a blog you don’t have the amount of words available to go off on too many flights of fancy. You need to show the challenge and convey some ideas and advice. The book follows that same sort of style.

What were the main challenges with writing the book?

Covid, covid, covid. On the one hand it meant that there were plenty of examples, good and bad, to help me illustrate the critical role of reputation management. But on the other, working from home all day during lockdown and then sitting at the same kitchen table in the evening to spend time on the book was a bit tough.

Add to that the ramifications for the publishing sector and it could have been that I had written a book that no one would ever get to read. Luckily, I have a fantastic agent in Matthew Smith and a wonderful team at Routledge who have all helped get it ready for publication.

With reputation particularly important now, and gauging tone-of-voice in comms difficult in light of current events, which brands, businesses or high-profile figures do you think are getting it right?

Very few get it right all the time. I admire the ones who get it right most of the time but also those who, when they make a mistake, move quickly and learn from it. All organisations and individuals need to be constantly vigilant as well. Anyone who thinks they can sit back and take a reputation for granted will, sooner or later, come unstuck.

Just look at some of the brands that seem to have made some very strange decisions during the period of mourning for the Queen and around her funeral arrangements.

I mention in the book, the way in which Liverpool Football Club (which I support) made some terrible decisions during Covid but took quick and decisive action to reverse them. Critically, the leadership took personal ownership of the decisions as well.

With crisis management a key part of reputation, could you name some examples of great crisis comms from the last few years?

Many organisations have plans in place to deal with a crisis so it is surprising that many still manage to get their reaction wrong.

But I think the real issue is those who do not plan properly to stop the mistakes from happening in the first place. Just look at someone normally as sure-footed as Beyoncé. She used an ableist slur in one of her songs only shortly after Lizzo had done the same. Lizzo recognised her mistake, apologised and re-recorded the song. For Beyoncé to make the same mistake very shortly afterwards is poor. Lizzo handled her crisis well.

On the corporate side, I think the pharma companies have done a good job in counteracting the misinformation over the Covid vaccine. It has been more of a ‘slow and steady’ type of campaign and they have had to work with a wide range of audiences but the outcomes have benefited us all.

On the subject of business leaders with reputations that perhaps need better management… what advice would you give to a high-profile figure like Elon Musk for rebuilding their reputation in the eyes of the public?

Some leaders love their persona so much that they seem not to believe that they ever make any mistakes. It doesn’t appear that they take advice because they have complete faith in their own abilities. That takes a very special type of personality.

Building a reputation in the first place is about recognizing your weaknesses and then taking action to address them. Only then can you start build relationships with the audiences that really matter. And that doesn’t always mean the general public.

Were there any subjects/topics that you would love to cover in a follow-up/didn’t have room for in this book?

Well, drum roll, I’ve already been planning my next book and Routledge have kindly agreed to publish that one as well. The Company and The Activist: Going Beyond PR will look at how activist and community groups interact with businesses. It is early stages but I’d be happy to talk to those with a view on these issues.

Which tomes have really helped you in your career in public relations/public affairs – are there any books (apart from your own, of course) that you would recommend those earlier on in their careers to read?

In terms of public affairs, I think Lionel Zetter’s books are always worth learning from and he has a great writing style as well. But also check out Conor McGrath, Erik Akse, Milos Labovic and Anders Kopp Jensen. But I would also say that there are a number of good podcasts out there as well so learn from wherever you can.

Then one of my favourites on reputation management is The Reputation Game by David Waller and Rupert Younger. That is one that I keep returning to.

For more from Stuart Thomson, check out his recent guest post on what Prime Minister Liz Truss’s leadership will mean for public affairs.

International Perspectives of the new Prime Minister

In the six weeks running up to the Conservative leadership election, world leaders and international new outlets provided a heightened commentary on the state of UK politics. While optimism towards Liz Truss’s election differs greatly across borders, headlines mentioning the ‘long list of challenges’ ahead of her were widely agreed upon.

Throughout the race, the Vuelio Insights team monitored all local and national coverage across Europe (excl. UK), North America, Australia and New Zealand to explore the overarching international perspective of the British political system.

Following Truss’s victory on 6 September, many political figures around the world rushed to offer their congratulatory messages of hope and solidarity. Terms like ‘strategic partnership’ and ‘friendship’ were shared across Italy, Israel, Romania and the Netherlands, while Lithuania and Ukraine expressed their gratitude for Boris Johnson’s support against Russian aggression — in hopes it will continue with the new PM.

Having been repeatedly referred to as a former ‘anti-monarchist’ in almost 3,000 articles of the studied regions, the passing of Queen Elizabeth II put added pressure on Truss’s election. The majority of coverage — which came from the US, France and Canada — reported on Truss’s support and attendance to the memorial service. However, an article first published by Agence France-Presse that confirmed she would not ‘accompany’ King Charles III’s tour of the nations due to ‘ongoing criticism’ was syndicated 218 times by region European and North American media outlets.

Euroscepticism and demands for respect

While local and regional coverage within each region has reported positive messages from world leaders, international news sources have favoured the growing EU concerns around Brexit and the NI protocol. Thomas Gift, founding director of University College London’s Centre on US Politics, told Newsweek that Truss ‘is more of a Eurosceptic than Rishi Sunak,’ meaning she is less in favour of co-operation with the EU.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and VP Maros Sefcovics both congratulated Truss, while emphasising the ‘great strategic importance’ of a ‘constructive’ and ‘positive’ relationship between London and Brussels. This will depend upon ‘full respect‘ of the NI protocol, Withdrawal Agreement and Trade and Co-operation Agreement. Both members of the EU were quoted in 386 national articles across Europe and North America.

In light of this condition, Jacinda Arden used the election to recognise the UK’s ‘exceptionally strong’ relationship with New Zealand, acknowledging Truss’s ‘staunch support’ of the UK’s tilt to the Indo-Pacific and Free Trade Agreement. This statement reached online and broadcast media across Australia, New Zealand and Canada 382 times over the six-week race.

In North America, approximately 1,682 US news sources picked up on growing tensions between the EU and Liz Truss over this time, with a key focus on how this could affect the Biden administration. While Biden’s hopes to ‘deepen’ the ‘special relationship’ was shared in 31% of this coverage, it was also coupled with Truss’s controversial comment that the UK US relationship is ‘special but not exclusive’, comparing approval of the US to a ‘beauty parade’.

Conservative leadership race: volume and sentiment

Throughout the six weeks of the leadership race (12 Jul – 6 Sept), the Vuelio insights team found that the international sample produced approximately 8,562 total articles in reference to the race between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. Coverage started slowly, with the first major updates made on both the 5 and the 11 of August. However, publications began to peak over 1,000 on 24 August – around the time that Sunak said it was ‘wrong’ for scientists to ‘scare people’ into lockdowns throughout the pandemic. Following this initial spike, coverage grew significantly within the final week of the election.

The ‘Reset’ opportunity

While national UK headlines have been predominantly negative over this period, international media has been predominantly neutral or positive. A strong causational factor behind this is the global agreement on how Truss could be the precedent for a great ‘reset’ opportunity among the many pending bilateral conflicts triggered by Boris Johnson.

Among the 1,492 articles discussing this potential, over 90% is in relation to France, Ireland and Brussels, while the remainder comments on humanitarian matters like the Rwanda refugee scheme. Despite Truss’s globally viral comments towards Emmanuel Macron, both he and France’s European and foreign affairs minister, Catherine Colonna, have said that the two countries are most definitely friends. Their hopes that Liz Truss’s appointment will lead to a ‘new start’ in Anglo-French relations was widely distributed across French and Canadian news sources.

Similarly, Taoiseach Micheál Martin shared hopes that Liz Truss offers a chance to ‘reset’ the fractured relationship between Britain and Ireland, which would be triggered by full respect and implementation of the NI protocol. Martin expressed desire that her premiership could herald a ‘change in direction’ for Irish/UK relations after recent years of tension over Brexit and the protocol. Of the 768 articles discussing this opportunity, 74% of news sources were either US or Ireland-based.

Total volume by region

Overall, national US news sources produced the most national coverage on the Conservative leadership race (3,788 articles), while Europe shared the most in one day (1,068 articles) — which was the final day of the election.

While Biden’s uncertainties have been widely reported, overall media response has been either positive or neutral in sentiment across the United States.

Truss’s ability to switch from a ‘Remainer’ to a Brexiteer was mentioned in 48% of all US coverage over the six weeks – by far the most widely syndicated discussion point within the country. While this switch has often been frowned upon across Europe, it has been positively received by US media — key journalists in outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek seeing it as a ‘testimony’ to her ‘political ambition’ rather than her convictions.

John Bolton, who served as the president’s national security adviser, told WSJ that both her assertion and ambition are some of many reasons that Truss is ‘the prime minister that America needs’.

In Canada, the media response was 32% positive, 48% neutral and 20% negative. Justin Trudeau offered one of the most extensive congratulatory messages to Liz Truss, referring to the UK-Canada relationship as ‘one of the strongest in the world’, a phrase used by 128 national news sources in the week following the election.

Sentiment across EU media

* UK excluded; countries displayed are those that produced over 250 relevant articles between 17 Jul – 6 Sept 2022

While the EU remains ‘wary’ of Truss, a term that reached 462 national headlines across the continent during the election, sentiment across tracked regions has been mostly neutral or positive. Among the positive regions, 52% was positive due to shared words of admiration for their relationship with the UK following extensive Ukrainian support, while the remainder often used Truss’s cooperative contributions as a Foreign Secretary as a positive outlook on her potential as PM.

Among the two countries that were negative in sentiment, Austria had a slightly higher ratio of coverage related to Starmer’s belief that Truss is ‘out of touch’ and ‘not working on the people’s side’. Similarly, Greece produced a fractionally higher proportion of negative coverage due to a spike in local media on 28 August, when Truss refused to answer if France was a ‘friend or foe’.

Thatcher connotations

Much to her displeasure, Truss has been repeatedly referred to as a ‘Thatcherite’ in both UK and international media – though regional media differs greatly on whether this is a good or a bad thing.

For example, the US used this term 1,794 times between 12 Jul – 6 Sept, but predominantly used the term as a compliment to the ‘powerhouse’ opportunities Truss could create for the US and UK. This perspective may be in part due to the ‘special relationship’ that the UK and the US share, a reference famously created by Regan and Thatcher in the 1980s.

This term has been consistently repeated by US media over the decades, with 238 headline mentions during the race. Biden’s use of this phrase in his congratulatory message to Truss suggests desire for a similar allyship in current global affairs.

On the other hand, Canadian news has a higher volume of negative coverage in response to Truss’s ‘Thatcherite’ reference. Many national news sources covered the controversies behind her idolisation of the former PM, calling many of her strategies a ‘short-term’ relief.

Similarly, leading Australian news sources used this term as an avenue to disclose Truss’s journey from ‘anti-monarchist’ to ‘next Margaret Thatcher’, with 38% of all national media featuring the viral YouTube video of Truss in her teens.

National news sources across France, Germany and Belgium also used the ‘Thatcherite’ reference on a more neutral basis, referring to both positive and negative outcomes of Thatcher’s ‘long’ and ‘looming shadow’ in 28% of the collective 218 relevant articles. The term ‘iron lady’ has also been used regarding how Thatcher plans to handle Russo-Ukraine conflicts, with 582 headlines across Europe using this title to reference Truss’ communicated approach.

In a slightly unexpected turn of events, Joe Lycett, UK comedian, also made international headlines for referring to Truss as ‘Thatcher 2.0’. His ongoing satirical commentary of the term made 448 headlines across Northern Ireland, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Top Topics: International and Regional Media

Energy Crisis

Aside from general election results, the energy crisis consumed 32% of all international headlines and has by far been the most discussed topic on an international scale. European media most often featured quotes in their headlines due to strong ‘warnings’ from EU leaders.

Both Nicola Sturgeon and Sadiq Khan echoed these concerns, with 486 European media outlets quoting the ‘need to act fast’ as winter emerges, as well as the ‘disaster’ that would unfold upon Truss’ election.

Humanitarianism

Overall, the topic of humanitarianism in British politics has produced a stronger ratio of positive headlines due to vast and ongoing Ukraine support. However, negative coverage regarding concerns of women’s rights, climate change and the Rwanda refugee policy has equated to 38% of the total 2,443 international news articles discussing humanitarian matters.

Of these topics, the most popular was the Extinction Rebellion protest that led to climate change activists gluing themselves to the speaker’s chair in parliament on 2 September. This story was most popular in the US, with a total of 882 articles on the event.

Economy

Aside from the cost-of-living crisis, further concerns about Truss’ impact on the future economy has been overwhelmingly sceptical or negative across European and U.S. online media. Headlines on the projected ‘£50bn loss’ ahead of Truss’s plans were shared 411 times over the course of the race, coupled with concerns that the poor will be ‘on the streets’.

As US, German, Irish and French media reported a ‘2.5 year low’ of the sterling following the announcement of the new PM, Deutsche Bank reported risk of a ‘sterling crisis’ rising as Truss becomes UK prime minister. This publicly released analysis was shared by 193 national news sources and financial publications across the commonwealth, US, Italy, France, Austria and Germany.

In relation to this drop in sterling value, another strong topic within international economic coverage has been Truss’s ‘pro-crypto’ reputation. This topic was covered 248 times by national news sources and financial publications, of which 89% were US-based, 9% Canadian and 2% Greek.

Truss’s statement that the UK ‘should welcome cryptocurrencies’ was a headline or body feature in 48% of all related coverage throughout the election period. While Truss has expressed desire for the UK to ‘adopt blockchains and digital property’, Richard Fuller, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, has told international media sources that Truss’s leadership will allow the UK to become a ‘dominant global hub’ for crypto technologies.

Conclusion

As it stands, the international media perspective of both the new PM and British politics is far less pessimistic than that of UK. A change in leadership has birthed waves of hope and optimism by international figures and leading news sources, with commonwealth leaders like Trudeau, Arden and Albanese expressing their long and positive relationships with Great Britain.

In the US, many believe Truss’s ‘black and white’ Thatcher qualities could actually serve as a great resource that will allow us to prevail through challenging global affairs. Furthermore, the UK’s globally renowned quality of support in eastern European regions has replenished levels of respect and allyship that many feared were lost during Boris Johnson’s leadership.

However, it appears that these words of unity and prosperity are very much conditional — the outcome of which will strongly depend upon Truss’ decisions with Brexit and the NI protocol. If she honours ‘full implementation’ as requested by Brussels and Northern Ireland, a harmonious relationship with the EU is within reach.

Eric Mamer, the Commission’s spokesperson in chief, had told reporters that they are ‘always looking for new beginnings’ with the UK and hopes Truss’s election will help to ‘move forward’ to a stronger and more peaceful future.

Want to know more about this data or how media insights can support your PR and communications? Find out more.

Communicating the cost-of-living for charities webinar

How charities are communicating the cost-of-living crisis

Charities have had to rethink media strategies, budgets, workflow and lobbying as priorities change throughout the cost-of-living crisis in the UK.

For our latest webinar ‘Communicating the cost-of-living for charities’, FareShare public affairs, comms and PR consultant Ali Gourley, NSPCC national media manager Harry Watkinson and Refuge head of media and campaigns Kim Manning-Cooper shared how their communications and approaches have had to change and how their teams are keeping campaigns high on the news agenda and in front of key decision makers.

Watch the webinar here.

Comms plans need to evolve with the changing needs of the public

Each charity represented on our webinar panel has seen how the current economic climate is directly impacting their community. As a result, their workloads and focus have had to change.

‘A big concern for us has been how domestic abuse survivors will be impacted by the current crisis,’ shared Refuge’s Kim Manning-Cooper.

‘Economic abuse is significant. Money being withheld, people being unable to access work and education. We know that many survivors will be recipients of Universal Credit, and that when they flee, they will have to renew it – the cost-of-living crisis could be a barrier to them leaving.

‘We surveyed frontline staff across emergency refuges and services – 92% said that the cost-of-living crisis is already pushing survivors further into debt. Survivors are faced with an impossible choice between staying and poverty.

‘We expect to see an increase in demand for our services’.

Campaign timelines have had to change alongside changing priorities

‘From a policy perspective, poverty wasn’t traditionally a core priority for NSPCC campaigning,’ said the charity’s national media manager Harry Watkinson. ‘Now there is growing evidence that poverty, abuse and neglect are related.’

‘The crisis is influencing how our policy team are working. From a media perspective, journalists are thinking about today, or at a push, next week. We’re still pushing out stories that have been in the planner, but it is like a tsunami; the earthquake has hit, and we’re waiting for the next wave – October, when energy bills start rolling in.

Journalists need more from comms teams now

The lessons the NSPCC team learned during the pandemic about what journalists need from organisations providing support are proving useful during the current crisis – the media needs hard evidence of its impacts.

‘Journalists want evidence on how the financial crisis is impacting the work that we do,’ said Watkinson. ‘In a normal situation, we would give six-month or annual updates on data from our helpline. Now, we’re doing quarterly and monthly updates on physical, domestic and emotional abuse. I’d say, be prepared for the fact they will keep coming back for updates – it is no longer just an annual thing.’

While the media will be saturated with cost-of-living-related stories over the next few months, there will be room for other stories from charities, says Watkinson:

‘There will still be scope to put more ‘normal’ stories, unrelated to the cost-of-living crisis. Moments when journalists are looking for something more uplifting. Having the evidence ready so you can play a relevant part in the media debate and being able to provide alternative narratives from time to time – that is important for charities and supporters’.

Bigger asks of politicians

FareShare’s network of charitable food redistributors are feeling the increased financial pressures – a pivot in its public affairs strategy was needed.

‘We are changing our ask from the Government,’ said Ali Gourley. ‘It costs us more to get food out now and there are more people in food insecurity. We are going out to our industry partners, we have more people at our doors – we need more food.

‘The current situation had changed how we’re positioning ourselves and how we talk to people.’

Working together to make an impact

With messaging from a myriad of charities hitting the media, public and politicians so regularly right now, making an impact among all the noise is a challenge. To achieve common goals, team ups with other organisations can get campaigns more attention.

‘Can be done with open letters,’ advises Ali, using FareShare’s collaboration with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as an example.

‘All charities have their own agenda, but if common ground can be found, it is doable. Presenting a united front, from a political and campaigning perspective – it definitely works.’

Watch the full Communicating the cost-of-living for charities webinar here.

Find the politicians who can make a difference to the communities you support with the Vuelio Political Database and pitch to the journalists writing about it with the Vuelio Media Database.

Downing Street

What does Liz Truss’s victory mean for climate policy?

Many shared their confusion online at the sight of a Liz Truss campaign bus driving around Westminster with a depiction of the new Prime Minister photoshopped onto a Union Jack, next to a plate of baked beans, with a promise of a “citizens’ assembly to fix climate & costs”. This unexpected environmental commitment was accompanied by a Government press release that would fool most people who stumbled across it. To many people’s disappointment, it emerged to be an elaborate stunt by activists. On the same day, Truss promised during PMQs to expand supply of North Sea oil and gas to tackle the energy crisis, fueling worries about the new Government’s intentions for handling the climate crisis.

Despite Truss’s reiteration of support for the Government’s 2050 net zero pledge, the International Energy Agency has said that net zero cannot be achieved unless there is a commitment to no new oil and gas, something expansion of North Sea oil and gas clearly conflicts with. Keir Starmer criticised the Prime Minister yesterday for refusing to introduce a windfall tax on oil and gas profits which she argued is not conducive to business. Truss has also committed to scrapping green levies on energy bills and green regulation, and committed to ending the UK-wide moratorium on fracking – a process which leaks methane into the atmosphere and causes air, water and sound pollution. Her strongest commitment to alternative energy has been on new nuclear, an option that is highly contested on environmental grounds.

Appointments to Truss’s new cabinet have caused more worry, with the promotion of Ranil Jayawardena to Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Jacob Rees-Mogg to Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. GreenPeace have said Rees-Mogg should be the ‘last person’ in charge of the energy brief, with a history of climate denialism, support for fracking and desire to squeeze ‘every last drop’ of oil from the North Sea. Meanwhile, Jayawardena has publicly criticised the use of rural large-scale solar farms and has a voting record which consistently votes against measures to prevent climate change. The Conservative Party itself is split when it comes to net zero, with two rival groups emerging this year: the Net Zero Scrutiny Group and Net Zero Support Group. Chris Skidmore MP, founder of the Support Group, has launched a UK tour today in defence of green policies, and Alok Sharma has been reappointed COP26 president despite being regarded as relatively proactive on climate policy.

On top of internal disagreements, external pressure is inevitable, especially with COP27 in Egypt at the end of the year. There is likely to be further pressure from developing countries, particularly within the context of worsening global extreme weather (as seen with flooding in Pakistan) and the continued failure for western countries to commit £100bn of annual funding for mitigation and adaptation. Whatever Truss’s intended focus, it is clear that climate policy is a key topic within political discussion on the international stage, within UK politics and inside the Conservative party, which could make it increasingly hard for the new Prime Minister to ignore.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

Communicating the cost-of-living crisis with Katie Tait at Maggie's

Communicating the cost-of-living crisis: Katie Tait at Maggie’s

As budgets are being carefully considered and replanned in homes across the country, charities across all sectors are quickly redistributing their resources to help. One charity pivoting to keep up with the evolving needs of their community right now is Maggie’s – ‘everyone’s home of cancer care’, which provides free support and information in centres across the UK as well as online.

Maggie’s director of PR and public affairs Katie Tait shares how the cost-of-living crisis has impacted those fighting against cancer across the UK and how the charity has had to adjust to keep up with the increasing strains on the public:

‘People are more afraid of paying bills than their cancer diagnosis,’ shares Katie.

‘When you are given a cancer diagnosis, you should not have to be scared that you won’t be able to pay your bills’.

How has the cost-of-living crisis in the UK impacted Maggie’s work?

Katie Tait at Maggie'sWe are hearing a huge range of devastating stories from our centre visitors across the UK of how the crisis is hitting them hard. People with cancer already face a financial burden because of reduced income from being off work or unable to apply for work, greater heating (or, this summer, cooling) needs because of treatment and being at home during the day as well as dietary requirements. Added to that – the travel costs of getting to their appointments.

Our benefits advisors are seeing unprecedented demand and they can always find all the different pots of money available but sometimes someone is already receiving all they can. That’s where Maggie’s is so good – because of our wrap-around care, we can support them through the stress and anxiety that living on a severely reduced budget brings. We are hearing of people stopping treatment early or delaying treatment because of travel costs and our cancer support specialists can help them with those decisions and how to know what to prioritise.

What are the unique challenges you’re facing right now?

Everyone is feeling the cost-of-living crisis but our unique challenge is in making sure people with cancer and their families are prioritised. During COVID, we drove home the message that people with cancer were being forgotten through delayed treatments and surgery and that got a lot of traction.

We are now seeing the same thing and our message is the same. People with cancer must be prioritised because of the life situation they are in. When you are given a cancer diagnosis, you should not be scared that you are not going to be able to pay your bills.

What have been some of your main successes recently?

Our recent press campaign and survey on how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting people with cancer got a lot of media attention. We invested in research and a survey with OnePoll which found a really strong and shocking headline figure of people being more afraid of paying bills than their cancer diagnosis. We landed our research in the same week as the Ofgem report which meant there was a lot of noise around cost-of-living and so our quotes and figures and case studies got picked up everywhere. We had a strong CEO statement and our centre visitors lined up for interviews.
It really bought home how critical the cost-of-living crisis was going to be for people living with cancer and with it our message that Maggie’s was here for everyone.

What advice would you offer to charities hoping to be heard by politicians/changemakers on this issue?

Find some champions. There are a lot of MPs, so you need to find the two or three who will become your advocates and advisers. Really research their interests and what they can do to help. Make it easy for them with clear messaging and calls to action. Follow and comment on what they do on social media and give them good content to post.

Our relationship with Tonia Antoniazzi, the chair of the APPG on Cancer, meant we had a Parliamentary reception in Westminster, set up an early day motion on the importance of our support for carers and could be introduced to other MPs. The same goes for Tracey Crouch, whose experience of cancer meant she really understood what Maggie’s is trying to achieve.

How would you advise others with approaching the media to gain coverage on these issues?

We made sure we had all the components ready to go at launch – we had case studies, spokespeople briefed, regional breakdowns of our data and ready-made social media content all prepared so that when we issued our release, we could respond to incoming requests straight away.

We also had a statement from our CEO that summarised the press release, including key data that we could send out reactively to any other cost-of-living stories as it’s such a hot topic.

How do you ensure that your approach is sensitive to those particularly vulnerable during this crisis?

We did a lot of work during our campaign planning to make sure we got our tone-of-voice right. This is something we’re really conscious of at Maggie’s and always strive to make sure the way we’re talking about issues is the way people living with cancer are talking about them too.

So, we held workshops with our storytellers and ambassadors as well as our front-line staff to find out what people are saying when they come to us for help and also what they really wouldn’t want to hear/read. We took out any jargon or anything that didn’t sound completely natural and then issued a tone-of-voice document across the organisation to make sure everyone was on the same page.

Which areas related to cost-of-living are underrepresented – what else should the media and politicians be reporting on?

There’s a lot of talk, rightly, about how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting those from lower income areas and older people, but not much about how it is impacting people living with cancer. We also know that people in lower income areas have a higher rate of some cancers, so it really is a double hit.

Are there particular journalists/sectors of the media you’d like to highlight as doing a good job on reporting on the cost-of-living crisis?

I think the media is doing a great job in covering how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting normal people. Broadcast media is the best way to hear real people’s stories, so for us having people who were happy to be interviewed on the TV and radio was important and hearing those stories straight from the people living them helps to bring home how hard the situation is.

The place that the real conversation is happening though is social media. Our Facebook posts, in particular, got a lot of attention and some really heart-breaking responses – all of which we can follow up with directly to make sure we are supporting them as much as we can.

How important is PR/comms for helping the public on this and making change to policy?

It’s imperative. Getting such a wide range of media outlets meant we were reaching nearly one million people with direct information about people with cancer and the cost-of-living. As we all know, an editorial carries far more punch than an advertorial – getting that Third Party Endorsement from media really does make an impact.

For more on campaigning for support throughout the cost-of-living crisis, read our interview with Love Energy Savings’ Rosie Macdonald on the company’s work with Lancashire-local brands including Robinsons to help families in the area.

Hear from Refuge, NSPCC and FareShare on how they’re navigated the crisis in our webinar ‘Communicating the cost-of-living crisis for charities’.

To connect with journalists reporting on your sector, find out more about the Vuelio Media Database and the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service.

What will the new Prime Minister mean for public affairs

What the new Prime Minister means for public affairs

This is a guest post from Stuart Thomson, head of public affairs at law firm BDB Pitmans.

Stuart Thomson

There are only days left before the name of the new Prime Minister will be announced. What will this decision mean for those in public affairs?

Liz vs Rishi seems to have created a long drawn-out debate with plenty of antagonism on both sides. But however much the candidates try to talk about a range of policies, a victory is likely to come down to plans around tax. Both agree that tax cuts are needed but one says now, the other later. All the indications are that Liz Truss, who wishes to take immediate action, will win.

The incoming PM will bring a new approach and a new agenda. They will want to demonstrate some distance from the previous incumbent and may, as a General Election gets ever closer, feel compelled to blame others for failings, perhaps even including the Johnson Government. However, it remains too early for that yet.

There will be differences of approach depending on who wins, but many similarities as well. The big challenge facing both is the cost-of-living crisis and energy prices. They will also both need to prove their Conservative, free market credentials and move away from simply exerting the power of the State.

But what will the election of a new leader and Prime Minister mean for public affairs? Here are 10 things to think about.

1) The need to deliver – the emphasis of the new PM will be on delivery and measures that support economic growth. Ideas that can help support that agenda are more likely to find a favourable ear and obstacles in their way swept aside. Those in public affairs need to seek out those sorts of opportunities and get their campaigns ready.
2) Reviews – policies that were in favour with the last PM, may be cast aside. That could open up opportunities as well.
3) Re-badging – Levelling Up is an example of a policy that, while not being explicitly abandoned, will doubtless be downgraded – even if it still has a Secretary of State. The need to address regional disparities will remain.
4) Short timescale – we have to remember that the longest date for delivery is late 2024 / very early 2025 which is the latest a General Election can be held. There will be extreme pressure on the new PM to demonstrate that they have made a difference by then.
5) New teams – be ready to brief news teams and advisers as those initial conversations could be critical. Grabbing attention early and making a positive impression means that you are in with the best chance of securing the influence you are seeking.
6) Pressure to be party political – there will be increased pressure as all the parties will want to demonstrate support for their approach. Don’t be afraid to rebut such approaches unless they really suit your agenda or campaign.
7) Avoid the blame game – when inevitably things go wrong then the new PM will lash out and look for someone to blame. They will, at least initially, try to avoid past Conservative Governments but blaming Labour will only take them so far. They will look for outside bodies to act as a fall guy. Make sure you have protected yourselves politically.
8) Build your reputation – another way of avoiding potential fallout is to consider your external reputation. Integrity offers protection in the event of political attack but also prevents others from being too critical. An attack on someone with a strong reputation could rebound on them.
9) Opposition parties – there is no doubt that the Conservatives look more vulnerable now than they have for some time. Whoever succeeds Johnson will face a monumental task. Good public affairs is about managing your political risk and that means, in the current environment, building relationships across all political parties. In other words, the result of the next General Election is not a foregone outcome.
10) Consider the long term – while there will be immediate political pressures, don’t let tactical opportunities detract from your longer-term overall strategy. It is very easy to get distracted by the bright lights of a new Government and PM but stay true to your goals.

The introduction of a new PM will bring opportunities and threats in equal measure. Recognise and consider them as early on as possible to ensure you are prepared.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

What can the NHS expect from the new Prime Minister?

What can the NHS expect from the next Prime Minister?

As the Conservative Party leadership race draws to a close, what can the NHS expect from the next Prime Minister? Both contenders Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have made numerous promises to address current issues in the health and care sector. Here is a rundown of the pledges: 

Liz Truss
The 1.25% national Insurance tax rise, which was introduced in April this year by then Chancellor Sunak to raise billions for the Health and Care Levy, is a particular area of contestation for Truss. Early on in her campaign, Truss vowed to reserve the tax hike, but at this time did say that she was ‘completely committed’ to current Government promises for NHS spending and would instead raise funds with general taxation. However, more recently, Truss has said that she would divert the £13bn a year announced for the NHS into social care. She told a Times Radio hustings: ‘I still would spend the money. I would just take it out of general taxation rather than raising national insurance. But I would spend that money in social care’.

Truss believes that the NHS has received quite a bit of funding, and a greater focus on social care could reduce bed pressures in hospitals. This pledge has proved controversial as Tim Gardner, a senior policy fellow at the think tank The Health Foundation, has said ‘diverting the money intended to help address the NHS backlog into social care would be robbing Peter to pay Paul’. Meanwhile, Richard Murray, the chief executive of the King’s Fund think tank, has commended Truss for paying attention to social care, but has also raised concern about reducing NHS budgets.

Truss has recently criticised current pension rules which mean that higher-earning medics towards the end of their careers are faced with high tax bills, resulting in some reducing their hours or retiring early. Truss has said that she would unveil a series of radical reforms that would enable doctors to continue working after reaching their lifetime pension cap, without paying taxes. The British Medical Association has estimated that 10% of Britain’s consultant and GP workforce will retire in the next 18 months if action is not taken to avoid the ‘pension trap’. She said that changes would be part of measures to reduce the backlog of care in NHS services, as well as reduce workforce pressures.

Truss was forced to U-turn on a short-lived policy announced at the start of her campaign which would have seen public sector workers, including doctors and nurses living outside of London, having their pay cut.

Earlier in the campaign, Truss has also said she wanted to see layers of NHS management stripped away and said that under current systems frontline staff are micromanaged. If appointed Prime Minister, she has also promised to ‘put more money into the physical fabric’ of the NHS and has spoken about some UK hospitals near her constituency falling apart.

Rishi Sunak
Sunak has said that he would introduce a £10 fine for missed GP and hospital appointments. However, the NHS Confederation has raised concern over this policy, with Dr Layla McCay, director of policy, suggesting that ‘the administrative burden this would place on the NHS risks being considerable and could well far outweigh the money brought in by the fines’.

Sunak has also pledged to create a task force to cut bureaucracy and waste and drive radical reforms. He also said he would eliminate waiting times for treatment by 2024 which would be six months earlier than the current Government, if achieved. Sunak is keen to ensure that everyone waiting more than 18 weeks for a procedure is contacted by their trust within 100 days and promised to deliver 200 community diagnostics hubs by March 2024.

Sunak has recently pledged to restore NHS dentistry by ringfencing its funding, strengthening prevention, and encouraging dentists to stay in the health service. He would do this by setting out a five-point plan which includes improving protections around the annual NHS dentistry budget and reviewing the dentists’ contracts. To improve prevention, ideas have included dentists visiting primary schools’ check-ups.

During the campaign, Sunak has stood by his decision to raise National Insurance contributions by 1.25% for the Health and Care Levy. He claimed it wasn’t an easy thing to do, but it was the right thing to do considering the damage caused to the NHS by the pandemic. He has said he is desperate to tackle the NHS crisis including the long waiting lists, claiming that the Tories ‘will be toast’ by the next election if they are not successful in solving the problem.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

Energy Price Cap

An overview of the energy price cap

Energy experts have warned that the price cap could pass £6,000 per household by next April for the first time ever. The cap is currently projected to reach £3,576 in October, which is already unaffordable for most UK households, and will rise to over £4,000 in January, before being predicted to reaching the staggering figure of £6,000.

What is the energy price cap?

The energy price cap was first introduced by the market regulator Ofgem in 2019 and is the maximum amount that energy suppliers can charge customers per kWh of gas and electricity annually. The cap used to have a six-month review cycle but this was changed by the regulator to quarterly, to allow it to react quicker to changes in wholesale prices.

Current affairs worldwide such as the conflict between Ukraine and Russia have majorly affected the wholesale price as Russia are a big supplier to international markets. Their involvement in the conflict has caused prices to spiral to almost three times what they were at the start of the year. By next year, the average household will be paying £355 a month instead of £164 currently but Ofgem has cast doubt over future predictions for January and beyond, questioning their reliability.

Labour has confirmed its plan to make sure people living in the UK would not have to pay ‘a penny more’ despite the expected 80% rise due to happen in October, taking the average household price to £3,600. Labour leader Keir Starmer revealed that his plan would be to freeze the price cap at its current level and that there would be an £8bn windfall tax on energy company profits, meaning the effects of the rise would be low.

Starmer said that ‘Britain’s cost of living crisis is getting worse, leaving people scared about how they will get through winter. Labour’s plan to save households £1,000 this winter and invest in sustainable British energy to bring bills down in the long term’.

The Scottish National Party also spoke on the issue, saying that the Tory Government ‘must come out of hibernation and act on their cost-of-living crisis’ ahead of Ofgem’s announcement on Friday 26 August.

Director of Policy and Advocacy for Which? Rocio Concha has said ‘The Government and regulator must urgently undertake a wide-ranging review of retail energy pricing – including the price cap – to build a fair and affordable system for consumers’.

Child Poverty Action Group has called for at least £1,500 for families with children if the price cap rises to £3,554 in October and again to £4,650 in January.

The Resolution Foundation has also reacted by saying that a universal bill reduction or price cap needs to be accompanied by a solidarity tax to reduce costs and prevent rich households needlessly receiving more support than poor households.

Financial services and markets

Overview of the Financial Services and Markets Bill 2022-23

Since its inclusion in the Queen’s Speech, many have been waiting for the Financial Services and Markets Bill 2022-23. The Bill was introduced to Parliament the day after the Chancellor’s Mansion House speech on the hottest day ever recorded in the UK.

While the first reading of the Bill was largely a procedural matter, it did give everyone a chance to look through the 335 pages of the draft Bill as well as the extensive explanatory notes. The draft legislation is the biggest set of financial services reforms in over a decade. It includes changes to the framework within which financial services regulators operate, reform of the regime for wholesale capital markets and addresses important issues affecting communities across the country, including fraud and access to cash.

Despite being described by the Chancellor as only being part of the Government’s financial and professional services agenda, the Bill covers a wide range of issues. Here is what has been included in the Bill:

Future Regulatory Framework

As expected, the Bill implements the outcomes of the Future Regulatory Framework Review that will repeal hundreds of pieces of retained EU law. As the Chancellor put it: ‘UK financial regulation will once again be decided in the United Kingdom, for the United Kingdom, by the UK’s expert, independent regulators’. The Government expects that it will take a number of years to complete; the Bill therefore provides HM Treasury with a power to make targeted modifications to retained EU law during this transitional period.

Through this process, the Bill will be delegating further rule-making powers to the UK regulators and will be giving the FCA and PRA a new, secondary objective: to facilitate growth and competitiveness. The Chancellor noted that by making it secondary they are giving ‘the regulators an unambiguous hierarchy of objectives with financial stability and consumer protection, prioritised’. The Bill also includes new measures to increase the regulators’ accountability and relationships with Government and stakeholders.

While there has been some speculation about powers allowing Ministers to intervene in regulators’ decisions ‘in the public interest’, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadim Zahawi confirmed in his Mansion House speech that such powers are not in the Bill but is something he is looking at. The sensitivity of this issue was highlighted during Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey’s own Mansion House speech when he emphasised the importance of central bank independence.

Wholesale Markets and Prospectus Regime

The Bill will bring reforms to the Prospectus Regime, as recommended by Lord Hill, and will be taking forward the outcomes of the Wholesale Capital Markets review.

Reforming Solvency II

A key purpose of the Bill, as mentioned in the Queen’s Speech, is that it will enable the UK to proceed with its plans to reform Solvency II and move towards a Solvency UK regime.

Access to cash

The FCA will be granted new powers over the UK’s largest banks and building societies, to ensure that cash withdrawal and deposit facilities are available in communities across the country. To support the FCA, the Government will set out its expectations for a reasonable travel distance when depositing and withdrawing cash.

Additionally, the Bill aims to address the risk of a reduction in wholesale cash distributors meaning the failure of any one could create systemic risk by providing Bank of England with powers to oversee the wholesale cash industry.

APP Scams

The Chancellor confirmed in his Mansion House speech that the Bill contains powers that ‘enables regulators to require that victims of push payment scams are paid back’. The PSR ‘must prepare and publish a draft of a relevant requirement for reimbursement in such qualifying cases of payment orders as the Regulator considers should be eligible for reimbursement’.

In addition, in keeping with the overall theme of the Treasury taking the reigns of regulatory rulemaking, the Bill contains detailed new provisions on the accountability of the PSR, including empowering the Treasury to make recommendations to the PSR on (among other things) how to advance one or more of its payment systems objectives and exercise its regulatory functions.

Cryptoassets

The Bill contains provisions to amend the regulatory framework to support the adoption of cryptoassets including bringing stablecoins, where used as a means of payment, into the regulatory perimeter.

Financial promotion

The Bill amends section 21 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA) to implement the new regulatory framework for the approval of financial promotions. Only authorised persons who have applied for, and been given, permission by the FCA to do so will be able to approve financial promotions for unauthorised persons for the purposes of section 21.

Critical third parties

The Bill gives HM Treasury and the regulators powers to make rules to mitigate risks from critical third parties to the finance sector. The proposals are aimed at addressing the risks posed by a concentration in the provision of critical services by one third party to multiple firms.

Net zero emissions target

The Bill will add the need to contribute towards achieving compliance with the UK net zero emissions target set out in the Climate Change Act 2008 to the list of regulatory principles to be applied by both the PRA and the FCA.

Implementation of mutual recognition agreements

The Bill contains powers for HMT to make any changes necessary to domestic law to implement mutual recognition agreements the UK makes with third countries.

MPs will next consider the Bill at Second Reading on Wednesday 7 September 2022. Due to the size and detail of the Bill, Royal Assent is unlikely before 2023.

Conservative leadership race - housing and cost of living

Conservative Party leadership contest: Housing and the cost of living

As the Conservative leadership race heats up, with MPs from every side of the political divide making their allegiances and opinions known, here is an overview of candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss on housing and the cost of living.

Rishi Sunak on the cost of living

Rishi Sunak has been accused of making a ‘screeching U-turn’ on tax cuts as he has vowed to scrap VAT on energy bills for a year if he becomes Prime Minister. Under his plan, the 5% rate on household energy would be scrapped for one year from October, if the price cap on bills rises above £3,000 for the typical household. Sunak said the ‘temporary and targeted’ measure would save average households £160 a year and would ensure people get ‘the support they need’, while also ‘bearing down on price pressures’.

Sunak had previously been resisting calls for immediate tax cuts, instead saying the nation needs ‘honesty and responsibility, not fairy tales’. He had pledged to service public debt and hold off on tax cuts until inflation is under control, presenting his position as ‘common-sense Thatcherism’. He has also committed to taking a ‘tough stance’ towards public sector pay and the need to avoid wage price spiral.

The former Chancellor has said he would continue increasing corporation tax from 19% to 25% next year, as well as creating incentives for businesses to invest through relaxing financial regulations and scrapping the Apprenticeship Levy.

Rishi Sunak on housing

Sunak has pledged to speed up building in cities and on brownfield sites and crack down on ‘landbanking’ by big developers. He has suggested he wants to see Government funding for affordable housing scaled back and more incentives put in place for developers.

During the environment hustings, Sunak was slightly more vocal about his green policy intentions. He said he would keep the 2050 net zero targets and would focus on improving the energy efficiency of the country’s housing stock, saying the UK has ‘the worst houses in Europe’. He pledged to look at launching a new energy efficiency scheme – hopefully more successful than the Green Homes Grant launched in 2020. He said the new scheme would concentrate on measures such as smart heating controls and cavity wall insulation.

Sunak has signed up to the Northern Research Group’s (NRG) pledges, which include a commitment to a new Minister for the North, more devolution, a levelling-up ‘formula’ to ensure ‘left behind’ places get the Government funding they need, and two new vocational colleges – ‘the vocational equivalent of Oxford and Cambridge’, dubbed ‘Voxbridge’. He has also vowed to scrap EU Solvency II rules to encourage investment into infrastructure.

After just one month in the role of Chancellor, Sunak delivered his first Spring Budget in March 2020, during which he announced a £12bn Affordable Homes Programme. It was welcomed by the sector as one of the largest settlements in years. A few weeks later, he announced a temporary change to Local Housing Allowance rates to cover the cheapest third of rents during the pandemic. He also decided to introduce a £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit.

During Robert Jenrick’s time as Housing Secretary (between 2019 and 2021), Sunak signed off on the £5bn Building Safety Fund, however, he later said the Treasury was unwilling to increase funding despite the significant bills being handed out to leaseholders. Sunak told Jenrick’s successor Michael Gove that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities would have to step in and use their own budget if developers refused to pay for building safety remediation, rather than asking for more from the Treasury.

Liz Truss on the cost of living

Liz Truss has committed to £30bn of tax cuts and has said she would start implementing them ‘from day one’. She said she would cancel the planned 6% rise in corporation tax and during Monday night’s debate criticised Sunak’s plans to increase business taxes, arguing they would push the country into a recession.

Truss has also promised to cancel the National Insurance increase, which came into force in April this year. She said she would immediately bring in an emergency budget, arguing that it would alleviate the cost of living crisis. Truss has also pledged to hold a review of Government spending and believes the Government can and should borrow more. She has vowed to take a ‘tough stance’ on public sector pay and has highlighted the need to avoid wage price spiral. She said she would lift green levies on energy bills for two years.

Liz Truss on housing

The Foreign Secretary has pledged to amend the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to scrap centralised ‘Stalinist’ housing targets and would make it simpler for developers to build on brownfield land in ‘opportunity areas’ by focusing on deregulation and tax incentives. These areas would be low tax zones and would have lower businesses rates and fewer planning restrictions in the aim of encouraging investment and development. She vowed to introduce zones in the North of England. As has Sunak, Truss has signed up to NRG pledges.

She is generally very pro-development, as can be seen in a video posted in 2019 in which she speaks about the need to build more homes. The same year she told the Mail on Sunday that one million homes should be built on the green belt around London and that villages should be allowed to expand by four or five houses a year without having to go through planning. She thinks the UK should ‘build up more’ in cities and has previously expressed her support for zonal planning – a system that would see permission granted automatically on sites that have been earmarked for development.

On net zero, Truss has said she would maintain the 2050 targets and would introduce a ‘temporary moratorium’ on green energy levies ‘to enable businesses and industry to thrive while looking at the best way of delivering net zero’. Green levies are an environmental charge added to energy bills, dubbed a ‘social and environmental obligation’ by Ofgem. The money goes towards supporting the installation of energy efficiency measures in lower-income or vulnerable households.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

Cost of living crisis in the UK

Campaigning on the cost-of-living crisis: How can charities best communicate with Government and the media?

The cost-of-living crisis has been dominating news and politics since last year, but as the instability in the global economy is set to continue, charities must find innovative ways to continue engaging with parliamentarians and the media.

At a recent talk hosted by Prospect Magazine and Vuelio, panelists discussed what MPs and the media need from charities on this issue, and how charities of all sizes can build a voice in the saturated space of campaigns. The discussion, led by political editor Alan Rusbridger, aimed to share thoughts on stakeholder campaigning best practice in a crisis and the best way to share data to drive solutions to the cost-of-living crisis.

 

MP and Shadow Minister for Arts & Civil Society Barbara Keeley started off by noting the scale issues competing with the cost-of-living crisis. She said MPs have limited capacity to campaign on different issues and suggested they are driven to act by their constituent’s experiences. She suggested charities focus on providing real experiences as opposed to using mass template emails to engage with MPs, noting this would be key in issues around the cost-of-living crisis.

Lara Stanley, Campaigns & Public Affairs Manager at Citizens Advice, said that the charity holds a huge amount of data on the cost-of-living crisis through its community support work. This data-led approach helped for work with the Government during the pandemic because it enabled the charity to also provide ideas for what targeted support was necessary. She emphasised that good engagement doesn’t just flag the problem but offers solutions as well.

In keeping with the narrative around the use of data, Nicole Sykes, Policy & Communications Director for Pro-Bono Economics, said data can be a good tool to engage with media and politicians. However, she noted 50% of Conservative MPs are concerned about the quality of charity data, although it doesn’t stop them using it.

Sykes went on to note the demands on charities during the cost-of-living crisis, stating 40% of charities in the latest Pro-Bono Economics survey have said they will struggle with demand due to rising costs. She also said that keeping wages up with inflation would amount in a £3bn loss for the sector. In relation to engaging with parliamentarians, she said charities can be influential by aiding MPs in helping their constituents. Stanley noted there is better collaboration between charity groups, which enable effectiveness in communicating specific issues. She said this should be particularly beneficial to smaller and more diverse charities.

Dr Matthew Sowemimo, Head of Public Affairs and Social Policy at the Salvation Army, specified that messaging is key when engaging parliamentarians and civil servants on specific issues. He stated that sharp messages can help cut through the noise on social media. Providing insight through data is key; Sowemimo gave the example of the Trussell Trust showing that the initial roll out of Universal Credit was causing an increase in food bank usage. He thought providing local stories was particularly helpful for MPs in marginal seats, and suggested charities compile useful baseline data on the cost-of-living crisis before the recession sets in.

The talk concluded with a question-and-answer session with the audience. Panellists reiterated that the scale of the crisis can be tackled by cross-departmental work and suggested focussing on what non-fiscal asks could enable support. Barbara Keeley agreed that charities should be cautious about asking Government to make spending commitments, whilst others suggested charities should also consider the role local Government and regulators can play on this specific issue.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

City Hall Journalists

Inside City Hall – The journalists shining a light on London politics

Pictured, left to right: Callum Marius (MyLondon) Joe Talora (Evening Standard, LDR) Jessica Frank-Keyes (LondonWorld), Josiah Mortimer (MyLondon), James Cracknell (Social Spider).

For those outside of the Press Gallery, the inner workings of political journalism can seem like a closed-off and mysterious part of the media.

What does a typical day look like for City Hall journalists, how do they like to work with PRs and how does one get into this line of reporting?

ResponseSource community manager Andrew Strutt caught up with MyLondon City Hall editor Josiah Mortimer, founder of the recently-launched City Hall Journalists lobby, to find out…

City Hall journos are a close-knit group

‘Having worked in Parliament’s Press Gallery for a couple of years, I found it to be a really useful and supportive network.’
‘When City Hall moved east to Newham earlier this year, it got me thinking about provisions for reporters in the new building – which aren’t quite up to scratch.

‘Often people say that reporting in the UK is ‘London-centric’. This isn’t quite true – it’s Westminster-centric but a lot of what happens in devolved politics goes ignored.

‘There aren’t many of us covering City Hall, so it is great to be working together to speak with a louder voice, improve transparency and build the profile of GLA reporting. I wanted to get this network off the ground to shine a brighter light on London’s politics. Hopefully we can bring some of the best of the Press Gallery to The Crystal, adapted for today.’

No day is ‘typical’, but here is an idea of how things work…#

‘It will involve watching a committee hearing – whether that’s economy, planning, health or oversight/scrutiny.’

‘We work closely with the Assembly Members who are a font of knowledge on City Hall, and are – like us, in a way – there to scrutinise the Mayor, so there is a lot of interaction there. The Mayor has a lot of sway over high profile issues like transport and policing so we tend to trawl through new documents and data, and will often do one or two interviews with the Mayor a week. But the GLA impacts all Londoners, so we try to build links with as many community groups, activists, resident groups, unions and so on as possible.’

How PRs can work with those reporting from City Hall

‘I tend to primarily work with non-profit PRs – those at campaign groups and organisations affected by the GLA.’

‘In terms of for-profits, that will often be in a reactive way, getting rights of reply or checking facts. I enjoy writing the occasional review so will work closely with PRs for music, food or travel content. On getting in touch, I’m a big fan of chatting on the phone but a Twitter DM is usually a good way in – it is a good platform for a very succinct pitch. Please don’t send ten identical emails, though!’

The best part of working the City Hall patch?

Having started in the role last October, Josiah already has some highlights:

‘Getting to ride on the Elizabeth Line before it opened – Londoners had been waiting for it for so long. I was there on the day it opened, too – on the first train from Paddington, following the Mayor and revelling in the transport geekery.

‘Sometimes the highlights are also lowlights, in a sense. I recently did a London Assembly tour of Brixton speaking to market traders about the cost-of-living crisis. It was moving to hear what they’re going through, and it’s also my patch so great to get to know more of the community.’

Find out more about the City Hall Journalists group and its members here.

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Rwanda deportation policy

Overview of the Rwanda deportation policy

On the 14 of April the British Government announced collaboration with Rwanda for a new Migration and Economic Development Partnership to redress the imbalance between illegal and legal migration routes.

This collaboration means those travelling to the UK from Ukraine via problematic and illegal methods and routes will be considered for relocation to Rwanda, whereby their asylum claim can be processed. However, the plan also includes consideration for any person who has arrived in the UK in this way since the 1 of January 2022. Under no circumstance will they be given the opportunity to return to the UK at any stage – rather, if rejected, they will be offered the chance to stay in Rwanda, or to return to their home country.

Under this plan, those considered for relocation will be provided with the appropriate legal advice on how to go forward, as well as a seemingly generous support package, including safe accommodation, food, healthcare provision and amenities. To further aid the legal advice provided, those seeking asylum will have full access to translators in order to support court decisions and appeals. This strategic alliance forms part of a suite of measures under the New Plan for Immigration. Sky News has compared the plan to immigration policies in Australia, Israel and Denmark.

The UK is providing substantial investment to boost the development of Rwanda, including jobs, skills and opportunities to benefit both migrants and host communities. This includes an initial investment of £120 million as part of a new Economic Transformation and Integration Fund. However, that doesn’t explain why Rwanda is the chosen one.

Rwanda is a State Party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the seven core UN Human Rights Conventions. It is also recognised globally for its record on welcoming and integrating migrants, including over 500 people evacuated from Libya under the EU’s Emergency Transit Mechanism working in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency, and 30,000 Burundian refugees.

This plan has apparent advantages. The agreement supports those in immediate and serious need of peace and safety, as well as providing stability and the structural opportunity and means to rebuild a safer life. Further, it disrupts the opportunity for organised gang crime, predominantly crimes relating to smuggling. This also has the potential to enhance the UK’s relationship with Rwanda and has the potential to enhance the economic prosperity within the Rwandan region.

Despite everything being compliant with our legal and international obligations, over 160 organisations have urged the UK government to scrap this so-called ‘cruel’ plan, including Amnesty International, who have labelled it a ‘shameful abandonment’ of human rights responsibilities. Religious institutions are not an exception to this with the Methodist Church claiming the UKs response gives ‘yet another insight unto its hostile, uncompassionate and ineffective response to asylum seekers and refugees’.
However, it doesn’t stop there, opponents of this plan (the British public) have headed to court for an appeals hearing on the 13 of June amid the political backlash following reports that our Prince Charles has described the policy as outrightly “appalling”. A coalition of groups, including immigration rights advocates and unions have asked the Court of Appeal to reverse a lower court ruling allowing for the first deportation flight to go ahead.

These reactions perhaps aren’t a surprise… though, Charles’s comments could be deemed problematic due to his position as heir to the throne, and the British monarch being supposedly distant or above the political fray. The United Nations’ refugee agency has also opposed these plans. Despite this, the Home Office and Johnson’s government show no signs of ceasing or altering these plans, and movement has begun.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.