‘Long-term decisions for a brighter future’ — Sunak’s five priorities for 2023

This weekend will see the start of Rishi Sunak’s first conference as party leader as the Conservatives head to Manchester. The third leader in three years of conferences and head of a party that has been in power for more than a decade, Sunak is hoping to use this time as a reset, breaking away from Boris Johnson and Liz Truss’ chaotic premierships.

With the slogan ‘long-term decisions for a brighter future’, we can expect to hear a lot about the long-term vision of the PM, who, since arriving at number 10, has been concerned with trying to manage immediate crises.

Likely to dominate discussions at the conference are Sunak’s five key priorities for 2023, revealed earlier this year in the hope that they could be delivered before the approaching general election. These include halving inflation this year; growing the economy and creating better-paid jobs across the country; seeing national debt fall; cutting NHS waiting lists; and passing new laws to stop small migrant boats crossing the Channel.

Halve inflation 

The most likely to be met is Sunak’s promise to halve the UK’s inflation rate by the end of the year. ONS data shows that inflation stood at 6.7% in August and the Office for Budget Responsibility is expecting inflation to fall to 2.9% by December, significantly lower than the 10% rate seen when Sunak made his ‘Building a Better Future’ New Year speech.

While Chancellor Jeremy Hunt believes the latest figures confirm that the Government’s ‘plan to deal with inflation is working’, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has pointed to research from the OECD that forecasts the UK to have the highest inflation of any major economy this year.

Grow the economy 

The pledge to ‘grow the economy’ will be achieved if the economy is bigger in the three-month period between October and December 2023 than it was during the previous quarter (July-September 2023). According to recent data, the economy shrank by 0.5% in July.

Reduce debt 

Following Sunak’s pledge, debt surpassed GDP for the first time since 1961, before beginning to fall.

NHS waiting times

NHS waiting times are one of the most pressing issues for UK voters right now. The number of patients waiting to start treatment in England has continued to climb since Sunak made his pledge, reaching record levels of 7 million.

Stopping small boats

The number of small boat arrivals to the UK in 2023 reached 20,000 in August, according to Home Office data. 5,000 arrived last month alone. A bill is currently making its way through Parliament with new measures to discourage people from travelling to the UK. However, some believe the measures could be inconsistent with international law. 

Net zero

It’s possible that discontent could surface in response to Sunak’s recent u-turn on major net zero policies. It has been reported that many within the party have been openly critical about the decision. The concerns that have been expressed by big businesses such as Ford and E.On may well also be distinct.


Long-term divisions over HS2 could well play out in Manchester. With such a significant split on the topic, it has been reported that Sunak’s aides fear Tory MPs will ‘be left squabbling over HS2 during fringe events’. It has the potential to dominate discussions, taking away from the party’s efforts to present their vision ahead of a general election. Rumours over the northern leg of HS2 being shelved could pose a problem with the conference’s location, and brings into question Sunak’s commitment to levelling up. 

Raising the bar for women's football

‘Raising the bar’ for women’s football

When Manchester City’s Chloe Kelly scored in the 110th minute it was about winning Euro 2022 and beating Germany in the final. However, it meant so much more than just winning a tournament. On 13 July 2023, the UK Government released a report on the state of women’s football, with an aim to improve the standard and increase professionalisation.

The Government worked with TV presenter and former footballer, Karen Carney MBE, to write and research the report. England’s success in Euro 2022 and the increased interest and awareness that resulted from this was directly mentioned in the report as instrumental in its development. Chloe Kelly’s goal contributed to more than winning a tournament; it promoted a shift in the perception of women’s football and sport.

The report is thorough in its analysis of women’s football. Specifically, it assesses the state of the women’s game currently, its limitations and benefits and explores what the Government, civil society and the private sector need to do to improve the game and ensure that women’s football is not an afterthought.

Here are the key points from the report’s recommendations:

1) Better standards for the women’s game

This involves improving youth recruitment and development in women’s football, promoting professionalisation and the FA delegating control over the top two women’s divisions to a new company, NewCo, who will strive for excellent standards.

2) Furthering equality and diversity

The report recommends that the FA challenges the lack of diversity in women’s football. Moreover, the Government should deliver on commitment for equal access to football in schools and those involved in grassroots football should accommodate women and girls.

3) Making the sport more accessible

This means ensuring that Clubs value and appreciate their fans, making women’s football more accessible on TV by creating a dedicated slot for matches.

Nevertheless, this report is not legislation; it still requires the Government to act and produce their own legislation. Immediately after the review was released, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Lucy Frazer MP released a written statement to Hansard, which briefly detailed the Government’s response. In this statement, Frazer welcomed the review and announced a full response would come in the Autumn.

While the Government’s statement illustrates that there is still work to do to promote women’s football, the review raises important points. As mentioned prior, it has contributed to an overall attitude shift about women’s football. On a separate note, the review and the process behind it reveals the potential extra parliamentary nature of policy development. The process for this review did not start in a London-based policy community, in a Think Tank report or in Parliament, but in football stadiums across England. It was a culmination of growing attendances in women’s football and thereby, growing awareness and interest.

Even if nothing has changed in law formally, maybe the publication exemplifies that everyday actions, such as attending a women’s football match, can be a stimulant for change. In this regard, maybe not all policy needs to start in Westminster.

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Lessons from the rights and wrongs of health and pharmaceutical communications

Lessons from the rights and wrongs of health and pharmaceutical communications

There have been plenty of challenges in health and pharmaceutical reporting and communications over the last 30 years, with the last three being particularly tumultuous for those tasked with communicating both complex and constantly evolving news to the public.

At a Vuelio lunch held at the Gherkin last month, Channel 4’s health and social care editor Victoria Macdonald shared the lessons to be learned from the good and bad of her 30-year career covering health and pharma.

Read on for her thoughts on high-profile political flubs you won’t want to replicate, the importance of ensuring any promises made can be met, and just how unhealthy misinformation can be to your audience.

PR teams: prime your spokesperson properly

‘Looking back over the various points in my career and the exciting breakthroughs – the scandals, the pandemics – I would say that Covid was an interesting roller coaster.

‘I was the journalist who asked Boris Johnson if he was still shaking hands. I wasn’t actually trying to catch him out; I was genuinely interested. His reply was so astonishing – “Yes,” he said.

“I am shaking hands,” Johnson added. “Only last night I was in a hospital shaking hands with coronavirus patients.”

‘The chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser went pale as they stood beside him. An hour or so later the Downing Street press office rang to say that of course he hadn’t shaken hands with coronavirus patients.’

Promises must be met

‘My first interaction with the pharmaceutical industry, and whether it was making excessive profits at the sake of people’s lives, was around reputation.

‘I am thinking about a court case in 2001 in which the South African Government won against 39 pharmaceutical companies that had sued because of a provision that would have allowed the production and importation of generic drugs for HIV/Aids. That case was dropped in the end because of national and international pressure.

‘I was there reporting it and it was a momentous day – undermined by the Government actually failing to distribute drugs until they, too, were taken to court.’

Balance celebration with caution

‘There’s news of another Alzheimer drug that can slow cognitive decline by 35%. And the quote was that this could be the beginning of the end of Alzheimer’s disease. The thought is so thrilling and anyone in this room who has seen or is living with family members who have Alzheimer’s knows what it’s like to watch it happening in front of your eyes.

‘This may be too late for our mothers or fathers or grandparents – but maybe it will be ok for us – I hope so.

‘Yet this is another one of those announcements where you have to be so utterly cautious when reporting and communicating it. You want it to be a celebration, you absolutely want it to be the beginning of the end of Alzheimer’s, but you have to tell your audience that there are many caveats.

‘The last thing you want to do is rain on someone’s parade, but neither do you want a relative ringing up and saying where is this drug, why can’t my Mum have it now?’

Inoculate your audience against misinformation

‘That most wonderful moment nine months into the pandemic when the announcement of the first vaccines was made – we had had so many briefings early on in 2020 that no vaccine was in sight and then suddenly there really was.

‘Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said the Astra Zeneca vaccine’s reputation had been battered by a toxic mix of misinformation, miscommunication, and mishaps.

‘Yet there were trial problems – and reporting on these was very difficult because you didn’t want to lose the excitement of such an important development, but had to give as much information as possible.

‘There was a real change in communications during the pandemic. At first, Government press offices were slow to get up and going. But it got better very quickly.’

‘Looking back on Covid – so much changed and yet also so little’.

For more about maintaining trust and communicating complex campaigns clearly in health and pharmaceutical sectors, download the Vuelio white paper ‘Medical misinformation: How PR can stop the spread’.

Labour's NHS fit for the future plan

Labour’s ‘NHS Fit for the Future’ plan: Stakeholder responses

Speaking at an ambulance depot in Essex last week, Sir Keir Starmer introduced Labour’s most detailed plans on NHS and health policy yet, as part of a series of keynote addresses intended to spotlight the party’s ‘missions’ which were announced back in February. Intended to form the backbone of the party’s next manifesto, the five missions are as follows:

• Secure the highest sustained growth in the G7
• Build an NHS fit for the future
• Make Britain’s streets safe
• Break down the barriers to opportunity at every stage
• Make Britain a clean energy superpower

In summary, Labour’s vision for the future of health policy is based on three fundamental shifts; a shift away from the hospital to community-based care, a shift towards innovative technologies and a shift towards prevention through a holistic view of public health which sees it as a cross-Government initiative. None of these ideas are particularly new – in fact, the basic principles of Labour’s plan have been generally well received by sector stakeholders.

There has been an emerging cross-party consensus going back to the Blair years; that principles such as prevention, early-intervention, a shift away from hospital-based care towards community services, efficient digitisation and a cross-Government approach to public health are not only best for patients but essential to the survival of the NHS.

Politicians from both sides of the House and across multiple administrations have all paid lip service to these principles. Sir Julian Hartley, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, the membership body for NHS trusts up and down the country, said that trust leaders ‘will agree with Labour’s goal to reduce waiting times. Trusts have made remarkable progress on the longest waits for planned operations given the recent challenges’. However, he added the caveat that ‘this goal will only be achieved if it’s underpinned by adequate funding for health and care workers as well as for infrastructure’.

The bulk of the press questions during the Q&A which followed the Labour leader’s speech focused on the issue of funding. Given Labour’s staunch commitment to ‘balancing the budget’ and ‘fiscal responsibility’, many journalists had questions about exactly how much money the party would give the NHS were it in government. Starmer avoided making any concrete commitments on funding; repeatedly stressing that Labour would not rely only on money to fix the NHS, but on reform and technology as well.

Critics may point out that this is a somewhat flawed argument; while reform and investment in technology are most definitely needed, these things will not come free of charge.

Nigel Edwards, Chief Executive of the influential health think tank Nuffield Trust, said that while Labour’s proposals on the NHS are ‘welcome and extremely ambitious… delivering them will require time, staff and more long-term funding than Labour have so far pledged’.

On a similar note, Chris Thomas, head of the Institute for Public Policy Research IPPR commission on health and prosperity, said that ‘Labour is right in its ambition to create a 21st century plan for a 21st century NHS. But there also needs to be a plan for investment alongside these bold reforms to help make such an aspirational target believable’.

Labour’s proposals are not final but rather intended as a blueprint for its next manifesto. Policy will be subject to debate amendment by the National Policy Forum, before being voted on during the annual party conference in September and finally by representatives at a ‘Clause V meeting’ ahead of a General Election.

Particular aspects of the party’s health policy, such as the use of the private sector to tackle NHS backlogs, will likely face internal opposition from the membership and some Labour MPs.

For regular updates on what is happening in UK politics and public affairs, sign up to our weekly Point of Order newsletter, going out every Friday morning.

Local elections 2023

Local elections 2023: wins and losses

The Conservatives lost 1,060 seats in last week’s elections, relinquishing control of 48 councils across the country. As was widely predicted, Labour made significant gains across marginal and Red Wall councils, picking up more than 500 seats. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats swept across the Blue Wall, winning 12 councils.

Labour Leader Keir Starmer has claimed his party’s performance has set them ‘on course for a Labour majority at the next general election’ with Labour now the largest party in local government, surpassing the Tories for the first time since 2002. Labour took control of authorities across the general election battleground, including High Peak, Swindon and Plymouth.

At a meeting of his shadow cabinet on Tuesday, Starmer said ‘people who turned away from us during the Corbyn years and the Brexit years are coming back’. The leaders of the 22 councils won by Labour have been tasked with drawing up ‘emergency cost-of-living plans’ within their first 100 days.

Labour does indeed seem to be bridging the Brexit divide, as the party made its largest gains in areas with the highest Leave vote. Many of Labour’s biggest gains came in Brexit heartlands such as Stoke, Mansfield and Hartlepool. The Johnson 2019 strategy was focused on attracting Red Wall Leave voters while holding on to Blue Wall Remain voters, however, with both Brexit ‘done’ and Corbyn gone, this strategy has collapsed.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has described the loss of more than 1,000 councillors as ‘disappointing’ but insisted he would ‘strain every sinew’ to fulfil his pledges on the economy, NHS waiting lists and small boats. On Tuesday he insisted those pledges are ‘the right ones’ to win back voters. However, some Conservative MPs have suggested Sunak will need to do much more than reiterate those pledges in order to improve the Conservatives’ position ahead of a general election. The Conservative MP for Swindon Justin Tomlinson said the results were ‘devastating’ and should serve as a ‘wake-up call for the party at all levels’. Talking to Times Radio, he criticised the Conservatives’ pitch to voters, adding it lacked a ‘coherent message’.

The Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, who is up for election next year, said the Conservatives’ losses were in part due to ‘the turmoil and upheaval of the last 12 months’. Similarly, in Swindon, where Labour took control for the first time in 20 years, overthrown Tory council leader David Renard blamed ‘the cost-of-living and the performance of the Government in the last 12 months’ for his party’s poor results.

In much of the country, it was the Liberal Democrats who benefited from the Conservatives’ decline. Achieving a share of 20% – the highest since the coalition in 2010 – Lib Dem Leader Ed Davey called it their ‘best result in decades’. Davey said he would table a vote of no confidence in the Government when Parliament returns: ‘The local elections showed that the public clearly has no confidence in Sunak or the Conservatives, so it’s time for a general election now. There’s only one reason Rishi Sunak would deny British people a say at the ballot box: because he is running scared and knows he’d lose.’ However, the Lib Dems are not able to force a debate on the motion, so it is likely to end up being mainly symbolic.

The Green Party gained 241 seats – their best-ever result in local elections – and gained its first majority on an English council, in Mid-Suffolk, although they were overtaken as the biggest party by Labour in Brighton and Hove.

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Illegal Migration Bill overview

Overview of the Illegal Migration Bill

On the 26 April the Illegal Migration Bill – or so called ‘stop the boats’ Bill – made significant progress and cleared the Commons with a majority of 59. The Bill will place duty on Home Secretary Suella Braverman to remove migrants who enter the UK illegally, it will also narrow down the range of legal challenges and appeals that could suspend their deportation.

This promised legislation has been on the cards since Prime Minister Rishi Sunak came into power, pledging to boost the economy, cut hospital waiting lists and stop migrant crossings in the Channel. However, due to its highly controversial nature, the Labour Party alongside many organisations and charities have heavily criticised the nature of the Bills agenda. The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) expressed deep concern about the Bill and its lack of compliance with core elements of the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings. The Refugee Council have also criticised future plans, accusing ministers of shattering the UK’s long-standing commitment under the UN Convention to give people a fair hearing, regardless of how they get to the UK.

Home Secretary Mrs Braverman has already acknowledged that the Bill might not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), setting up the prospect of a legal battle with Strasbourg judges.

The Bill essentially places a new duty on the Home Secretary to detain and remove those arriving in the UK Illegally. Those entering illegally will be sent back to their home country, if deemed safe, or to a third country such as Rwanda, whereby support will be offered to help safely ‘rebuild their lives’. This new duty takes precedence over their rights under modern slavery and human rights laws, meaning people who come to the UK illegally will be prevented from settling in the country and will face a possible permanent ban on returning. Further, the number of appeals and challenges available to suspend removal will be radically narrowed.

The Bill further promises a new ‘safe and legal’ route for those seeking sanctuary in the UK, the numbers allowed in will be capped by Parliament, with an annual vote to set each year’s cap, which will take into account local authority capacity for housing and public services. However, if there is a humanitarian crisis within the world that requires a response, then the UK will step up and offer sanctuary to those in need.

The UK is not the only country to launch a crackdown on immigration and asylum issues. US President Joe Biden’s administration has recently announced his toughest border policy yet, warning migrants who cross the border illegally that they will almost all be deported. In Sweden, the new coalition government (formed in October 2022) toughened its migration and asylum laws. Further, Copenhagen is looking to sign a similar deal to the UKs with Rwanda for offshore asylum seeking.

More recently, Italy passed a law requiring NGO search and rescue ships to sail to a designated port, and prevents them from looking for other migrant boats in distress. Ship captains face fines of up to £44,462 for failure to comply. In late March, France introduced an immigration bill that wants to grant temporary residency permits to illegal migrants working in sectors ‘under strain’ and place those ordered to leave the country on a ‘wanted list’ in a bid to speed up their expulsion.

The Bill clearly pushes the boundaries of international law, however, it currently sits in the House of Lords after successfully passing through the Commons stages. Despite this, three key challenges are likely to stand in the way: the lack of return agreements, the stalling Rwanda plan, and practical difficulties and costs involved in returning migrants.

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Pension findings

Findings on pensions from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

There is considerable concern among policymakers and consumer groups that many are not saving enough to ensure a good standard of living in retirement, even after the recent success of automatic enrolment in boosting pension enrolment. Moreover, pension participation for the self-employed, as well as adequacy, remains a massive concern.

This month the Institute for Fiscal Studies launched a series of new reports investigating the drivers of pension saving among workers. On Wednesday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Nuffield Foundation hosted an event where they presented their results and examined what drives differences in how much people save in their pensions, particularly in terms of their age, earnings, and tax incentives. They also discussed important differences in how these factors affect employees and the self-employed.

The main conclusion of their reports is that people’s pension saving decisions are generally inert and are therefore liable to be highly driven by default options. The importance of nudges is particularly demonstrated by the success of automatic enrolment.

IFS findings: Employees
One of the main findings of their work is that, despite strong theoretical reasons for them to be linked, changes in earnings only have a small effect on pension saving decisions. Before automatic enrolment was rolled out, a 10% increase in real earnings over five years is associated with only around a 1% increase in the probability of joining a pension among those aged 22–29, falling to an even smaller 0.2–0.6% increase in the probability of joining a pension among those aged 50–59. Changed in earnings still have a small effect on pension participation in 2019–20, except for when they lead to someone earning at least £10,000 a year and their employer therefore being required to enrol them automatically into a workplace pension.

Due to these findings, the IFS concluded that a form of ‘auto-escalation’ – that is, for default pension contribution rates to increase alongside increases in earnings – could therefore nudge people to make better pension saving decisions.

Moreover, the IFS found that there is little evidence of people changing their pension saving at any particular ‘trigger age’, and that pension saving has become even less responsive to tax incentives since the roll-out of automatic enrolment. They also found that significant events in people’s lives generally have little impact on private sector employees’ pension participation and contribution rates. However, they did find that pension contributions tend to increase by around 0.4% of pay more when people move from renting to having a mortgage, and by around 0.3% of pay less after the arrival of a first child.

These findings suggest that nudging employees to change their pension saving around major life events could have desirable effects. One example would be for mortgage providers to ask their customers in advance how much of their mortgage repayments they would like to divert into their pension when their mortgage term ends, and making it as easy as possible to achieve this.

IFS findings: Self-employed
Since the introduction of auto enrolment, the gap between pension participation rates of private sector employees and the self-employed of the same earnings has widened. The low levels of pension participation among self-employed workers mean that in order to increase the pension participation rates of self-employed workers meaningfully, new innovations on how to incorporate pension saving defaults for the self-employed as part of the tax system are needed.

The IFS found that of the self-employed who do save for a pension, nearly a quarter choose the amount to save as a monthly or annual round number in nominal pound terms, with the most common amount being £50 per month. Among those who are still saving in a pension nine years later, close to a quarter (23%) save the same amount in cash terms. The fact that the cash value of contributions is unchanged year after year implies that a form of auto-escalation could be a good way to boost their pension savings, for example using a direct debit that increased in line with inflation, or at another pre-set rate.

Tom Josephs, Director for Private Pensions Policy at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), responded to the findings in the IFS reports. He said the analysis and evidence is really relevant to the current policy development program at DWP. He talked about DWPs priorities for private pension policy and how they relate to the specific areas covered in the IFS work. The Minister for Pensions Laura Trott set out her policy priorities recently on 30 January. The three pillars which the Minister set out as underpinning her vision for pension reform are 1) adequacy 2) fairness and 3) predictability.

On adequacy, he thinks we have a solid foundation through the combination of the new state pensions and the success of automatic enrolment in delivering increased private pension saving but they do recognise that nevertheless many people aren’t saving enough for retirement. Their own research has shown that two in five people are still likely to be under saving for their retirement against the target rate.

He noted that one of the priorities for the Government is to deliver the recommendations of the 2017 review to expand automatic enrolment by lowering the age criteria for enrolment and removing the lower earnings limit so people start saving from the first pound of earnings. The Government just announced last week that it is supporting a Private Member’s Bill which would provide the legislative powers to deliver these reforms in the current parliamentary session.

He mentioned they do also need to be thinking about what can be done in the future and thinks the IFS analysis is interesting in particular their points on auto escalation and the potential for default options and nudging people to save more at key points in their lives. He mentioned they have already been holding focus groups to explore timely moments for pension engagement. He hopes that better technology can change this over time; the pensions dashboard will be an important new tool and they are fully committed to deliver it despite delays.

He agrees with the IFS on the challenge around the self-employed; there is clearly a huge gap in terms of private pension provision. With NEST Insights they have recently published results of trials on behavioural messaging and saving mechanisms on financial digital platforms to test the role those kind of tech based nudges and the value of flexible saving. Building on this, they are doing some with the UK trade body for business software developers to look at whether there is feasibility of building a retirement saving solution within software used by the self-employed to manage their money. They are also keen to explore hybrid saving vehicles which might combine accessible savings and long term savings which could preserve control for individuals in managing their short term finances alongside saving for retirement.

He noted they have also inserted a digital prompt to MaPS pension guidance into self-assessment tax return and they are looking using evidence from the work of HMRC and NEST Insight to build on this.

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What will the Budget spring on us?

What will the Budget spring on us?

Public Finances

The recession is now expected to be more shallow, with all but one of the independent forecasters surveyed by HM Treasury in February, as well as the Bank of England, now expecting a smaller contraction of the UK’s economic output in 2023 than under the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) November forecast.

Public finances continue to outperform expectations in the lead up to Spring Budget. Public borrowing looks to be about £30bn lower this year than forecast by the OBR as recently as November. This is due to various factors, including:

  1. Lower energy prices; Thanks to lower international gas prices, the Treasury is benefitting from a reduced cost of its energy support programme. In mid-November, the Treasury said it expected the total cost of support to be £37.6bn. But with gas prices having plunged since then, analysts at Cornwall Insight and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said they now expect the final figure to be roughly £11bn lower, or around £26bn.
  2. Stronger-than-expected tax revenues; The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed the Government received £5.4bn more in taxes than it spent on public services. This was £7.1bn lower than a year earlier but £5bn higher than the OBR forecast. The main cause of the better performance was the strength of tax revenues; self-assessment income tax revenues were particularly strong in January, rising 33% year-on-year.

However, according to the IFS, ‘with £6bn very likely to be spent on freezing fuel duties, this would still leave borrowing around £115bn. While this would be around £25bn less than expected in November, it would still be more than £60bn above that forecast in the March 2022 Spring Statement.’

Moreover, despite less borrowing, the Resolution Foundation said the Chancellor will still face ‘tough choices’ in delivering his Budget next week, as he will be forced to deal with the combined problems of the UK’s cost of living crisis, countrywide labour shortages and public sector strikes.

Business and Trade

In the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced several measures which are expected to squeeze taxpayers from April. Since then, there have been calls from Conservative MPs to set out plans for future tax cuts, especially given signs that the recession won’t be as deep as previously thought.

Despite pressure from Conservative MPs, the Chancellor has reportedly ruled out tax cuts in the Spring Budget. This comes as James Smith, research director at the Resolution Foundation think-tank, told City A.M that ‘with crowd-pleasing tax cuts likely to come far closer to the election, and further away from our current period of high inflation, the upcoming budget is not likely to be one where tax policy shifts markedly.’ ‘It is far too early for the Government to swing back into a major give-away Budget, just a few months on from the fallout from Kwasi-nomics,’ Smith added.

Corporation tax

The main rate of corporation tax is set to rise to 25% from 1st April 2023. Several high-profile Conservatives and leading business figures wrote to Rishi Sunak saying the plans would mean that ‘potential new jobs and higher national output will be lost’. The signatories wrote that it would also jeopardise the Government’s goal to turn Britain into a ‘science superpower’ and threaten ‘levelling-up’ efforts.

Telecoms giant BT has said it will send Britain in a ‘drastically anti-investment direction’ while three former Chancellors have said going ahead with the rise in corporation tax would be a mistake.

However, according to a report in The Independent, the Government has rejected calls for the tax rise to be scrapped, insisting ‘it’s vital we stick to our plan’. To mitigate this, businesses are hoping the Chancellor could pre-announce future tax cuts to corporation tax, as part of a ‘corporate tax roadmap’.

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves accused the Conservatives of changing corporation tax rates like a ‘yo-yo’ as she announced a review into business levies. The new stance does not amount to Labour opposing the corporation tax rise set for the spring, with the party echoing Treasury arguments that it keeps the UK rate competitive. Instead, it forms part of a wider attack on frequent changes in business taxation after a period of intense political turmoil.

The Chancellor is also expected to confirm that the UK will begin to implement an international agreement to create a minimum tax on large multinational companies of 15% by the end of the year.

Super deduction

The corporation tax super-deduction, which allows businesses to cut their tax bill by 25p for every £1 that they invest, will conclude at the end of March.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) wants the Government to replace the super-deduction, either by introducing full expensing for capital investment, or by setting out a roadmap towards doing so – introducing 50% from this April as the first step. Similarly, the Institute of Directors (IoD) also recommends that the decision to end the super-deduction this April be reversed.

Chris Sanger, EY’s Head of Tax Policy, said ‘higher tax combined with the end of the super deduction would be a one-two punch to UK growth, so this would be the right time to counter that with the introduction of incentives.’

Tax and the transition to net zero

One issue picked up by Chris Skidmore’s recent report is the lack of strategy on how the tax system will be used to help the transition to net zero. The IoD has demanded that companies who have achieved net zero pay a lower corporation tax than those that have not. Similarly, the CBI is calling for a capital allowance ‘green uplift’ rate at least 20% above the standard rate for businesses investing in capital assets which reduce their carbon emissions or improve energy efficiency.

Investment Zones

During his Bloomberg speech in late January, Jeremy Hunt said ‘this year we will announce investment zones, mini-Canary Wharfs, supporting each one of our growth industries, and each one focused in high potential but underperforming areas, in line with our mission to level up’. Therefore, there are chances that the Chancellor’s first steps toward creating new ‘investment zones’ in under-performing areas of the UK to boost high growth industries will be announced. One interesting question is whether green initiatives will be wrapped up with investment zones, or decoupled.

Smaller businesses

Smaller businesses will be hoping to see a range of measures aimed at some of their specific pressures. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have urged Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to use the upcoming Spring Budget to help ease cost pressures on small businesses. In particular, the BCC calls for the business rates system to be reformed, to remove the upfront financial squeeze start-ups and scale-ups face.

Moreover, Alex Henderson, tax partner at PwC noted that ‘one area for smaller businesses which would be particularly worth considering would be addressing the tax compliance burden which has a disproportionate impact on SMEs.’

Following on from the Autumn Statement, the Government reiterated its support of the Enterprise Investment Scheme. However, the CBI thinks investors and businesses now need certainty that the sunset clause scheduled for 2025 will be removed. They said that without this certainty provided at the Spring Budget, investments with be postponed or not happen, and growth will be constrained.

Personal taxes

It is widely expected that the changes to thresholds and tax reliefs introduce in the Autumn Statement will be maintained. KPMG expects any tax cuts to be saved until they can be announced in the run up to a general election so are more likely to be announced in an Autumn fiscal event with the changes coming into force from April 2024.

There is a possibility that we will see changes to the non-dom regime, especially due to Labour’s pledge and pressure to abolish it. However, having already taken the idea of a windfall tax on the energy sector from Labour, any changes to the non-dom regime could attract criticism.

Energy & Environment

Energy bill support  

The Government’s current plan is a planned rise in the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) from £2,500 to £3,000 a year for the average household from April. The £400 of Government support for every household will also end. At that point, the Government said it will introduce targeted support for the poorest and most vulnerable households, arguing that wholesale energy prices have fallen. However, there have been recent reports that the £500 price hike could be scrapped and delayed until summer but this is yet to be confirmed.

There have been widespread calls for the price hike to be cancelled or modified. The Labour Party has called for the rise in EPG to be stopped, alongside Martin Lewis (MoneySavingExpert)’s open letter with broad civil society support.

Following reports of extra fiscal space, the Resolution Foundation has called for the rise to be delayed by three months to prevent costs from spiking in April. The Trades Union Congress has called for the EPG to be reduced to £2,000, or for the acceleration of the introduction of a social tariff.

Sanjay Raja, of Deutsche Bank, has said additional support could be a ‘rabbit out of the hat’ policy for the Chancellor, especially as falling energy prices meant that the Treasury saved around £11bn on the Energy Price Guarantee.

For businesses, the Government is replacing the current Energy Bill Relief Scheme with the Energy Bill Discount Scheme as of the end of March. There is widespread concern about the support that will be available to businesses as of April 2023. The Federation of Small Business has called for increased support to prevent a cliff edge for small businesses. UKHospitality has called for Ofgem to intervene in the non-domestic energy market for suppliers to re-negotiate inflated contracts.

Energy efficiency 

There have been calls from various groups on energy efficiency as a solution for reducing bills whilst contributing to net zero.

London Councils and Together through this crisis (a coalition of charities) have called for additional central investment to improve energy efficiency in the housing stock.

National Energy Action has said ‘unless we tackle the least efficient housing stock in Europe, the poorest households will simply not be able to afford a warm and safe home’. Property Mark has asked for energy efficiency grants to support landlords and homeowners to retrofit their properties.

The trade association the National Insulation Association is calling on the Government to build on existing commitments by providing a further £1bn into the ECO+ scheme.

The CBI, the FSB and 11 other trading associations have written a joint letter calling for a Help to Green voucher provided by Government to be used by small firms to invest in green improvements.

The Institute for Employment Rights (IER) has called for the Industry Energy Transformation Fund to be extended from 2025 to 2030 to reduce bills and emissions for businesses.

Windfall taxes 

The Chancellor has resisted calls for higher windfall taxes, saying increasing windfall taxes will ‘stop investment, increase dependence on Putin and increase energy prices’.

er, the Government has come under pressure because of recent record profits recorded by energy production companies like Shell and BP. The Labour Party has asked the Government to introduce a ‘proper’ windfall tax to keep energy bills down. The Welsh Government has added that loopholes within the windfall tax system must be closed in order to maximise revenue to bolster energy bill support.

Clean energy 

There have been persistent calls for the Government to increase momentum, particularly funding, around clean energy. This is in the context of inflation which has increased the cost of labour and raw materials.

RenewableUK has called for more fiscal incentives for developers and supply chain companies to drive investment in UK clean energy.

There have been calls for increased budgets and grants for clean energy, especially within Contracts for Difference (CfD) schemes. Funding for innovation and R&D for developing climate technologies, including reversing cuts to R&D tax credits, is also being requested.

The CBI has called for more planning, including routes to private investment for future technologies including hydrogen, Small Modular Reactors and Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS).

The Welsh Affairs Committee Chair has called on investment to be injected into new nuclear in Wylfa.

Five energy trade associations have called for a clearer Government plan to deliver green economic growth and attract clean energy investment, saying without this climate targets and economic opportunities will not be recognised.

The Energy Networks Association has called for the improvement of energy network infrastructure, including innovation and strategies into energy storage, in order to facilitate the development of clean energy.

Green transition 

With plans for a green transition, including the development of new industry, there have been calls for the Government to ensure the transition is well thought through with a focus on supply chains and employment.

The Association for Consultancy and Engineering has called for a clear focus on the green economy and infrastructure and the transition to green energy. This includes allocating funding to develop a Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) would like to see investment into a just transition to secure a green energy future, cutting independence on volatile gas. The TUC has also called for the introduction of a Green Jobs Taskforce to co-ordinate planning for decarbonising the economy.

London Councils have called for a plan for Net Zero skills in line with the Skidmore review.

Sustain would like funding to be bolstered in the Agricultural Transition Plan, as well as the expansion of the Environmental Land Management schemes.


Education has been a particular focus for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, so it is safe to assume that it will feature in some way in the Spring Budget. The Chancellor has said that education will be a focus of his economic plan in a speech at Bloomberg, and there have been recent (delayed) announcements on SEND provision and Sunak’s personal commitment to extend maths teaching to 18. Further detail on this new approach to numeracy has yet to be published, and as one of the Prime Minister’s flagship policies, could well feature in the Spring Budget. Of the new policy, the Government said at the time they were exploring the right route, including core maths qualifications, T levels, and ‘more innovative options’ and that details on the PM’s ‘mission’ will be announced in due course.

Apprenticeship levy

Reform of the apprenticeship levy has moved in and out of education ministers’ discourse amid numerous changes in Government over the last six months, although for the wider sector, calls for change are nothing new. In relation to the upcoming budget, the FSB has called for the Government to introduce the £3,000 apprenticeship incentive in England for under 25s and small businesses. The measure builds on the Kickstart Scheme, introduced to support young people through the pandemic, which led to a 21% surge in apprenticeship starts. This figure dropped to 12% following a reduction in the scheme. Other suggestions in the apprenticeship sphere include the CBI’s call for a two-year pilot of turning the Apprenticeship Levy into a ‘Skills Challenge Fund’, which would allow firms to spend the fund on a variety of accredited training and skills. KPMG have suggested considering tax breaks for retraining, or introducing a super deduction for employer-funded training costs.


Given the Government has recently introduced the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Bill, which aims to create pathways for more flexible loan entitlements for modular learning and short courses, and confirmed the introduction of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) in 2025, it could be argued that this work is already under way. The LLE makes up just one of the commitments of the Skills for Jobs White Paper (2021) which contained several recommendations for improving accessibility to skills, retraining and building relationships between employers and training providers. Although a long time in politics, given we are still in the implementation phase of these recommendations, additional ‘bold policy’ announcements are unlikely to be of particular focus in the Budget.

Public sector pay

Schools have continued to face strike action from teaching and support staff amid ongoing talks with Government over public sector pay. The sector has highlighted staffing issues, particularly in the early years sector, and missed targets on recruitment for maths teachers, indicating further issues for Sunak’s plans to improve maths outcomes. The Government has said it will offer a 3.5% annual pay increase. The Times reports that the biggest question facing the Chancellor is whether to raise the pay awards, either through permanent salary increases or one-off bonuses, funded by a recent drop in Government borrowing recorded in January.


Childcare costs

Following increasing calls for improvements to the childcare system, the BCC have called on the Chancellor to make childcare more affordable, pointing out there are 1.7m people currently out of work due to caring responsibilities. This priority is reflected in the CBI’s top recommendations for the Budget, which include launching an Independent Review of childcare; increasing funding so providers receive funding that reflects the cost-of-service provision and the roll-out of existing provision for 3- and 4-year-olds to all 1- and 2-year-olds. The Women’s Budget Group (WBG) has urgently called for an independent review into the early education and childcare system, including a workforce strategy.

The Guardian recently reported the Treasury was considering a plan to massively expand free childcare to one- and two-year-olds in England. This would expand the current 30 hours of term-time care from three- and four-year-olds to children 9 months to 3 years old. Given the volume of activity on this issue both in and out of Parliament, it’s likely to feature in the Budget. Other proposals to help families meet the cost of childcare include:

  • an offer of 10 free hours for disadvantaged one-year-olds.
  • adjusting the ratios for childcare providers.
  • reducing the Universal Credit taper rate.
  • Increasing the number of childminders.

During a recent Education Select Committee session, the subject of childminders was repeatedly raised by witnesses and MPs as a possible area for reform, although this wasn’t explicitly linked to the Spring Budget. Despite numerous recent calls for change, it was reported by The Telegraph earlier this year that Rishi Sunak has shelved plans for a major overhaul of the childcare system. This follows his predecessor, Liz Truss, making proposals for change during her short tenure. KPMG’s budget prediction judged the Government ‘might’ announce changes to childcare, which may include non-tax measures or tax deductions for childcare costs. Although this is a well-recognised issue, given the links to Liz Truss’s short-lived tenure, it is unclear whether the Government will address this in the Budget.

Labour shortages

However, with the Government’s focus on growth and productivity, it would make sense that some attention will be given to getting people into work. The Telegraph reported that this would be one of Jeremy Hunt’s primary concerns. Hunt has personally urged over-50s who have taken early retirement to go back to work, so it seems likely that the Government will announce new measures to encourage and retain older workers in the labour force. This could build on the Mid-Life MOTs offer announced last year or by offering tax incentives, such as increasing the lifetime pensions allowance which is now frozen at £1,073,100 until 2026.

It is also possible that Jeremy Hunt will announce an increase to the state pension age. He has previously commissioned Mel Stride, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to look into the impact of raising the pension age to 68 at a faster rate. Currently, the age at which people start receiving their state pension is 66 and is set to rise to 68 between 2044 and 2046. There is speculation this could be brought forward to the mid-2030s.

When it comes to getting the long term sick back into work, one policy option on the cards is a sick note crackdown. Another policy option is to reboot the benefits system, so that sick people who return to work part-time can continue claiming some sickness benefits.

Other recommendations include using existing levers in the points-based immigration system to ease labour shortages if the Government feel unable to enact bolder policies to prevent and treat long-term sickness, enabling flexible training provision, and enhancing productivity through digitisation.

Health & Social Care

NHS Workforce

Workforce remains one of the most urgent challenges facing the sector right now; ongoing disputes over pay are likely to inform the backdrop to the Chancellor’s Spring Budget, with the Government in talks with several health unions and junior doctors planning to take 72 hours of strike action later this month. Departments across Government have given evidence to pay review bodies, which recommend 3.5% pay rises for public sector workers for the financial year April 2023-24 – an offer which is unlikely to bring an end to any disputes. With the NHS already stretched thin, the Department of Health and Social Care cannot afford to fund a higher pay settlement from its existing budget – meaning any additional pay rise will require the Treasury to find more money. The UK can expect a shallower recession then was predicted by the OBR back in autumn. January saw a surprise surplus in the Government’s finances, meaning that public borrowing for this year has been £30.6bn less than originally forecasted. This casts doubt upon the Government’s claim that pay rises are ‘unaffordable’, however, there are other considerable pressures upon the public finances, such as calls to not let the energy price cap rise on 1 April.

During the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor committed to publishing the long-awaited NHS Workforce Plan by the Spring. Stakeholders have stressed that the plan must be fully funded and that it cannot take money out of the existing health budget, as this would divert money away from the urgent need to reduce elective care backlogs and A&E waiting times. During an opposition debate a few weeks ago, the Shadow Health Secretary repeatedly called on the Government to ‘nick’ Labour’s proposal to abolish non-dom tax status in order to fund an expansion in medical training places – a policy Jeremy Hunt has previously expressed support for.

Primary and community care

Hospital based care is often the most expensive form of care, whereas prevention and early intervention has the potential to save the NHS billions. This has been known for decades, and yet year on year, demand on emergency services has continued to grow. In their submission to the budget, NHS Providers urged the Government to invest in prevention, primary care, intermediate care and rehabilitation to reduce pressure on urgent and emergency departments.

Furthermore, there has been a surge in reports of poor mental health (especially in children) since the beginning of the pandemic and services have been overwhelmed by demand, with a backlog of 1.2m waiting for help. The British Psychological Society (BPS) has called for a mental health workforce strategy and for psychology to be embedded in primary care, in order to allow GPs to better support patients’ mental health. They stress that early intervention prevents problems from getting worse, which will ultimately reduce pressure on the NHS in the long run. NHS Confederation suggested that mental health services will need between £1.6 and £3.6bn over and above existing funding to keep pace with the rise in mental health problems.

Social Care

Lack of capacity in social care is one of the key factors behind excessive A&E waits, as patients who are medically fit to discharge take up beds – desperately needed by other patients – because they have nowhere to go. This is widely understood across the sector and was the motivation behind the £200m discharge fund announced earlier this year, used to allow local authorities to block buy beds in social care homes and get patients out of hospital. Whilst stakeholders welcomed extra funding, they also pointed out that it was too little too late and didn’t addresses the underlying problems in social care.

The social care sector is also suffering its own acute workforce crisis, restraining its capacity to keep up with growing demand. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) cited pay as one of the most urgent issues, as they find it increasingly difficult to compete with other sectors such as the NHS, retail and hospitality. ADASS is calling for Government investment to help them raise social care worker pay to the equivalent of NHS band 3 for Healthcare Assistants (£12.76 p/h). Age UK has also called for this, as well as additional support for unpaid carers, and funding to allow local authorities to clear the care assessment backlog, to ensure that the 400,000 people on the waiting list have their care needs assessed before next winter.

Public Health

The Chancellor has allegedly rejected proposals to introduce a new levy on disposable vapes. A tax on single use vapes has been pushed for by the Department of Health in an effort to crack down on vaping amongst children.

Back in December, the Government announced that the freeze in alcohol duty would be extended by six months, not coming to an end until 1 August, when a new alcohol tax-system will come into place. Ahead of the Spring Budget, 46 health experts including members of the Alcohol Health Alliance, academics and parliamentarians wrote to the Chancellor, urging him to increase alcohol duty after 1 August and to build automatic uprating into the new system. They argue that alcohol dependency has significant social and economic costs, and reducing affordability is the most effective way to reduce harm. They also suggest that alcohol duty has more of an impact on off-trade alcohol sales than on-trade, and measures such as reducing VAT would be a more practical way to support the hospitality industry.


The Association the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has made proposals for an alternative to the current Voluntary Pricing and Access Scheme (VPAS). In 2021, the VPAS meant that pharmaceutical companies paid back 5% of their revenue towards the NHS, but by 2023 this has risen to 26.5%, which the industry argues is not internationally competitive and disincentivises competition. ABPI proposes instead a Voluntary Scheme for Pricing, Access and Growth (VPAG), entailing a fixed payment rate of 6.88% levied across all NHS sales to be paid by the industry. They project this would provide the NHS with £1bn a year and UK medicines spend per capita would remain well below comparable countries.

Transport and Infrastructure

Public Transport

Better Transport has argued that the Budget next week is an opportunity to prioritise sustainable transport investment. Together with 14 other organisations, they wrote to the Chancellor with recommendations on how to protect spending on public transport commitments and invest in buses. They urge the Jeremy Hunt to guarantee an enhanced funding package for local buses to prevent imminent cuts to services when the current recovery funding runs out. They also want to see accelerated long-term reform of local transport funding and ringfenced local authority bus funding, with responsibility for allocating all bus funding transferred to the Department for Transport.

Similarly, the Urban Transport Group has called for this Budget to prioritise spending on local urban transport to prevent many vital bus services being axed. They also urge the Government to fully empower metropolitan transport authorities so they can direct funding where it will be most effective given local circumstances and aspirations.

Lastly, Better Transport thinks the Government should follow the Welsh Government’s example and review all planned road schemes which have not progressed to significant delivery stages. Cancelling just five planned road building schemes would save the Treasury £16bn and the money could instead be used on public transport.

Fuel duty

Fuel duty is supposed to rise by RPI inflation in April, which would add 7p to the price of a litre of fuel. A temporary 5p fuel duty cut, announced in March 2022, is also due to expire this March. These two factors combined mean the cost of fuel duty will rise by 23pc – an extra 12p per litre. The RPI fuel duty increase has been cancelled by every Chancellor for 12 years, making it politically difficult for the Jeremy Hunt to back a rise.

Back in January, The Times reported that Jeremy Hunt wants to extend the 5p cut in the price of petrol and diesel for another year if the economic outlook improves, having accepted that there is a ‘strong precedent’ for freezing fuel duty.

While fuel duty has been frozen for over a decade, over the last 10 years rail fares have risen by 33%, and bus and coach fares by a staggering 90%. Making driving cheaper discourages people from choosing sustainable public transport, so Better Transport are calling for an end to the temporary cut to fuel duty when it ends in March 2023. This would save £2.4bn, which they want to see invested in public transport.

However, Logistics UK noted that a rise in fuel duty would equate to an additional £4,850 annual cost to run a 44t truck. The overwhelming majority (99%) of logistics businesses are SMEs and even a small haulage firm with seven HGVs could be facing an additional £34,000 to annual operating costs if the duty rise were to be introduced after March 2023. Similarly, the FSB warns that small firms grappling with rising fuel costs are calling on the Chancellor to scrap the planned increase at the upcoming Spring Budget. Moreover, RAC has warned the Chancellor that a rise in fuel duty in the Spring Budget could impact inflation and the wider economy, causing ‘untold damage’.

In January, the Treasury Committee argued that because governments have consistently not raised fuel duty with inflation, despite such an increase being part of the Treasury’s underlying policy assumptions, the OBR considers fuel duty a risk to its fiscal forecast. The Committee states that the repeated failure of Governments to follow their own policy on fuel duty undermines the credibility of the OBR’s fiscal forecasts. They recommend the Treasury assumes there will be no inflation-linked rise in fuel duty when providing the OBR with a policy assumption for future forecasts. This would more accurately reflect the recent path of fuel duty and make for a more credible forecast.

Electric Vehicles

To encourage the growth of the UK’s EV industry and support drivers of all incomes to make the switch, FairCharge is calling for the Government to equalise the VAT rate for public charging (20%) in line with off-street (5%) charging. FairChange also thinks the Government should deliver on the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate on which it concluded on last year. The mandate would place targets on car manufacturers to sell a certain proportion of electric vehicles annually in the run up to 2030. Lastly, there is also a need for the Government to work closely with local authorities to enable the delivery of EV infrastructure plans, which FairChange said it simply won’t materialise without increased guidance, resources and direction. Lastly, to encourage uptake, the Government should introduce EV access schemes for low-income drivers.

Moreover, with the switch to EVs, tax revenue from fuel duty will plummet, so vehicle taxation needs reform. The Transport Committee has already warned the Government it risks losing out on tens of billions of tax revenue if it does not explore new forms of road taxation. However, the Treasury’s main message was that the Government ‘does not currently have plans to consider road pricing’.


On rail, Better Transport has called for rail fares reform, with an end to ‘split ticketing’ and the introduction of single leg pricing across the network. They have also called for an expansion of pay-as-you-go ticketing across the country outside of London.

The Railway Industry Association noted that the industry still doesn’t have clarity on Great British Railways or wider strategic direction. They think that the lack of clarity about the structure of the railway has the potential to deter investment and prevent rail from attracting the best people to key positions.


The housebuilding sector has been under pressure since the fallout from the September 2022 mini-Budget, when higher interest rates resulted in higher mortgage costs. In addition to this, house prices have seen the biggest annual fall in over 10 years – by 1.1% in the year to February – according to figures from Nationwide.

The S&P Global/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index, published on Monday, shows a poor outlook for construction in 2023, with added pressure on firms that are already dealing with difficulties such as labour shortages and high materials costs. Developers will be hoping measures to boost housing and address inflation are announced in the Budget.

Other challenges, including the cost of living crisis and increasing rents, have driven many people into poverty and increased the risk of homelessness. Local authorities are inundated with requests and housing options are limited. Many are hopeful that measures to support struggling households will be included in the Budget.

Lifetime ISA

There have been numerous calls for the Chancellor to review the conditions of the Lifetime and Help to Buy ISAs to better support first-time buyers.

The Government is being asked to review the £450,000 cap for a first home bought with the Lifetime ISA. Property prices have risen considerably – by just over a third (£75,687) – since the product was introduced six years ago making it difficult for a first-time buyer to find a home in London for less than this amount. If the home bought exceeds this amount, buyers face a 25% penalty charge. There are calls for the cap to be increased in line with house price growth and some are calling for the 25% penalty to be reduced to 20%.

The Building Societies Association (BSA) has also suggested balancing the threshold, as currently, the Help to Buy ISA limits property purchase values to £250,000 outside London and £450,000 in London while the Lifetime ISA threshold is £450,000 nationally. The BSA proposes for the threshold to be raised to £550,000 to reflect the growth in house prices and has asked for this to be reviewed annually to ensure they remain in line with changes.

Improving support for vulnerable and low-income tenants

Property Mark is calling for the UK Government to tie Local Housing Allowance – which has been frozen since 2019 – to the 50th percentile in order to prevent homelessness. Similarly, homelessness charity Shelter is urging the Government to restore Local Housing Allowance and keep it in line with at least the 30th percentile of private rents.

With the pandemic and the cost of living crisis impacting employment opportunities for many young people, Property Mark is calling for an end to the Shared Accommodation Rate. To reduce the debt for those in receipt of Universal Credit, they would like to see the Universal Credit Advance be converted into a grant from the start of a claim.

Reaching net zero

The UK Government has committed to reaching net zero and energy efficient homes are a key part of this transition.

The Conservative Government pledged £9.2bn for decarbonisation buildings as part of its 2019 election manifesto. So far support for landlords and homeowners has been limited. To date, the Government has invested £1.5bn to decarbonise 130,000 homes in the social sector. However, similar support for renters and homeowners – through the Green Homes Grant – was largely deemed a failure.

The Guardian has reported that a third of the funding pledged by the Government for insulation and installing heat pumps has not yet been spent, despite the energy and cost of living crises. About £2.1bn remains unspent of the £6.6bn that was supposed to be used between 2020 and 2025. With net zero being high on the Government’s agenda, the Chancellor may well decide to implement measures to accelerate progress in this area. This could include a reduction or removal of VAT on goods and materials to tackle climate change.

Increasing housing supply

One of the biggest challenges for the private rented sector is that demand far outweighs supply. Property Mark believes that a major reason for landlords exiting the market is because of Section 24 and the phasing out of the Mortgage Interest Relief. The membership body roughly estimates that reintroducing Mortgage Interest Relief would cost the UK Government £1bn, and that it would increase supply and drive down rents, as well as reduce the £30bn spent annually on housing benefits.

Shelter is calling for investment in a 10-year Affordable Homes Programme of £12bn per year to deliver at least 90,000 social homes a year. The charity argues that a minimum of 80% of grant funding in the programme should go to homes for social rent, to focus government grant money on the most affordable tenure. The National Housing Federation is urging the Government to maximise the use of existing funding through the Affordable Homes Programme, in order to tackle homelessness and boost social and economic opportunities.

Culture, Media and Sport

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has recently been revamped, with the digital element moving into a new Department for Science and Tech. The new Secretary of State, Lucy Frazer, has links to the Treasury, having been Financial Secretary from September 2021 until September 2022.

The sector has put forward recommendations for the Budget in relation to the impact of the cost of living crisis. Campaign for Real Ale is calling on the Government to provide meaningful support to the hospitality sector including lower business rates which recognise their community value, and increased support with energy bills. The Sun reported in December that the Chancellor is expected to freeze alcohol duty.

Similarly, NME reports figures from the live music sector have called on the Prime Minister to deliver on his promise to cut business rates and reinstate a lower rate of 5% VAT on tickets, in line with international comparisons. This is a long-standing ask; during covid, VAT was reduced to 5% but rose again to 12.5% in October 2021, despite calls from the industry for it to remain at a reduced rate to enable recovery.

Industry groups such as LIVE have warned urgent Government intervention is needed to prevent the closure of hundreds of music venues across the country. In addition, they are supporting wider hospitality sector support requests:

  • A business rates holiday for all hospitality premises with no caps applied;
  • COVID style grants to businesses in severe hardship;
  • Measures to help businesses reduce their energy usage e.g., free/cheap energy audits for venues;
  • A reversal of the introduction of the April 2022 VAT rate increase for hospitality;
  • The reinstatement of a generous HMRC Time to Pay scheme; and
  • The reintroduction of a trade credit insurance scheme for energy.

Despite the new Secretary of State’s popularity within the Conservative Party and links to the Treasury, it is unlikely major announcements will be made to directly address issues within the cultural sector, given the economic climate, although they may benefit from more general support offered to tackle energy costs. The Spring Budget could be used to honour the previous commitment to create a National Plan for Cultural Education by 2023. This commitment aimed to outline career progression pathways and address skills gaps needed by the sector, which would be in keeping with the Government’s commitment to boost productivity.

International Development

In 2021, the Government decided to reduce its aid spending from 0.7% to 0.5% of Gross National Income (GNI) as a ‘temporary measure’ following the pandemic. During the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor said the Government will not return to 0.7% on Official Development Assistance (ODA) until the Government is not borrowing for day-to-day spending and underlying debt is falling. It is unlikely that ODA will be restored during the spring statement, but the Government has recently provided additional resources to address unanticipated world events.

The Government has come up against widespread criticism for the ODA cut, including from the Labour Party and Green Party who have called for the spending to be restored. A recent report from the National Audit Office outlined the issues faced by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in the last year which included pressures on the UK’s aid budget, especially in light of crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine, and now the recent earthquake in Turkey/Syria.

The International Development Committee’s report on Aid spending in the UK has made a demand ahead of the budget for the Treasury to ring-fence the equivalent of 0.5% GNI in the ODA budget for expenditure on development assistance delivered outside the UK. This is following news that the proportion of aid spent in the UK has drastically increased in recent years, while programmes supporting people in the world’s poorest countries were cut.

Home Office

Despite a wide range of speculation, issues relating to immigration, small boat crossings and policing issues have not taken centre stage.

However, a week before the Budget, Home Secretary Suella Braverman updated the House of Commons on new legislation to ‘stop the boats’. The Government’s Illegal Migration Bill which was promised to the British people two months ago has set out a number of upcoming goals which will essentially fulfil the Prime Minister’s promise that anyone entering this country illegally will be detained and removed, either back to their country of origin if safe, or to a safe third country like Rwanda. The Bill enables detention of illegal arrivals, without bail or judicial review within the first 28 days of detention, until they can be removed, putting a duty on the Home Secretary to remove illegal entrants. The Government have already made a start on this by initiating discussions in Strasbourg.

The hospitality industry has been particularly worried about the current economic situation and the challenges they will face as a result of the Government’s stance on immigration.

UKHospitality has submitted a document to the Government asking for plans to support business growth and to account for recent labour shortages. Their budget submission calls for an implementation of minor, short-term immigration reforms to counter the sales being lost due to labour shortages, particularly abolishing or reducing the Immigration Skills Charge and offering more flexibility to students to work longer hours. However, with the recent announcement of the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill, it doesn’t seem likely this is something that will be laid out in this fiscal statement.

Science and Technology

The Royal Society has advised that in the upcoming Spring budget the Government include the following recommendations:

  • Ensure spending on R&D remains at the same level as other nations
  • Establish a long-term strategy for science research and innovation that encourages cross party support.
  • Prepare the ground to secure the UK’s association to Horizon Europe as soon as possible.
  • Reduce work and study visa fees.
  • Reconsider the proposed cuts to SME R&D tax credit scheme to avoid disincentivising innovation among smaller companies.
  • Introduce an evidence-led technology roadmap to guide investment into technologies that will be key to achieving net zero.
  • Review the secondary school and post-16 education systems in England including replacing A-levels.

The CBI has called for the Government to create an innovative economy and described this along with R&D as a core component to driving long-term growth. They are also encouraging the Government to set out long-term technology priorities and related funding; securing association with partnerships like Horizon Europe will solidify the UK’s leadership in innovation, and if this cannot be delivered, then the entire budget for Horizon Europe should be allocated towards a new globally competitive research and innovation programme.


Jeremy Hunt has promised to make the UK the ‘world’s next Silicon Valley’ and ‘the most innovative economy in the world’. UKTN has said the Budget is an opportunity for the Government to deliver on tech by clarifying how the UK will build a talent pipeline over the next 10 years to meet the targets around rolling out gigabit-capable broadband and 5G. Additionally, they urge the Government to reverse the trend of ministers blowing ‘hot and cold’ on tech and would like to see changes to the UK’s R&D tax credit regime to reduce fraud and refocus the credit on research-intensive companies.

TechUK has recommended the Chancellor focus on creating incentives necessary for the UK to compete in the 21st century, which include incentives for investment, reforming the financial system and access to global markets. Further, they have said the UK needs to prepare for future technologies through delivering regulatory frameworks and market support.


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's first 100 days in office

Looking back at Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s first 100 days in office

Looking ahead to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s spring budget on 15 March, it appears Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may be in a better position than initially expected, with The Guardian reporting that the Office for Budget Responsibility (for the 2022-23 financial year) has said that cumulative borrowing is £30bn less than expected at £108.7bn. However, perhaps the most acute short-term policy challenge comes from the current situation with the public sector and the ongoing strike action across sectors.

On 2 February, Sunak marked 100 days in office. The party placed its hopes in Sunak – he has lasted longer than his predecessor (Liz Truss) and has shown confidence in his ability to stabilise the economy, but with ongoing strikes, a crisis with the NHS and bad poll ratings, the question remains over his future electoral performance.

Writing in The Sun newspaper, Sunak asked the voting public not to judge him on his first days in office. He claims he has stopped the freefall in our economy, slowed the increase in mortgage rates and heavily stepped-up support for Ukraine, sending not just weapons and ammo but now heavy tanks also. Prior to this, Sunak made his name as Chancellor of the Exchequer under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with the furlough scheme credited by some sections of the press and politics with saving millions of jobs as COVID-19 brought the economy to a standstill.

As Prime Minister, Rishi has kept the economy at the forefront of his policies. Alongside Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, Sunak has stressed the importance of tackling inflation. Despite this, while borrowing is far lower than expected, inflation is still higher than expected and shows no sign of lowering.

Another fundamental problem prior to Sunak taking office was the issue of uniting the party. While promising to bring back a strong party to govern the country, Rishi instead appointed a Home Secretary who had broken the ministerial code, was also forced to dismiss party chairman Nadhim Zahawi over his tax affairs, and allowed for a climate whereby Sir Gavin Williamson was forced to quit over a series of abusive messages to the chief whip. More recently, issues have risen concerning Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, who has been interviewed as part of an ongoing investigation into claims he bullied civil servants, as well as the latest scandal involving Boris Johnson’s loan being secured by the chair of the BBC.

Sunak’s need to discipline his cabinet, could have influenced Britons in seeing labour as having the ability to handle issues better, by 29% to 21%.

Going into 2023-2024, Sunak has set five clear priorities or ‘urgent tasks’. The first is to halve inflation, claiming that bills are too high and increasing the issues surrounding the cost-of-living crisis. He aims to help families with £26bn of Government support as an answer to this. His second promise is to grow the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity across the country. Sunak’s third promise involves the aim of reducing national debt to ensure a bright future of public services. His fourth priority lies with the mounting issues facing the NHS, claiming that ‘waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly’. His last promised task involves passing new laws to stop small boats, essentially ensuring ‘that if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed’.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the vision he set out may not be delivered in its entirety this year, but concluded: ‘I will only promise what I can deliver, and I will deliver what I promise’.

For regular updates on what is happening in UK politics and public affairs, sign up to our weekly Point of Order newsletter, going out every Friday morning.

6 tips on fighting medical misinformation

6 pointers for PR professionals tackling misinformation on the front lines

Misinformation, disinformation and fake news is highly contagious and harmful, especially in the field of health. Effective PR and communications can help fight the spread and protect the public from its impacts.

Our latest white paper ‘Medical misinformation: How PR can stop the spread’ features guidance for comms professionals tasked with educating and informing, with advice from medical, healthcare and pharmaceutical practitioners working in-house, agency-side and within the media.

Take note of these six pointers from the paper, and download the full report here.

1. Be vigilant with AI tools

‘A key challenge this year will be the threat of generative AI and combatting misinformation, particularly online. However, it is an area for opportunity and growth – the harnessing of tech to provide data rich intelligence that can underpin PR activity.’

Matt Wilson, media and public affairs manager for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)

2. Stay transparent

‘Transparency of production, transparency of bias, transparency of any kind that goes into news organisations’ production or production values should be better communicated with consumers.

‘When you go into a shop, you pick up a piece of food and it has the nutritional information on the back so that you can decide whether or not you want to eat it. If we had better signposting within news organisations to help us understand how the piece was created and why it was created, it would help us better pick quality content as consumers.’

Jodie Jackson, founder of the News Literacy Network (find out more about the network in this ResponseSource interview)

3. Allow open conversation to avoid mistrust

‘Although witnessing medical misinformation being spread can be frustrating, especially as a healthcare professional, it is important to remain understanding as to why some people may hold irrational beliefs. Mocking them for having these views, or suffocating any conversation around them, can lead to a further level of distrust between the general public and professionals within the pharmaceutical industry, which can further fan the flame of misinformation.

‘It is important to target misinformation with education and critical thinking – after all, social media regulation will not stop misinformation from being spread in the long-run, as people will find other ways to do this. Changing the way people take in information and educating them on how they can validate information before believing it directly must happen, too.’

Carolina Goncalves, superintendent pharmacist at UK pharmacist Pharmica

4. Pay close attention to inequalities and bias still within the health sector itself

‘As a health journalist, I’ve become increasingly interested over the last five or so years in issues around health inequalities, gender bias and medical misogyny.

‘In 2018 I started my blog Hysterical Women to bring together women’s stories and experiences in one place. It particularly explores some of the dismissive and disbelieving attitudes that women can encounter when seeking healthcare – the idea that we’re being “hysterical” or “hormonal”, or that our symptoms are “all in our heads”.

‘I hope to move that conversation forwards – beyond simply curating experiences to actually looking at the underlying reasons, highlighting some of the campaigns around the gender health gap and exploring what the solutions might be.’

Sarah Graham, writer and author of ‘Rebel Bodies: A guide to the gender health gap revolution’ (read more about Sarah and her work in this interview)

5. Go beyond the physical to gain and retain the attention of your audience

‘Re-evaluate your assumptions about what people will engage with. Mental health is a big concern, for example – so consumers may be more likely to engage with content about mental wellness, compared to physical wellness.’

Helen Fitzhugh, associate director, Healthcare at Kaizo PR

6. Be responsive to international events to fight fake news

‘One advantage we have on misinformation is that it rarely falls out of the blue – it tends to spike in response to unfolding events. Extreme weather events, global conflicts and public health crises are all areas where misinformation can thrive. We’d recommend keeping an eye on countries that have elections coming up, too.’

Shayoni Lynn, founder and CEO of Lynn

Download ‘Medical misinformation: How PR can stop the spread’ here.


The future of the NHS Pay Review Body

The future of the NHS Pay Review Body

Aside from the economy, recent polling suggests that the public considers health to be the most important issue facing the country right now. With the ongoing crisis in A&E departments regularly making headlines, it seems likely that the Government’s ability to turn around the NHS’s misfortunes will significantly impact on its ability to perform at the next general election.

Last week, the Government released its urgent and emergency care recovery plan, pledging to slash waiting lists by creating 5000 more beds, 800 new ambulances and expanding the use of ‘virtual wards’ to treat people from home. However, the announcements have been met by scepticism by NHS leaders who point out the 130,000 vacancies across the NHS and suggest that such pledges are meaningless without the workforce plan to back it up. Saffron Cowdrey, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, said that ‘though these new measures are welcome, they are not enough in themselves. We desperately need action to tackle the vast workforce shortages, staff exhaustion and burnout, and the inability to free up capacity by discharging medically fit patients in a safe and timely way’.

Industrial action looks set to intensify as we head further into 2023. Ambulance workers, nurses and physiotherapists at NHS trusts across the country will all be going on strike at some point this week. Furthermore, there is a high probability that the junior doctors’ ballot closing next week will deliver a mandate for strike action and the BMA is planning to hold an indicative ballot of consultants later in the month. Yet there is little sign of a resolution to the disputes in the immediate future. Negotiations with the health unions have failed to lead anywhere due to the Government’s refusal to talk about pay. When pressed, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and other senior Government figures have pointed to the fact that pay is decided by the independent NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB).

However, unions have disputed the true independence of the NHSPRB, and are refusing to submit evidence this year until their industrial disputes are resolved. Sharon Graham, General Secretary of Unite, said the NHSPRB is ‘long past its sell-by date’ and ‘a willing partner in working to the Government’s pay cuts agenda’, pointing out that the Government still dictates the boundaries within which pay offers must lie.

Given a chance to respond to these allegations while being questioned by the Health and Social Care Committee early last week, chair of the NHSPRB Philippa Hird defended the pay review body’s neutrality and commitment to taking into account all the evidence. She gestured to the fact that in two recent years, the NHSPRB actually recommended pay rises higher than the Government’s remit. This is true: in 2022 the Government said it would be willing to offer NHS staff a 3% pay rise and the NHSPRB ended up recommending 4.8%. However, this is a much smaller jump than the 19% the Royal College of Nurses are asking for – a rise they argue is necessary to counter over a decade of erosion in real terms pay.

Members of the Select Committee were astonished to hear that the Government has missed the deadline to submit evidence to the NHSPRB, delaying any future pay rise to past April. When he was questioned on the subject later that day, Health Secretary Steve Barclay insisted that his Department would be submitting evidence as soon as possible and delays were ‘to make sure that the evidence best reflected the wider economic circumstances’, hinting that an significantly improved pay offer would be on the table – though whether it will be enough to end the dispute remains to be seen.

For regular updates on what is happening in UK politics and public affairs, sign up to our weekly Point of Order newsletter, going out every Friday morning.

Regulation in the wake of the FTX collapse

Regulation in the wake of the FTX collapse

In April 2022, John Glen, then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, made a big commitment to make the UK a global hub for crypto business. On the same day, HM Treasury published its response to the consultation on the regulatory approach to cryptoassets and stablecoins. The response outlined the Government’s intention to bring stablecoins, where used as a means of payment, into the regulatory perimeter. The rationale for doing this is that certain stablecoins have the capacity to potentially become a widespread means of payment including by retail customers, driving consumer choice and efficiencies. The Government also confirmed that it will consult on regulating a wider set of cryptoasset activities, in view of their continued growth and uptake worldwide.

The Government also conducted a Call for Evidence on the investment and wholesale uses of distributed ledger technology (DLT) in financial markets.

The Government recognised the substantial benefits and transformative impact that could be delivered by DLT when adopted in Financial Market Infrastructures (FMIs). In April 2022, the Government confirmed it is developing an FMI Sandbox to support firms wanting to innovate.

The Government has also consulted on plans to give the FCA more powers to regulate cryptoasset promotions. In its consultation paper the Government said it intended to act to ensure the appropriate regulation of cryptoasset promotions through secondary legislation.

Recent events since April 2022, in particular the failure of FTX, has lit a fire under the push for tailored rules for the market. Rebecca Driver, Member of the Financial Services Consumer Panel, said that the collapse of FTX reinforced to her the idea that if the product is creating the same sort of risks that you have in other spheres, it should be regulated in the same way or at least in a comparable way.

During a Treasury Committee oral evidence session Andrew Griffith, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury said that given the failure of FTX, part of the future for the crypto asset industry in 2023 is getting regulation right ‘not to have no regulation or to bake it in fully, as if this is already an established market and a fact, but to get that balance right.’

He emphasised there are measures in the Financial Services and Markets (FSM) Bill that will make way for crypto to be regulated in the UK. The Bill brings stablecoins, into the scope of regulation when used as a form of payment, paving their way for use in the UK as a recognised form of payment.

Clauses 21 and 22 and Schedule 6 extend existing payments legislation to include payment systems and service providers that use digital settlement assets, including forms of crypto assets used for payments, such as stablecoin backed by fiat currency. This brings such payment systems within the regulatory remits of the Bank of England and the Payment Systems Regulator.

Clauses 65 and 8 clarify that the Treasury has the necessary powers to regulate crypto asset activities within the existing financial services framework, as extended by this Bill. This will ensure that HM Treasury is equipped to respond to developments in cryptoassets more quickly and ensure that HM Treasury and the regulators can update the cryptoasset regulation as international standards are developed. Moreover, the effect of these two clauses, is that Government has the flexibility to introduce regulation in an agile way using secondary legislation; including appropriate regulation of cryptoasset promotions (Clause 65(2))

To foster innovation, Clauses 13 to 17 and Schedule 4 enable the delivery of financial market infrastructure (FMI) sandboxes, allowing firms to test the use, the applications, of new and potentially transformative technologies.

When asked about FCA’s views on crypto asset regulation, Sarah Pritchard – Executive Director for Markets at Financial Conduct Authority – said the FCA is working to support the introduction of rules on financial promotion. While the FCA has not confirmed the final set of rules for how that will operate, they have said that we can very much expect them to take a similar approach to the new rules they confirmed for high-risk investments back in August 2022.

As mentioned previously, the Government has said it intends to launch a consultation on its regulatory approach to a wider range of cryptoassets. The explanatory notes to the FSM bill as introduced in the House of Lords, state that ‘the Government intends to launch a consultation on its regulatory approach to wider cryptoassets beyond stablecoins used for payments, including those primarily used as a means of investment (such as bitcoin) later in 2022’. In January 2023, Andrew Griffith confirmed that the Government will be coming forward with two consultations in a matter of weeks. One about the general regulatory approach to crypto-assets and the other about a sovereign central bank digital currency. Implicit within that is that the Government are probably not going to be legislating in 2023 on further regulation.

On the FSM Bill, Andrew Griffith noted that he hopes that it will be done by Easter. The FSM Bill was already debated in the House of Commons and had its second reading in the House of Lords in early January.

While the Government proposed a staged and proportionate approach to regulation, one of the main criticisms during second reading of the FSM Bill in the House of Lords was that, while the Bill brings crypto in the regulatory environment and allows for further regulation in the future, it seems like a missed opportunity not to regulate further.

Alison Thewliss similarly thinks the Government is falling behind, mentioning that Europe has recently implemented its markets and crypto assets regulations—MiCA. Responding to her Andrew Griffith said that MiCA covers some but not all the areas they would aspire to cover. He argued that when they will come forward with the consultations they will talk about other activities.

For how the UK media covered the FTX collapse and what it means for the cryptocurrency space, read our report using insight from Vuelio Media Monitoring. 

Getting to the truth of the matter on misinformation

Getting to the truth of the matter on misinformation

‘The way social media platforms are designed and are growing in power is making it easier than ever before to spread misinformation like wildfire,’ believes Shayoni Lynn, CEO and founder of multi-award-winning behavioural science consultancy Lynn.

A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) and Chair of PRCA Cymru, Shayoni was awarded the Mark Mellor Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Industry at PRCA Nationals in 2022 and included in PRovoke Innovator 25 EMEA. She represents Wales at the UK PR Council, is a founding panel member and Vice-Chair of CIPR’s Behavioural Insights Interest Group and a frequent industry awards judge, regularly speaking on the use of data, behavioural science in communications, and measurement and evaluation at conferences internationally.

Shayoni Lynn

Here, Shayoni shares an overview of the misinformation challenge for comms people across politics, public affairs, the media and more – and explains what the sector should be prepared for.

Have you noticed an increase in misinformation in your space over the last few years?

There’s a number of ways of measuring this, and all of them are fraught with difficulty. We’re not academics, we’re practitioners, but we can say a few things with certainty. First, the way social media platforms are designed and are growing in power is making it easier than ever before to spread misinformation like wildfire. Second, a lot of the society-wide factors that increase the spread of misinformation – uncertainty, information overload, crisis – are getting worse. And third, we’re hearing more regularly from our clients that this is an issue which is making it harder to retain their relationships with key audiences.

Are social media platforms doing enough to tackle misinformation?

I think the platforms would be the first to admit that more could be done to tackle misinformation, so that in itself isn’t particularly contentious. Again, there are policymakers and campaigners whose focus is on pressuring the platforms to act more comprehensively, and our job as practitioners is to protect our clients in the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be.

What additional steps should social media be taking?

We’re not in the business of making policy recommendations, but one thing is for sure: transparency is never a bad thing. Transparency about how they are making moderation decisions and transparency about how their algorithms are recommending us content is something that academic researchers have been calling for for quite some time now, and can only help us as a society get to grips with the problem.

What advice would you give to others in your sector for correcting misinformation among the general public?

There are three pieces of advice which should provide a solid foundation for any strategy to fight misinformation.

1) Just because you feel like you need to respond to something doesn’t mean that you should. Social media algorithms are designed to harness our impulses to propel content to the top of more users’ newsfeeds, so in responding to something we might just be exposing more users to it.
2) Just because something is a problem on social media, doesn’t mean it’s a problem with your audience. Social listening tools can be incredibly helpful in detecting potentially harmful information, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s reached our audience or is resonating with them.
3) Finally, it’s not all in your control. Misinformation is spreading because of forces well beyond this current moment – a changing climate, a revolutionised information environment, increasing inequality – and there’s no correction that’s going to fix all of that. By acknowledging this we can focus more of our energy on what we can control, than wasting it worrying about what we can’t.

Are there any particular areas that you feel will likely be the target of misinformation in 2023 PRs should plan for?

One advantage we have on misinformation is that it rarely falls out of the blue – it tends to spike in response to unfolding events. Extreme weather events, global conflicts and public health crises are all areas where misinformation can thrive. We’d recommend keeping an eye on countries that have elections coming up, too.

But the truth is, we know that regardless of the focus of the misinformation, the structure of it will be much the same: it will be pitting in groups against out groups, leveraging social divisions and blaming the world’s ills on a secret cabal of elites pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Does misinformation negatively impact those within the sector as well as the general public?

Absolutely. If your job is to build a relationship between the organisation you work for and your audience, then misinformation should be on your radar. Bad information has the potential to sever this relationship.

For more on misinformation and how the comms industry can help combat the issue, read this interview with Pharmica’s Carolina Goncalves for how it is impacting the pharmaceutical sector.

To help track how your message is received across the media, the political sphere and social media, try Vuelio’s monitoring services.

How to stem the flow of medical misinformation

Turning the tide on medical misinformation

Misinformation is a growing issue of concern across all areas of the media. Whether shared via social or ‘traditional’ mediums, the spread of incorrect information has had far-reaching consequences on individuals and whole communities across the planet.

It can spread fast. And particularly dangerous – also incredibly catchy, unfortunately – is medical misinformation. On the rise since the early panic-filled days of the pandemic, it continues in conversations between family members and friends who may have misheard something; in niche pockets of influence on platforms like TikTok, Twitter and Instagram, and even on mainstream broadcast news, from high-profile public figures.

How can experts ensure the truth is heard and understood above all of the noise – both well-meaning and more nefarious in motive – being communicated? Pharmica‘s superintendent pharmacist Carolina Goncalves explores the rise of the issue from the point-of-view of the medical industry and how the tide of information can be turned back to the truth.

The increase of misinformation

Medical misinformation has been a global issue, becoming much more noticeable since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and has definitely been prevalent within the pharmaceutical industry.

In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak during March 2020, US President at the time Donald Trump recommended the antimalarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as a preventative treatment against the virus. Health officials quickly advised the public that this was not a suitable treatment and would not offer protection against Covid, however this still led to global shortages of the drug, meaning patients with malaria, lupus and arthritis who required the treatment could not get a hold of it. After Trump’s message, we saw a rise in people searching for hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine and chloroquine phosphate on the Pharmica website, showing the impact of the ex-President’s words had spread globally.

In order for an online or community pharmacy to sell prescription medications in the UK, there are many rigorous standards and regulations from the GPhC (General Pharmaceutical Council) and MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) that must be met, so only pharmacies that meet those requirements and are registered with these two bodies can sell such medications.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the online pharmacy space has grown hugely over the last few years, of which Pharmica has noticed the sharp increase in the number of illegitimate online pharmacies that have skirted the regulations set by the GPhC and MHRA.

An ITV investigation found there were many websites posing as registered pharmacies that were not only selling medication in different strengths to what they were advertising – meaning patients could easily overdose by taking the wrong strength – but were also selling addictive drugs like Xanax, Valium and Ambien without requiring a prescription, as well as allowing people to bulk-buy these medications.

ITV found that these sites also do not carry out consultations or require patients’ medical history before purchasing treatments, and post medication in plain packaging without necessary patient information leaflets.

The spread of medical misinformation has definitely increased over the last year or two, as social media platforms, health organisations and governments have locked down on fake news and accounts that spread illegitimate health information, but because of how quickly misinformation spreads, there are still ongoing issues.

The social media situation

Since the influx of misinformation that grew from the Covid pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) established a series of principles on how to identify reliable sources of information on social media. It also worked with YouTube to build the COVID-19 Misinformation Policy, as well as guidelines for content creators that aimed to inhibit medical misinformation related to the virus from being spread across the platform. According to WHO, 850,000 YouTube videos that contained misleading COVID-19 misinformation were removed between February 2020 and January 2021.

Most social media platforms have developed one or more strategies to address the spread of misinformation, including softer measures such as warning labels on posts, and harder measures such as content removal and account bans.

While it is clear social media platforms are providing some level of defence against misinformation, there is still concern against the rate of misinformation being spread to wider audiences and how this can be tackled while an active push towards ‘free speech’ is being prioritised. We are still yet to see how Twitter, under its new ownership, finds a balance between these two issues.

What more should social media platforms be doing?

Besides continuing with the policies and steps they are currently taking to stop the spread of disinformation on their platforms, social media platforms still have more they can do to reduce the spread of misinformation, including:

• Adjusting algorithms that amplify social media misinformation so its spread is reduced and accounts that encourage conspiracies are de-prioritised
• Prioritise social media misinformation continuously, not just when it falls under public scrutiny
• Make the closure of bot and fake accounts a regular occurrence, encouraging a platform-wide standard, and also showing that social media platforms are responsive to public demand and public safety
• Work with advertising agencies to inhibit the monetisation of misinformation
• Continuing an active push with leading medical professionals to ensure the information they are circulating is up to date and legitimate

What the medical and pharmaceutical sector do to stop the spread

Although witnessing medical misinformation being spread can be frustrating, especially as a healthcare professional, it is important to remain understanding as to why some people may hold irrational beliefs. Mocking them for having these views, or suffocating any conversation around them, can lead to a further level of distrust between the general public and professionals within the pharmaceutical industry, which can further fan the flame of misinformation.

It is important to target misinformation with education and critical thinking – after all, social media regulation will not stop misinformation from being spread in the long-run, as people will find other ways to do this. Changing the way people take in information and educating them on how they can validate information before believing it directly must happen, too.

When it comes to those who are using misinformation to capitalise on people’s fears and ultimately boost their own status, reporting those accounts to social media platforms and correcting the misinformation can prove useful.

It is important for healthcare professionals, including those within the pharmaceutical industry, to acknowledge that the key priority is always patient safety – profits are a secondary motivation and companies using misinformation of any form to further profits are doing so to the detriment of the patient.

Topics at risk of misinformation in 2023

As new variants of COVID-19 continue to cause infection rates to rise globally – as we are currently seeing with the latest Omicron variant XXB.1.5 – misinformation surrounding the strain and vaccine will likely continue to spread.

Major health organisations such as the World Health Organization, who have been posting on social media platforms about the importance of getting vaccinated, still receive thousands of comments from people stating that they will ‘never get the vaccine’, that the WHO are ‘pushing propaganda’ or that ‘vaccines are just a money-making scheme’.

Closer to home, England has seen at least 94 deaths over the last few months caused by Strep A. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSCA) clarified that around 41% of the deaths were among those aged 75 and over, while 17% of the deaths were from children aged 10 and below. It has been thought that this spike in the bacterial infection is due to a less immunity and a rise in social mixing after the Covid pandemic. It didn’t take long for misinformation around the deaths to circulate, leading to social media posts that firstly implied this was due to the new nasal flu vaccine – and secondly, that Strep A used to be mild but has suddenly become lethal in children. Full Fact, an independent UK fact-checking charity, identified these claims as misinformation.

It is possible that as certain illnesses have resurgences, especially ones that previously had infections peak in times before the prevalence of social media, these may be targets of misinformation.

The fight continues

In the pharmaceutical industry, it is imperative that misinformation is corrected so patients have the right information necessary for making informed decisions about their health, or else it can cost people’s lives.

Misinformation can create further barriers between people getting the necessary medication they need by creating levels of distrust between the public community and pharmacists, making it harder for pharmacists to do their jobs and keep people safe.

For more on the spread of misinformation, download the Vuelio white paper ‘Fact-checking and fast news: Expert lessons for journalists and the media‘ featuring contributions from Channel 4 News FactCheck, FactCheckNI and The Ferret Fact Check Service as well as media academics Professor Charlie Beckett of Polis, LSE and John Murphy, University of Hertfordshire.

EU regulations to prepare for

EU regulations: The updates, rollbacks and rewrites to be ready for

2023 is fixed to be yet another busy year in UK politics, not just for those in Parliament but for the PR and public affairs people communicating upcoming EU regulation changes to the public.

Here are some of the big updates, rollbacks and regulation rewrites to be prepared for, with pointers from those in the industry on what to expect.

You need to be ready for… Britain’s relaxing of ‘ring-fencing’ banking reforms

What is it: Back in December 2022, plans were announced for the easing of banking rules that had been instituted following the global financial crisis of 2008. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said at the time of the announcement that the changes will make the UK ‘one of the most open, dynamic and competitive financial services hubs in the world’.

What is on the way: In what Hunt characterised as the use of ‘Brexit freedoms’ to make the UK a more competitive proposition, the proposed package of over 30 changes include a lifting of the bankers’ bonuses cap and the easing of capital requirements for smaller lenders. Regulations holding bankers accountable for their decisions will also be reviewed by the Government, while ‘ringfencing’ rules to keep potentially dicey investment banking from impacting retail operations will be relaxed.

Take note: At the time of announcement, critics warned that the changes could lead to increased risk, while proponents highlighted plenty of opportunity for the financial sector.

You need to be ready for…. requirements of the Digital Service Act (DSA)

What is it: The DSA, originally approved by the EU Council in October 2022, requires large search engines to take responsibility for the content on their websites and servers, with plans for future extensions to large online platforms. Established brands like YouTube and Facebook will be impacted… as will every business and individual that shares content there.

What is on the way: ‘Large digital firms operating in the EU must submit the first set of performance reports to the EU Commission this month as a requirement,’ says Delphine Gatignol, business unit director at Newsback.

‘These companies will face fines if they allow illegal content, misinformation and cyber bullying to go unchecked.’

Take note: ‘As a signatory on the Code of Practice on Disinformation at Newsback, we will be assessing how seriously platforms are fighting disinformation,’ shares Delphine.

‘When it comes to addressing this problem, we recognise that online platforms have their work cut out. The Code was created to provide a framework and set goals to help digital firms fulfil their responsibilities.

‘Our co-signatories, as well as the platforms, include civil society actors, fact-checkers, source-raters and anti-disinformation companies. In the year ahead this smaller group will be holding digital firms accountable and ensuring the Code becomes an effective tool against disinformation.’

You need to be ready for… amendments to the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive

What is it: This directive on unfair commercial practices was put in place in 2005 to boost consumer confidence while making it much easier for businesses to trade across borders. It has since been amended to enable easier enforcement, but more changes are to come.

What is on the way: ‘ESG has been shaping the way both organisations and the communications sector evolve – this is one of the policies centering greenwashing and introducing standardised approaches to ESG reporting this year, addressing unclear language about environmental credentials,’ says Sarah Woodhouse, director of AMBITIOUS PR.

Take note: ‘This has been an EU priority for a few years now, but this will be a big year as we prepare for 2024, when the policies for addressing these issues will enter into full force,’ advises Sarah.

You need to be ready for… the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF)

What is it: This ‘multi-criteria measure of the environmental performance of a good or service throughout its life cycle’ will seek to reduce the negative environmental impacts on account supply chains.

What is on the way: The planned update to the PEF will ‘introduce an improved framework for Life Cycle Assessments, that take into account the footprint of products, including upstream and downstream impacts,’ says Sarah at AMBITIOUS PR.

Take note: If your business has a supply chain of any sort, this impacts you. As Sarah warns: ‘The implications will be felt by businesses outside the EU and within not only product and sustainability but also marketing and communications teams.’

You need to be ready for… the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive

What is it: Expanding on the existing EU corporate sustainability initiatives on supply chains, the CSRD is a reporting requirement that will cover big large public and private companies meeting at least two of the following criteria: 250+ employees, €20 million or more in total assets or €40 million or more in turnover.

What is on the way: ‘This has started to be applied already, but will be mandatory next year, warns AMBITIOUS PR’s Sarah.

Take note: ‘Companies listed on regulated markets in the EU will be rapidly getting familiar with the rules and preparing to publish info on issues from environment, employee treatment, carbon emissions and human rights this year’.

You need to be ready for… the Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA) and the proposed Cyber Resilience Act

What are they: ‘Strengthening the IT security of financial entities such as banks, insurance companies and investment firms’, DORA was put in place to ‘ensure that the financial sector in Europe is able to stay resilient through a severe operational disruption’. The Cyber Resilience Act will aim to boost existing cybersecurity rules to ensure greater security for hardware and software products.

What is on the way: ‘Although it will be a couple of years before mandatory compliance for Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA), it will eventually put financial organisations in a much stronger position for handling outages, leaks, unauthorised access and data loss,’ advises Jakub Lewandowski, Global Data Governance Officer at Commvault.

‘Within the highly sensitive information that the financial sector holds, this is incredibly important.

‘DORA lays out detailed requirements on every aspect of cybersecurity – technical, organisational and functional. Financial organisations will need to set up necessary resources, communication routes and, for the first time, we are seeing a whole article within a piece of legislation about backup requirements. With the ever-increasing threat of cyber attacks taking key institutions and even whole countries offline, DORA favours on-premises backup, rather than connection-reliant cloud backup options.

Take note: ‘Preparations to comply with this legislation will involve reviewing legacy IT systems to ensure that they meet regulations and potential investment in new software, so it may be costly in the short term,’ says Jakub. ‘Yet, in the long term, the level of cybersecurity will be raised, limiting attacks, reducing downtime and, according to the EU, saving up to €290 billion annually. Any business which has connections to the EU market will have to comply with DORA’s regulations, so I predict that the UK will soon follow suit with similar regulations. These preparations take time, so work should begin now to ensure compliance in plenty of time for the inevitable conformity deadline.

‘It may still be a while until we have to take decisive action to ensure compliance with the Cyber Resilience Act, as it has just entered the initial consultation process. It is likely to be a year or two before it is finalised and then organisations will be given a 24-month transition period to comply. However, it is never too soon to be aware of upcoming changes. Regularly monitoring for updates will ensure that businesses are prepared for the changes in good time.’

You need to be ready for… incoming changes to flexible working regulation

What is it: ‘Employees are to be given greater flexibility from the moment they commence employment with new legislation that will introduce a day one right for them to be able to make up to two flexible working requests in any 12-month period,’ explains Lupton Fawcett’s Glenn Jaques.

‘A flexible working request can be to work from home, job-sharing, flexitime and compressed hours requests.’

What is on the way: ‘This is a significant change from the existing position, which allows employees to make only one request after having worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks. It is not clear when the legislation will come into effect but employers need to be ready for the changes.’

Take note: ‘The proposed changes make no changes to the existing eight reasons that an employer can rely on to refuse a request. The financial penalty for breaching the flexible working rules is up to eight weeks’ pay but the larger risk comes from an unreasonable refusal, which may result in a discrimination claim. To minimise the risk employers should ensure that they give careful consideration as to alternative options to rejecting a request in order to ensure that employees are fully supported where a request cannot be fulfilled,’ advises Glenn.

For more moves in the world of politics, check out Vuelio’s Political Monitoring services. 

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.


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.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.’

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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.

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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:


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]


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]


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]


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]


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]


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]


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]


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]