Adult Social Care

Is the Government’s latest white paper on adult social care reform enough to help the sector?

After much anticipation, the Government quietly published its adult social care proposals last week. The Putting the Heart into Care White Paper included headline announcements such as £300m to develop the housing for the elderly sector as well as details on the Government’s £500m investment in the social care workforce.

The reforms promise to create a care system that will give people a greater choice and independence and give the people who work in social care better routes for career progression. Introducing the reforms to Parliament, Minister for Care Gillian Keegan said: ‘Today’s White Paper is an important step on our journey to giving more people the dignified care that we want for our loved ones, setting out important changes that will last for generations and stand the test of time.’

Any indication of reform to the sector is welcome, given the intense capacity and workforce issues seen in recent years. However, many critics have accused the Government of not going far enough.

On the opposition bench, Labour’s Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall argued that the White Paper has ‘utterly failed to deal with the immediate pressures facing social care, as we head into one of the most difficult winters on record’. She also continued Labour’s attack on the social care cap which will cap personal care costs at £86,000. Labour voted against the measure as they argue it will still leave people with unaffordable care costs.

The Liberal Democrat’s Daisy Cooper said that the measures laid out are ‘incredibly thin’ and will not address the problems with fragmentation and integration between the NHS and care. Meanwhile, Philippa Whitford has called for the Government to follow the lead of the Scottish National Party in Scotland and introduce a national care service.

Much of the criticism of these reforms is focussed on the lack of additional funding which the sector will see. This is despite the Health and Care Levy, announced in September, which will raise £36.5bn for the health and social care sector over the next three years. As most of this money will initially be spent on addressing the waiting lists in the NHS, the proportion to be spent on social care is only £5.4bn. Moreover, with £3.6bn of this funding being spent on the social care cap, the remaining funding for investment in the sector is just £1.7bn over the next three years.

The Health and Social Care Committee Chair Jeremy Hunt argued that the funding set out in the White Paper doesn’t even give enough funding for local authorities to carry out their core responsibilities, let alone give them enough to deal with demographic change and national living wage increases. He highlighted that the Committee had called for a £7 billion-a-year increase by the end of the Parliament to address the current challenges. This was echoed by the Health Foundation which has argued that the reforms will ‘feel like hollow words without the money to deliver it’. The Think Tank has suggested that additional funding of around £7.6 billion in 2022/23 is needed, rising to £9 billion in 2024/25.

There are some positive notes for what is included in the reforms – ADASS have said that although the sector needs more funding, the White Paper is a good foundation for reform with ‘strong values and principles’. Likewise, Skills for Care have welcomed the workforce components of the reforms, including the investment in professional development processes. ARCO has also praised the White Paper’s attention on developing the specialist housing sector.

Overall, although the White Paper doesn’t contain anything particularly contentious for the sector, there are concerns that it does not go far enough to address the long-term challenges, particularly on funding and within the workforce. With this, the sector can expect more proposals in the coming months. A standalone strategy for people with dementia and their carers is planned, as well as an Integration White Paper which will set out measures to improve the join up of care in local areas.

Vuelio’s weekly Friday morning political newsletter Point of Order shares insight and opinion to help public affairs, policy and comms professionals stay ahead of political change and connect with those who campaign on the issues they care about. To find out more or contribute, get in touch with Vuelio Politics.

Cabinet Office

What the Shadow Cabinet Reshuffle means for the UK political environment

Lucy Grove and Charlie Campion from the Vuelio political team take a look at the Shadow Cabinet reshuffle. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer surprised us with a reshuffle this week, beginning with the resignation of Cat Smith, who had continued to serve as Shadow Secretary of State for Young People and Democracy under Starmer’s leadership, following her appointed to the role by former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Nick Thomas-Symonds has been removed as the Shadow Home Secretary having served in the role since Starmer’s victory in the Labour Leadership Election last year, but having come under some criticism for his performance in the role, has been moved to serve as Shadow International Trade Secretary. He has been replaced in Shadow Home Secretary by Yvette Cooper, who has returned to the role having previously served in the same position under the leadership of Ed Miliband. The former Chair of Home Affairs Select Committee has received some acclaim for her scrutiny of Government during her stint in the role including an exchange with current Home Secretary Priti Patel on the lack of up-to-date figures related to COVID-19 and border issues in July 2020. The MP for the marginal seat of Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford will arguably add some experience to Keir Starmer’s senior leadership team, where few have had the opportunity to serve in government.

Lisa Nandy will see her portfolio switch from meetings with foreign dignitaries to a role more focused on local communities and government. The co-Founder of the Centre for Towns and active campaigner for towns and communities will be a popular choice with social media users who turned her passion for towns into an internet sensation during the 2020 Labour Leadership Election. The MP for Wigan has long taken an interest in local government repeating her calls for a ‘functioning bus network’ and will shadow Michael Gove as the government rolls out its Levelling Up agenda.

Ed Miliband retained a quarter of his former post, moving from the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to the newly-created position of Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero. Although not having a direct opposite in Government makes it unclear who Miliband will be shadowing, the creation of this role indicates a commitment from the party to one of the most central issues plaguing Government, particularly after a last-minute compromise at the COP26 summit. The appointment also acknowledges Miliband’s passion for the topic, demonstrated in his challenge to Boris Johnson over COP26 ambitions.

There was movement in store for Wes Streeting and Jonathan Reynolds, who took on the roles of Shadow Secretary for Health and Social Care and Shadow Secretary for Business and Industrial Strategy respectively. Streeting, the Member of Parliament for Ilford North, has been an MP since 2015 having taken the London seat from the Conservatives in an upset win, he then went on to serve as Shadow Secretary for Child Poverty. Meanwhile, Reynolds is moved to the Business and Industrial Strategy role having previously served as the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary.

The reshuffle also saw Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens move from her previous role shadowing Nadine Dorries, the recently appointed Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to return to the Welsh portfolio. She replaces Nia Griffith, MP for Llanelli, who has now taken a step back from frontbench politics.

Former Shadow Secretary for Justice David Lammy has been promoted to the Foreign Affairs brief opposite Liz Truss. Albeit a slightly surprising appointment, former barrister Lammy is a powerful speaker and will be well placed to hold the Government to account on a challenging foreign policy landscape. Following his appointment, he said he looks ‘forward to setting out Labour’s vision for a values-led foreign policy’. Working alongside him will be Shadow Cabinet Minister Preet Gill, who has been in post since September 2020.

Some quarters were perhaps left surprised as Dr Rosena Allin-Khan wasn’t moved to a more senior role in the Shadow Cabinet, especially with Jonathan Ashworth vacating the Health portfolio. The MP for Tooting in South London has been touted as a rising star in the Labour Party and while she saw no promotion in this reshuffle she will continue to attend the Shadow Cabinet in her role as Shadow Minister for Mental Health.

Peter Kyle, the MP for Hove, joins the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He was previously Schools Minister and replaces Louise Haigh. Another member of the 2015 intake, like Wes Streeting, he upset the Conservatives turning a 4% Conservative majority into a 3% Labour Majority before winning a 30%+ majority in the 2017 and 2019 General Elections.

There were rumours that Wes Streeting was on the cards to take over Shadow Secretary of State for Education from Kate Green after his appointment as Shadow Schools Minister in 2020 and his long history of being an active voice in education. Phillipson, the former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is the first MP representing a northeast constituency to be Shadow Education Secretary since Pat Glass, who held the role for two days in 2016 and has spoken about the poor outcomes for young people in her area. Conclusions could be drawn here about the parallels between this and the Government’s ambitions for levelling-up education.
Jim McMahon has become the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, moving from the Transport portfolio. He has been the MP for Oldham West and Royton since 2015 having previously served as the Leader of the Council.

The reshuffle also sees Emily Thornberry stay in the Shadow Cabinet, but she returns to her role of Shadow Attorney General, despite rumours of her ending up in home affairs. She brings expertise from her substantial work in the legal profession before entering Parliament as a barrister to the role.

Steve Reed moves from Shadow Secretary for Communities and Local Government to justice. His first shadow ministerial role was in home affairs from 2013-2015, providing some background to the role, as well as having been commended for his work establishing the Co-operative Councils Network, which sought to transform local public services prior to his election. Although he hasn’t worked as a lawyer, like his predecessor, Reeds’ background publishing includes spells with the Law Society. Following his appointment, he reminded Twitter of his work introducing Seni’s Law to secure justice for mental patients.

Lucy Powell moves from Shadow Secretary of State for Housing to her new role shadowing Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries. She takes on this role following a brief period as Labour’s front-bench housing spokesperson, which some argued lacked a strong campaign against the Government’s actions over the leasehold scandal. Powell has relevant experience for the appointment, introducing the Online Forum’s Bill way back in 2018, arguing unregulated ‘echo chambers’ on social media are allowing the online spread of abuse, including racist conspiracy theories, revenge porn and illegal trading. Despite achieving cross-party support, the Bill failed to complete its passage through Parliament.

Jonathan Ashworth has held previous shadow cabinet positions for the Department of Health and Social Care, for which he served longer than any other Labour politician, as well as the cabinet office. He will be shadowing incumbent Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey, who welcomed Ashworth to his new job, stating that the two have a ‘shared mission to improve the quality of life for millions of people in this country’.

Also noteworthy, Angela Rayner kept her former roles in the November 2021, but nonetheless hit the headlines as the reshuffle coincided with her long-planned speech on Labour’s plans to clean up politics at the Institute for Government. Papers reported that the deputy leader appeared blind-sided, while sources close to the Labour leader said Ms Rayner was told a reshuffle would be taking place.

Louise Haigh was moved from being Northern Ireland’s Shadow Secretary of State a week after being criticised by some for suggesting the UK Government should remain neutral in the event of a border poll. Upon her appointment she said she was looking forward to ‘getting stuck into the Tories on behalf of communities who have been sold out by their transport betrayal’.

Vuelio’s weekly Friday morning political newsletter Point of Order shares insight and opinion to help public affairs, policy and comms professionals stay ahead of political change and connect with those who campaign on the issues they care about. To find out more or contribute, get in touch with Vuelio Politics.

Reflections on COP26

Reflections on COP26 from the House of Lords

The House of Lords podcast episode ‘What comes after COP26’ interviewed two members of the House, chosen because of their great interest in the environment: Baroness Bennett who previously led the Green Party, and Baroness Parminter, Chair of the Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee.

There were reflections on the successes of the summit, with Baroness Bennett commenting on the significance of fossil fuels and coal’s inclusion within the COP declaration. The conference saw the creation of a coalition made up of 190 countries committing to phase out coal power as well as pledges from the G20, Japan, Korea and China to end overseas finance for coal generation. However, environmental NGOs and activists said commitments on coal were not sufficient. Both peers called for the Government to sign up to the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, a coalition built by Costa Rica and Denmark to facilitate the phase-out of oil and gas production. This push for stronger action from the UK Government was one call amongst many from Baroness Bennett and Parminter.

Despite the UK Government presenting themselves as the pioneers of climate finance, Baroness Bennett expressed disappointment over the failure to secure the $100b global finance target while Baroness Parminter called for the Government to re-establish the 0.7% aid budget. Baroness Bennett said it was essential for enough funding to be raised to pay ‘reparations’ to the world’s poorest people who will be the worst affected by climate change despite not causing it themselves. She and Baroness Parminter reiterated the points made by many at the conference, that rhetoric about saving our future misses the point that many countries are feeling the effects of climate change now, from which they must be protected.

Baroness Parminter criticised the Government for failing to embed climate change across Governmental departments, with no clear plans drawn up to achieve this in the Net Zero Strategy. She argued that the Government is failing to hold its own Departments to account, as seen with the trade deal with Australia, cutting Air Passenger Duty for domestic flights and failing to include policies for home insultation in the Heat and Buildings Strategy despite an urgent need to decarbonise the UK’s housing stock.

There was some optimism during the episode, with both peers highlighting the increased momentum behind environmental issues within the House of Lords with some unlikely characters joining the movement. Baroness Bennett gave the example of the sewage amendment, calling for stronger action against water companies and storm overflows in the Environment Act, which had been tabled by the Duke of Wellington, a hereditary peer.

With a growing consensus in both Houses that the climate crisis must be prioritised, Baroness Bennett emphasised the importance of public engagement, arguing that the ideas at COP26 came largely from civil society rather than the leaders sat at the negotiation tables. Agreeing with David Attenborough’s focus on young people at the summit, both peers put a spotlight on young people for driving change. However, Baroness Bennett concluded by saying that unless the way the society and economy is restructured through full system change, we will not be able to meet our targets, arguing that ‘you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet’.

Central Bank Digital Currency

Exploring the possibility of a Central Bank Digital Currency and recent statements from the Bank of England

UK authorities are currently engaged in a process of research and exploration to examine the opportunities and implications of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). CBDC would be a new form of digital money issued by the Bank of England to be used by households and businesses for their everyday payments needs. It would exist alongside cash and bank deposits, rather than replacing them.

Earlier this year, the Bank of England and HM Treasury (HMT) initiated the joint CBDC Taskforce to coordinate the exploration of a potential UK CBDC. The Bank also set up the Engagement and Technology forums to engage a broad range of stakeholders from across the economy, including consumer groups, think tanks, businesses, academics, financial institutions and technology experts.

Two weeks ago HMT and the Bank of England announced the next steps on the exploration of a UK CBDC. In 2022, HMT and the Bank will launch a consultation which will set out their assessment of the case for a UK CBDC, including the merits of further work to develop an operational and technology model for a UK CBDC.

Central bank digital currencies have become a hot topic with the steady decline in the use of cash and the rise of digital currencies. The Telegraph reported that Bank of England’s Deputy Governor for financial stability Sir Jon Cunliffe said that cash is going to disappear, as he backed the creation of a central bank digital currency. Speaking on The Swap podcast, Mr Cunliffe said the rise of online commerce and the popularity of contactless credit cards was already squeezing the use of cash. He said authorities would need to adapt to ensure there was always a prominent state-backed financial system in the future.

When asked about his statements during a recent House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee session, Sir Jon Cunliffe said they will continue to make cash available for as long as there is demand for it but the fact is that the use of cash in transactions is declining pretty sharply. Cash is now not usable for all transactions in the economy as a general purpose settlement asset; some 30% of transactions now happen through internet shopping, and of course you cannot use cash for that purpose.

He noted they need to address the question of whether, ‘as cash declines and it becomes less useful for the way in which people live their lives in a digital economy, we should replace it with a public asset or we should depend entirely on the private sector to provide the money that is circulating in the economy’.

Lord Skidelsky expressed his concern that the customer or the user of money is being asked to adapt to the demands of technology without having much of a say in how they make their transactions. He added ‘if no one in the end accepts cash any longer, cash will not be used’. Governor at the Bank of England Andrew Bailey emphasised that it is not their intention to remove access to cash from the consumer, not least because, from all the evidence that they gather, there is a section of the population that continues to rely on cash and wants to continue to rely on cash. He added that some of that section of the community is the more vulnerable part of the community, and it is important that they continue to meet that need. Sir Jon Cunliffe reiterated that as fewer people use cash, the question is whether they should have an alternative that doesn’t come from the private sector.

For more on traditional finance versus digital, catch up on the latest from the Vuelio Banking Comms Index, measuring Share of Voice across a mix of traditional and challenger banking brands.

An ode to trade associations

An ode to trade associations

This is a guest post from Emily Wallace, interim CEO of the Trade Association Forum.  

The combination of Brexit and COVID-19 has seen trade associations unequivocally demonstrate their value to the UK business community.

Trade associations have such an important role to play in our economy. They see problems way before they hit the desks of Ministers, providing eyes and ears and an effective early warning system.

Trade associations make policy workable; without trade associations, the Government would have a really hard job implementing policy. Not only do they spend huge amounts of time working on the details of regulation and guidance, but they then push it out to their members and drive compliance too.

Trade associations also drive up standards that protect consumers and businesses, as well as supporting public sector inspection regimes. Trade associations are often driven by a group of businesses that want to differentiate themselves from those in their sector who are cutting corners on regulation, taxation or using low quality materials. They self-organise, set standards, change culture and drive innovation. They prevent a race to the bottom and protect us all in the process.

Trade Associations deliver investment in the skills that businesses actually need. They put in place accreditation programmes, run regular training sessions, develop routes to entry through apprenticeships and vocational learning, support continued professional development, share best practice and reward excellence.

As the pandemic hit, under increasing financial pressures, they stepped up their support to members, to help them to navigate the myriad of changing rules, regulations and government support schemes.

At the same time, many associations had to reshape themselves to be able to operate with a very different financial outlook, as in-person events, awards and other revenue-generating activities were cancelled.

The annual salary and benefits survey of trade associations from the Trade Association Forum lays bare the impact of COVID-19 on UK trade associations. It shows:

Over a quarter of respondents (27%) saw a reduction in staff numbers in 2020

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) was used by just over 50% of respondents
  • 33% report that Covid-19 had affected their ability to increase staff pay in 2021, and 29% that they had not awarded or budgeted for salary increases in 2021.
  • 64% of associations are looking to recruit, a figure that has almost doubled from our last survey in 2019 when just 36% of associations were planning to hire
  • Just 8% have or are planning to return to full time office working. 83% will adopt hybrid working and 8% are allowing staff to work from home permanently.

While COVID-19 has provided the most challenging of times for Trade Associations, it is great to see some confidence return and a more positive outlook for 2022. The survey shows the sector embarking on a hiring spree, and recruiters report that demand for communication, policy, and advocacy skills in UK trade associations has increased significantly in the last six months.

The skills required to lead a trade association are a complex mix that require speedy transition from sector champion, to regulatory expert, to event organiser, to marketing manager to PR guru and much more besides. There are a lot of spinning plates, entrepreneurial spirits and oodles of ingenuity that keep all the parts in motion.

While the last year might have been a challenge, trade associations are bouncing back, reinvented, reinvigorated and with an important role for the future.

More information on the Trade Association Forum and the annual salary and benefits survey of trade associations can be found here on the website

Vuelio’s political newsletter Point of Order shares insight and opinion to help public affairs, policy and comms professionals stay ahead of political change and connect with those who campaign on the issues they care about. To find out more or contribute, get in touch with Vuelio Politics.


ARCO – putting care in ‘housing-with-care’

ARCO’S new report ‘Putting the care in Housing-with-care’ recentres the role Integrated Retirement Communities can play filling gaps in the social care sector while fostering improvements in care quality.

The report shows that with the right amount of support and backing, Integrated Retirement Communities could boost the capacity of the UK’s social care system and address shortages in the social care workforce. It highlights a lack in the provision of care across the country, particularly for lower and intermediate care needs. With this, it demonstrates that as well as boosting capacity in the social care sector, Integrated Retirement Communities can offer unique packages of care. In particular, the report highlights the many health benefits of retirement communities as on-site care means that people are less likely to need more acute health care, ultimately to the benefit of the resident, and local NHS services.

The report recommends that the Government bolsters the role of Integrated Retirement Communities within the wider social care sector, by setting a firm definition of Integrated Retirement Communities and by giving monitoring duties to local authorities to oversee the delivery of new developments. It also proposes the introduction of a cross-departmental taskforce, which can work on issues across social care and housing by cementing the position of Integrated Retirement Communities within the planning system.

At the report launch, speakers including Damian Green MP, Chair of the APPG on Longevity, Natalie Reed, interim Head of Inspection at CQC and Simon Bottery from the King’s Fund highlighted the current challenges in the social care and housing sectors.

Damian Green MP highlighted that people living in retirement communities are less likely to experience ill health or digression in health. He also spoke about the need for a long-term perspective on the social care sector and said that the upcoming White Paper on social care should provide policy on housing for the elderly. Natalie Reed from the CQC focussed on the high quality of care that is provided within retirement communities and suggested that the care model allows people to live fulfilling and happy lives. Simon Bottery from the King’s Fund also highlighted the evidence around the quality of care in retirement communities and said that people living in them are less likely to experience loneliness or depression. Moreover, Joanna Grainger, Executive Director of Operations at ExtraCare, highlighted that with onsite care, retirement communities’ staff can provide personalised and flexible care.

The Government has already set forward indications of how the social care sector will be funded with the announcement of the Health and Care Levy in September. As the sector eagerly awaits the contents of the White Paper, which has promised to be published by the end of the year, reports such as this will be valuable to policymakers so that the new reforms ensure long term quality of care across the sector.

Sustainably managing the soil is crucial to biodiversity

Baroness Bennett: Sustainably managing soil is crucial to our biodiversity

Green Party peer and former leader Baroness Natalie Bennett calls on the Government to accept an amendment to the Environment Bill to ensure that soil health and quality is sustainably managed, given that it stores carbon and its biodiversity is ‘severely under threat’.

Perhaps this morning you enjoyed a piece of satisfyingly crisp toast, after you pulled on a soft, favourite cotton T-shirt. You looked out at the garden where the last of the autumn flowers are adding morning cheer.

All of those experiences are entirely – completely – dependent on soil.

Mostly, we don’t think about this key component of life on our land. If we do, it is as ‘dirt’ – trodden into the house by children or dogs, or ‘mud’, something to plod through at festival time.

Yet increasingly, farmers, scientists and governments, are recognising that the soils that feed us, clothe us and provide the basis for the plant oxygen we breathe, are in a terrible state.

The life that should make them thrive – earthworms, tardigrades and the billion microbes that should be in a healthy teaspoonful – has been poisoned by pesticides and artificial fertilisers, and increasingly contaminated with microplastics. A quarter of the world’s biodiversity is in soils, yet it is severely under threat.

Soils are packed down by multiple runs of heavy tractors, the air squeezed out, so the rain rushes off them, and floods our communities. Erosion by water and wind carries soil away, sometimes in great dust storms, other times in turgid, heavy rivers.

We’ve thought a lot more, recently, about the quality of our air and the pollution of our waterways.

Campaigners like Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, whose daughter Ella was tragically killed by filthy air, have been joined by many tens of thousands of supporters to demand a clean-up.

More recently, water campaigners, from SOS Whitstable to the Ilkley Clean River Campaign, which won the first bathing water status for a river, have attracted major attention.

Both of those campaigns are recognised in the amendments sent from the House of Lords for the Environment Bill, seeking to strengthen protections. Sadly, they were rejected, although the word on the street is that the Government might still give way under public pressure on one or both of these issues.

But at least the Government recognised in its plan for the law that long-term, serious targets were needed for air and water.

For soil, there was no target. The Government had produced a two-legged stool in its plans. It won’t stand up without a soil target as well.

That ‘third leg’ was added in the House of Lords, the amendment backed by the equal-highest balance of votes of the 14 sent back to the House of Commons.

Nearly all of them were thrown out (The one clear win was an undeniably sensible measure to change a provision allowing the Government to introduce charges for single-use plastic items to be extended to all single-use items – obviously essential for a circular economy).

There are many important amendments that I’ll be fighting for: for the Office for Environmental Protection to be independent and able to hold the Government to account; for strong water and air protections and for environmental rules to apply to the Treasury and the military.

But the soil is one obvious, essential, really unarguable change. After all, this is only delivering what the Government says is its own target. To have our soils sustainably managed by 2030, a scant nine years away.

And while Boris Johnson tried to say under the pressures of Covid and Brexit that ensuring the nation didn’t go hungry was a job for business, not his concern, it is clear that ensuring we can feed ourselves in future is something that the Environment Bill has to address, by looking after the soils that will do that, as well as store carbon and be the foundation for restoring our terribly nature-depleted islands.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (Natalie Bennett) was leader of the Green Party of England and Wales from 2012 to 2016.

This blog post is part of a cross-party series on Vuelio’s political blog Point of Order, which publishes insight and opinion to help public affairs, policy and comms professionals stay ahead of political change and connect with those who campaign on the issues they care about. To find out more or contribute, get in touch with Vuelio Politics.

Conservative Party Conference 2021

Conservative Party Conference 2021: Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid on ‘renewal and reform’

Delivering his first major speech as Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid set out his vision for reform and renewal. His immediate priorities are to get the country of the pandemic and to tackle the NHS waiting lists, as well as setting out an agenda for reform across health and care for the long-term.

Although Javid doesn’t shy away from prioritising the funding that the sector will need to come out of the pandemic, he argued that previous Governments have made the mistake of choosing cash or reform. Instead, he promised that 2022 ‘will be a year of renewal’. With this, he mentioned the review of leadership and management in health and social care which will be led by Sir Gordon Messenger. The comprehensive review promises to highlight the outstanding leaders who drive efficiency and innovation across services. He also wants to drive innovation in the NHS to create a fully-digitalised system across the country.

Speaking on the impacts of the pandemic, he said that the country must ‘level up’ on health as entrenched health disparities have been exposed by the pandemic. The Health Foundation has welcomed the Health Secretary’s emphasis on health as part of the leveling up agenda, but highlighted research which shows that the public health grant has been cut by 24% in real terms per capita since 2015/16, with cuts falling more heavily on those living in the most deprived areas of England.

Javid also highlighted that the pandemic has caused long waiting lists for NHS care, which are currently hovering around 5.6million but could reach up to 13million under the Government’s own projections. He suggested that surgical hubs and 40 new Community Diagnostic Centres will form part of the catch-up programme. NHS Confederation has said that although inroads are being made in waiting lists, there is still intense pressures on health services and the Government ‘must now be upfront and level with the public as to how long it will take to deal with the care backlog’.

Speaking on social care, Javid said the upcoming social care reforms will prevent people from having to pay ‘catastrophic’ costs for their care, but fundamentally people should depend on their families and their community before they turn to the state.

Labour’s long-term social care campaigner Barbara Keeley has argued that this would force more of the care burden onto unpaid carers, she said: ‘These comments by Sajid Javid are shocking and deeply worrying from the Secretary of State responsible for social care’.

The Women’s Equality Party has highlighted the gender implications of Javid’s remarks, as women are more likely to hold the burden of care, asking: ‘And what do you actually mean by this? That women’s unpaid labour should be relied upon to uphold the state thereby pushing women out of careers and into financial decline? Are women not included in your plan to ‘level up’?’

For more from the Vuelio political team, sign up for our Point of Order newsletter, which goes out every Friday morning. 

Labour Party Conference Rachel Reeves

Labour Party Conference 2021: Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves on the ‘everyday economy’

Speaking at her first Labour conference as Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves said she doesn’t look at the economy as just some lines on a graph but instead she concentrates on the ‘everyday economy’, the workers that got us through the Covid crisis and the businesses which give life to our high streets. The steps she outlined ‘represent an approach that is unapologetically pro-worker and unapologetically pro-business’.

Accusing the Government of not respecting the workers that keep our economy going, she highlighted that the Conservatives would take £20 a week from Universal Credit recipients and increase National Insurance tax while allowing food, fuel and energy costs to increase. She set out Labour’s economic plan for Government, including a new deal for all workers which will see zero hours contracts banned, fire and rehire outlawed, sick pay increased, flexible working from day one as well as higher living wages. This came as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds told the conference that Labour would not only cancel the cut in Universal Credit but also look to replace Universal Credit with a better system.

In her speech, Rachel Reeves also pledged to make the tax system fairer. Labour will ensure that the tax burden isn’t just falling on the wages of working people, but that those at the top pay their fair share, too. This would include a review of the current tax break system so that it delivers for the taxpayer, rather than those ‘who can afford the best advice’. George Dibb, head of IPPR’s Centre for Economic Justice, welcomed the focus on a fairer tax system saying that right now the system is skewed to tax workers more than those who get their income from property or shares, and hasn’t kept up with the massive boom in property wealth over the past 20 years.

The Shadow Chancellor has pledged to scrap business rates and replace them with fairer system. Labour is also calling on the Government to freeze business rates next year and to increase the threshold for small business rates relief, giving small and medium sized businesses in all sectors a discount next year. To pay for these measures, Labour proposed that the Digital Services Tax should be increased to 12% on some online companies that thrived during the pandemic.

Responding to the Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves’ pledges on business rate reform, the Federation of Small Businesses highlighted research indicating that 200,000 small firms would be removed from the business rates system if its reforms were taken forward by Labour as pledged. Their research showed that that the English regions that will most benefit from this reform would be the major political and levelling up battlegrounds of the North East, North West, Yorkshire, and South West of England. Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, said that ‘with businesses just recently starting to recoup their losses a freeze in rates will provide much needed breathing room, as will the rise in rates relief for SMEs. But going it alone on digital services tax is high risk and could undermine the UK’s competitiveness at a time when need to be prioritising going for growth’.

Julian Jessop, Economics Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said that while business rates do need fundamental reform, none of the main parties has a credible alternative. He also criticised the proposed rises in digital services tax as it is a tax on sales rather than profits – and any increase will inevitably be passed on to consumers.

In her speech, Reeves promised that she would be a ‘responsible chancellor’ and announced that Labour will create a new, independent Office for Value for Money tasked with keeping a watchful eye on how public money is spent. Some have questioned whether ‘Labour’s new quango might just be a rebranding of what is already happening’ while others have argued that key to the success of a new Office for Value for Money will be bringing more smaller firms into local and national government supply chains.

Lastly, Reeves promised that she would be ‘Britain’s first green chancellor’, and confirmed that the next Labour Government would commit an additional £28bn of capital investment in the country’s green transition for each and every year of this decade. The new investment would go on projects including offshore wind, developing hydrogen industry, and insulating homes. IPPR welcomed Labour’s ambition to boost investment in the UK’s transition to net zero saying it would be a significant move towards meeting the annual investment in reducing carbon emissions and the transition to net zero that IPPR calculates is needed at least until 2030, if the UK is to meet its existing net zero target.

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COP26 guest post from Vince Cable

Looking ahead to COP26

This is a guest post from Sir Vince Cable, former leader of the Liberal Democrats and a former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

COP26 is a vast intergovernmental conference under United Nations auspices and hosted by the UK in Glasgow. The key objective is to secure agreed national commitments leading to demonstrable action to limit climate change.

These annual conferences review progress in implementing the broad commitments agreed at COP21: the Paris Agreement. This year matters more than most since the scientific evidence and the consequences of climate change are starker than ever. A series of natural phenomena – unprecedent wildfires, flooding, extremely high temperatures in Siberia – have illustrated the risks of unchecked warming. COP 26 is crucial to get governments to commit themselves to ambitious but realistic targets for curbing emissions of Greenhouse Gasses (GHGs) which are consistent with safe and tolerable levels of warming (around 1.5% over the century).

It is easy to be cynical. Heads of government will give speeches making commitments to be implemented long after they have left office. Officials will then craft a communique reflecting the interests of countries ranging from small, island states worried about being swamped by sea-level rise to hydrocarbon-based economies like Saudi Arabia and Russia; from major GHG emitters like China and the USA to microstates; from post-industrial, to industrialising to pre-industrial societies.

There are some reasons for optimism. Biden has replaced Trump. Trump was skeptical about climate change; was a strong advocate of the coal industry; and withdrew from the Paris Agreement. Biden has re-joined the Paris Agreement and will commit the USA to ambitious targets backed up by money and legislation. He also sets store by alliance-building and may be able to extract commitments from hitherto uncooperative countries like Australia. Optimists can also point to the success of earlier multilateral agreements like the Montreal Protocol governing chemicals which damage the ozone layer (an agreement in which Britain’s Margaret Thatcher played a key role)

But there are serious obstacles to radical policies in the USA. Support varies greatly from state to state – from committed California to hostile Texas – and Congressional support is not guaranteed. Even in countries with a strong environmental awareness, action lags rhetoric, as with Germany’s continued attachment to coal. And many developing countries will demand large amounts of money from industrialised countries to adapt to climate induced changes that they themselves did not create. Britain’s cut in its aid budget sends the wrong message.

The biggest problem however is China which is currently the world’s biggest emitter by some margin. President Xi has made a strong commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2060 and to reduce emissions after 2030; but there is little detail and a continuing plan to build many new coal-powered power stations, though China has now committed itself to stop supporting overseas coal burning power stations. Relations with the USA are toxic making collaboration in science research and technology exchange more difficult. Anger over Britain’s role in an alliance to confront China also increases the risk that China may choose to postpone its climate change offer until after Glasgow.

The British government has put the odds of a successful summit at 60:40. My heart is with the 60%; my head with the 40%.

Want more on climate change and the environment? Check out our Top 10 UK Green Blogs ranking and advice shared during CIPR’s Climate Change and the Role of PR half-day conference earlier this year. 

All-Party Parliamentary Groups

Are All-Party Parliamentary Groups something to worry about?

This is a guest post by Gavin Devine, founder of Park Street Partners and member of the PRCA Public Affairs Board.

At the start of August, two newspapers splashed stories about All-Party Parliamentary Groups. First the Mirror claimed that a ‘Tory MP [had] handed paid roles on Parliamentary groups’ to a lobbyist; and then the Guardian said that ‘MPs serving on informal parliamentary groups while working in second jobs are facing scrutiny’. In both cases it was All-Party Parliamentary Groups in the spotlight. And each story revealed a whole bunch of misapprehensions about these Groups and also how regulation of them is actually working rather well.

First, the misapprehensions. It is standard fare for the media to overstate the importance of All-Party Parliamentary Groups, implying that they give some sort of privileged access or play a formal role in the legislature’s activities. Sometimes they are put on a par with Select Committees; as a former Parliamentary Clerk, this used to be pretty irritating. The fact is, they have none of these powers or responsibilities.

What APPGs do is bring together MPs with an interest in a particular subject to debate and discuss the issues, and perhaps even to work out ways to make their case to Ministers. But they have no formal role and their powers are no greater than an individual MP or Peer acting on their own. They have no access to public money, so the idea of doling our paid roles is a touch misleading. What these Groups do can be important, but it is really important not to overstate their influence.

Another misapprehension surrounds the ‘revelation’ that MPs who have interests in the subject matter often serve on these Groups – or even set them up. Well, that’s the point. Surely it can be no surprise that MPs from former coalmining areas dominate the Coalfield Communities APPG, or that those who have an interest in manufacturing or have relevant firms in their constituencies are part of the Aerospace APPG? And is it really unexpected that an MP who worked in the packaging industry for 30 years now has a role as Chair of the Foodservice Packaging Association and at the same time runs the Packaging Manufacturing Industry APPG? What is the Guardian’s point: that Mark Pawsey shouldn’t use his experience and contacts to ensure that an important industry is regulated efficiently and effectively?

Which brings us to the second point: that regulation of these matters works rather well. In fact, neither of these articles could have been written without the transparency engendered by the existing rules. We know that the various MPs cited by the Guardian have paid external roles, and even how much they are paid, because they have declared it in the Register of Members’ Interests. We know they serve on various APPGs because they have completed the very frequent returns required for the Register of All-Party Parliamentary Groups. We can see who their fellow office-holders are and if anyone provides them with support in the same, available-to-the-public-on-the-internet, register. In this case, at least, Parliament’s rules and regulations really deliver.

It seems to me that what’s really bothering the media isn’t APPGs at all: it is MPs having second jobs or being too close to ‘business’. There’s a debate to be had about Members received money from outside sources; personally, I think it is entirely legitimate if it is declared for all to see. And the discussion about proximity to companies is a tired conversation about lobbying itself. I don’t know how many times it has to be pointed out that if Parliamentarians do not speak up for major employers in their constituencies or industries they used to work in or businesses they understand and support we will end up with bad laws and regulations devised by officials who can never have knowledge of every facet of the economy and society they oversee. Lobbying is all about ensuring that the legislative process is well-informed, and if APPGs play a role in that, great.

Sitting behind all this is the on-going inquiry by the Committee on Standards into the rules for and regulation of All-Party Parliamentary Groups. This will consider all of the issues raised by the two newspaper articles and much else besides. I hope that the Committee will put any prejudices about ‘big business’ aside and judge the work of APPGs representing industry in the same way as those that are ostensibly more ‘worthy’. And I hope too that it will reflect on the way that the existing rules already promote openness; and that without APPGs MPs and Lords with common interests would simply get together informally without any transparency at all.

Read more political analysis from the PRCA in this overview of the association’s investigation into unregulated lobbying from February of this year

For more on the intersection of PR with politics, check out this guest post from BDB Pitman’s Stuart Thomson Guilt by association and why we need to fight back

Inflation spikes

Can the inflation spike still be justified as temporary?

As we emerge into a post-pandemic era, the inflation debate has been heating up. The key question is: will the price increases be isolated and short lived, or are they a cause for concern? It seems like central banks are not worried over inflation now – the catchword regarding inflation seems to be ‘transitory’ – but for how long is yet to be seen.

In the UK, the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by 2.5% in the 12 months to June 2021 – up from 2.1% in the 12 months to May; up from 1.5% in the 12 months to April 2021 and 0.7% in the 12 months to March 2021. CPI was at 0.7% in January 2021.

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) sets monetary policy to meet the 2% inflation target and in their most recent report the Committee’s expectation is that CPI will pick up further above the target, owing primarily to developments in energy and other commodity prices, and is likely to exceed 3% for a temporary period. More generally, the Committee’s central expectation is that the economy will experience a temporary period of strong GDP growth and above-target CPI inflation, after which growth and inflation will fall back.

Explaining this further, Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey said that Covid has not had the same impact on our economy as other shocks did in the past. That’s because lockdown affected both supply and demand in the economy. The fact that the UK authorities supported many people’s wages, and helped business to keep going during lockdown means the economy should bounce back quicker. So he doesn’t expect the economy to suffer long term damage. He does expect the cost of living to go up in the coming months, but that should only be short-lived. Mr Bailey said: “It is important not to over-react to temporarily strong growth and inflation, to ensure that the recovery is not undermined by a premature tightening in monetary conditions.”

While the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) dismissed the rise in inflation as “transitory”, on his last day as Chief Economist Andy Haldane sounded the alarm over rising inflation. He expects that by the end of this year, UK inflation to be nearer 4% than 3%. He said ‘this increases the chances of a high inflation narrative becoming the dominant one, a central expectation rather than a risk. Even if this scenario is a risk rather than a central view, it is a risk that is rising fast and which is best managed ex-ante rather than responded to ex-post.’ Andy Haldane was the only member of the MPC to vote for tighter policy to head off the threat to price stability.

Michael Saunders, an external MPC member, has sent the strongest signal that he is now inclined to vote for an early end to quantitative easing, saying last month that ‘it may become appropriate fairly soon to withdraw some of the current monetary stimulus’. Sir Dave Ramsden, BoE deputy governor for banking and markets, has also taken a more hawkish tone, saying the conditions for tightening could be met ‘somewhat sooner than I had previously expected’.

Debates around inflation come as the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) warned that UK companies were the most concerned about inflation for almost a decade. 46% of respondents to the Quarterly Economic Survey cited inflation as an external factor of concern to their business, the highest percentage since Q4 2011, and up significantly from 30% in Q1. However, the BCC said there were signs that current pressures could prove temporary because there was little evidence of inflation from employers raising workers’ wages – regarded as pivotal for sustained price rises.

According to the most recent forecasts by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), CPI inflation is expected to rise to 3.5% in the last quarter of 2021, peaking at 3.9% in the first quarter of 2022 but then falling again to settle around 2% in 2023. ‘To prevent a possible dislodging of inflation expectations, the MPC should prepare the ground for normalising its monetary policy stance, and this involves clearly communicating how Bank Rate and asset purchases will be adjusted in response to higher inflation,’ NIESR Deputy Director Hande Kucuk said. The BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee should emphasise that policy tightening would be gradual, to avoid a sudden tightening of financing conditions that could derail recovery, she added.


Baroness Bennett: ‘We have to stop wrecking other people’s countries’

This is a guest post by Green peer Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (Natalie Bennett), who was leader of the Green Party of England and Wales from 2012 to 2016.

What’s been called the development of the Global North – the creation of the society we have today – was built on expropriation and extraction through force from the rest of the world. It is been calculated that India alone saw $45 trillion in wealth extracted over 173 years.

But the practice isn’t just history. It is still ongoing today, as the conclusions of the UK’s independent Global Resource Initiative Taskforce (GRIT) demonstrate. It was a far from radical group – including reps from Cargill, McDonald’s and Tesco – but it could not but conclude that the UK needed a ‘new strategic approach… to overcome the challenge of commodity-driven deforestation and land conversion.’ Between 2016 and 2018, an area equivalent to 88% of the total UK land area was required to supply the UK’s demand for just seven agricultural and forest commodities.

The new Schedule 17 of the Environment Bill – addressing products from forests and deforested lands – aims to address some of that. But in the debate in the Committee stage of the Bill, members from all sides of the upper house tore into that weakness of the Schedule.

It was the Conservative Lord Randall of Uxbridge who put down the most far-reaching amendment, calling for a global footprint target. In our climate emergency and nature crisis, in a world wracked by poverty and inequality, the need for that is obvious and undeniable. We need to reduce our ecological footprint by around 75% to fit within ecological limits.

In commenting on that, I looked at the ways in which it would directly, immediately, benefit the UK. It would reduce the risk of future pandemics. It would help safeguard against the economic costs of biodiversity decline and climate change; the WWF Global Futures report calculated that will cost the world at least £368 billion a year, with the UK suffering annual damage to its economy of £16 billion a year by 2050. It would also support the resilience of UK and global businesses and help businesses to manage risk proactively.

Crossbencher Baroness Meacher moved the simplest – unarguably right – amendment, noting that the Schedule only covers companies doing due diligence to ensure that they are not taking products from illegally felled forest land. But ‘legal’ deforestation is often profoundly disastrous and unsustainable: 2.1 million hectares of natural vegetation within the 133 Brazilian municipalities that currently supply the UK with soya could be legally deforested. It also introduces a perverse incentive to encourage the legalisation of deforestation.

UK businesses could also benefit from this amendment. Currently, in many parts of the world, laws relating to land use, forests and commodity production are numerous, uncertain, inconsistent and poorly implemented. It is very difficult to determine legality, and companies can be trapped in a regulatory, paperwork minefield from which the amendment could free them.

An amendment from Baroness Jones of Whitchurch brought in a further dimension, the inter-relationship of human rights and the protection of nature. It called for the recognition of customary land ownership and control. Some 80% of indigenous and community lands are held without legally recognised tenure rights. We know that in indigenous and tribal territories, deforestation rates are significantly lower. Ensuring respect for customary tenure rights is an efficient, just and cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

A further amendment, tabled by Lib Dem Baroness Parminter, was essentially the reverse of what the House of Lords achieved in the Financial Services Bill. After a lot of wrestling, the House of Lords finally got a reference to climate into that. What we also need to do is to get the need to control the disastrous impacts of finance addressed in all the other Bills.

The UK is the single biggest source of international finance for six of the most harmful agribusiness companies involved in deforestation in Brazil, the Congo basin and Papua New Guinea, lending £5 billion between 2013 and 2019.

If deforestation was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of carbon, behind China and the US. Some 80% of deforestation is associated with agricultural production, yet figures published recently from five major UN agencies show that the number of people without access to healthy diets has grown by 320 million in the last year. They now number 2.37 billion in total. A fifth of all children under five are stunted because of lack of access to the most basic resource of all: food.

The need to reform Schedule 17 when we get to Report Stage in the House of Lords in September is clear. We have to stop wrecking other people’s countries. We have to ensure that our lives are lived within the limits of this fragile planet, and that everyone else has access to that basic level of resources that is their human right.

This blog post is part of a cross-party series on Vuelio’s political blog Point of Order, which publishes insight and opinion to help public affairs, policy and comms professionals stay ahead of political change and connect with those who campaign on the issues they care about. To find out more or contribute, get in touch with Vuelio Politics.

Moves at the Department of Health and Social Care

What’s on Sajid Javid’s agenda at the Department for Health and Social Care?

During an eventful weekend, Matt Hancock resigned from his position of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care after he and his aide Gina Coladangelo were caught on camera kissing in his Whitehall office, breaching Covid guidelines.

He has now been replaced by Sajid Javid, who being no stranger to Cabinet roles, is an experienced Government minister. He has previously been Home Secretary, Housing Secretary, the Business Secretary, and most recently Chancellor. In a statement, Javid said: ‘I’m incredibly honoured to take up the post of Health and Social Care Secretary, particularly during such an important moment in our recovery from COVID-19… I want our country to get out of this pandemic and that will be my most immediate priority’.  Jeremy Hunt, a former Health Secretary, has said Javid is an ‘excellent choice’ and argued that as an ex-Chancellor he will be able to ‘negotiate formidably’ with the Treasury.

However, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth has raised concern over the decision. He called Javid’s appointment a step backward for the UK and highlighted that the NHS and social care suffered underfunding and cuts due to the decisions taken by Treasury ministers including Javid, ‘a key architect of Tory austerity’.

Meanwhile, the former Special Adviser Dominic Cummings has called Javid ‘bog standard’ and an ‘awful’ choice to replace Matt Hancock.

Stakeholders from across the health and social care sector have highlighted that Javid will likely find himself with a rather busy workload despite only starting his new role on Saturday. Aside from the immediate priorities of addressing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, rising NHS waiting lists, social care reform and NHS restructuring will be other key priorities for the new Health Secretary.

On his first day on the job Javid was focused on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and firm in his position that coronavirus restrictions should not be extended past 19 July. In his first statement to the House of Commons as Health Secretary, he said: ‘There remains a big task ahead of us: to restore our freedoms, freedoms that, save for the greatest of circumstances, no government should ever wish to curtail.’ This comes despite mounting concern over the spread of the Delta variant, which is reportedly responsible for 95% of cases in the UK.

The new Health Secretary will be supporting the ongoing Covid-19 vaccine rollout to reach the 19 July date. It is planned that that two-thirds of all adults in the country would have had both doses by then.

NHS Providers have highlighted the wider impacts of the pandemic on the health service. They have said Javid must provide the sector with the ‘support it needs to clear the substantial backlog of care’. This comes as NHS waiting lists are recorded at a record high with more than 5 million patients awaiting treatment, while demands on mental health and emergency services are also rising.

Social care reform was a key 2019 Conservative manifesto commitment, but there still seem to be no concrete plans. In the recent Queen’s speech, the Government promised it would bring forward detailed reform proposals by the end of this year. These proposals will need drive and commitment from the new Health Secretary if they are going to relieve the economic and structural pressures on the sector.

Aside from social care reform, plans to restructure the NHS are already underway with the Health and Care Bill expected to be brought forward to Parliament soon. This Bill would see NHS Integrated Care Systems placed on a statutory level and divulge greater powers over to the (newly appointed) Secretary of State. In the coming weeks, Javid will also help to choose a new NHS England Chief Executive as Sir Simon Stevens will step down from this role in the summer.

Court case backlog

The backlog of court cases: impact on the legal/justice system

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the justice system and has created an unprecedented backlog of court cases, presenting a challenge to the courts like never before. The impacts of lockdowns and social distancing has minimised court appearances, citing safety concerns for both staff and everyone involved.

The BBC reported that towards the end of 2020, that the most serious cases have piled up to 195,000 which may not be completely addressed until 2024. The issues within the legal system is not one that has stemmed from COVID and in fact the backlog of court cases predates the pandemic but has now reached record levels. The need for Government intervention to reform the courts and the judicial system is clear to see. Many issues are created because of these problems both to the victims, defendants and wider society, however the pandemic has also revealed ways to modernise and adapt our court systems and continue to make them more accessible.

Analysing why the backlog of court cases started before the pandemic reveals various factors and issues that have led to an overstretched system. A report produced by the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution which focused on COVID-19 and the Courts discussed some of these longer standing failures which have resulted in this situation. These issues included the decrease in Government funding over the last decade which has fallen by 21%, the decrease in legal aid budgets which have fallen by 40% and the fact that fewer staff were being employed into the workforce by HM Courts & Tribunals Service. All of this has led to a system under intense strain, exasperated by the unprecedented effects of COVID-19, where the Government had left the justice system exposed by a lack of risk assessments and preparation for an emergency situation like this.

The Crown Prosecution Service have highlighted the level of change faced for the justice system, where court workload is 44% higher now than it was prior to the pandemic and that waiting times for crown courts have increased by 25% since last year. The concerning aspect of this situation is that justice delayed is justice denied and there is a risk that victims and witnesses will lose interest and hope in their cases if they are continuously pushed back, with an outcome to their cases unclear. The backlog of court cases also has a domino effect to the rest of the criminal justice system, it has also led to an increase of remand prisons who are kept in an uncertain position, with no access to programmers and support which they would have if they were convicted, leading to a growing group of disgruntled prisoners kept in the unsettling nature of custody.

The reaction of the court systems to try to tackle these issues in the short term, has increased an avenue which can continue to be used more in the future. The Coronavirus Act 2020 extended the use of remote hearings which have acted as a good substitute and should be considered as a widely used alternative form of serving justice in the future . This has led to many adapted procedures, such as prerecorded interviews and statements from both vulnerable witnesses and victims, which has provided them with a more comfortable and confident environment to communicate their evidence. Remote hearings also allow live streaming so that the public can see and hear them. In the longer term, this method can help to clear this backlog as it speeds up and makes court processes easier to carry out. The success of remote hearings has been presented by the Institute for Government who have stated in their performance tracker 2020, that:

‘On 23 March, 550 court or tribunal hearings used video or audio technology. Two weeks later, the figure stood at more than 3,000, accounting for around 90% of the total cases processed.’

This shows that although the backlog of cases has grown substantially, the situation would have been much worse without remote hearings. There is a need for the Government to assess both the success and failures in introduced technologies during the pandemic to improve the ability to digitise our court services and improve access to justice.

Government reaction to this, both in the short term and long term, is crucial to tackling this issue of court case backlogs and the underfunding of the judiciary system. In terms of an immediate response, the Government has focused on investing more money into the courts, opening temporary courtrooms to increase the accessibility/availability of environments for trials to take place. However, this is a not a long-term solution nor is it at the rate needed to sufficiently tackle this backlog.

The recent Queen’s Speech revealed details around the Government’s plan in reforming areas of the legal system, with many measures welcomed, albeit overdue. Within the Queen’s Speech, the Government spoke about modernising court processes through documentation being transferred to more electronic means and more procedures being completed online, such as stating pleas. The Government’s focus is ensuring legislation as ensures the timely administration of justice. The Government has focused funding towards the roll out of new technology – though virtual and remote hearings, hiring more staff and adding up to 60 nightingale courtrooms, totaling investment of over £250mn. In reference to victims losing trust in the courts system as they have continuously seen their cases pushed back, the Government also committed to increased funding for victim support services this year, totaling to £151mn and an additional £5mn for Witness Care Units, to support witnesses/victims through these court processes.

Overall, the Government is investing over £1 billion to transform the courts and tribunals system and a further £142 million in COVID-19 funding to support court recovery and upgrades necessary to tackle these growing issues. Although an assessment on the successes of Government intervention can only be made after an extensive period, we have already seen some stabilisation of the court backlog, where the rise of the backlog has stalled, acting as a good indication that the Governments interventions are having an immediate effect.

G7 overview

Overview of the G7

The G7 communique, published at the end of the summit last Sunday, sets out six areas of global action: 1) End the pandemic and prepare for the future, 2) Reinvigorate our economies, 3) Secure our future prosperity, 4) Protect our planet, 5) Strengthen our partnerships and 6) Embrace our values.

Among these goals, there are ambitions to help developing countries recover from the pandemic and ‘build back better’ for the future. Despite the ambitious pledges, there are still concerns from the international development sector on the level of commitment shown by the G7 leaders, particularly the UK which is the only G7 country to have reduced its foreign aid budget in light of the economic cost of the pandemic.

Covid-19 vaccine distribution
Ahead of the summit, G7 leaders committed to providing 1bn Covid-19 vaccines over the next year, including 100m surplus coronavirus vaccinations from the UK. The UK has committed to delivering 5m doses by the end of September, beginning in the coming weeks, primarily for use in the world’s poorest countries. Of the 100m doses, the UK will donate 5m doses by the end of September, beginning in the coming weeks, primarily for use in the world’s poorest countries. 25m more will be donated by the end of 2021. 80% of the 100m doses will go to COVAX and the remainder will be shared bilaterally with countries in need. At the end of the summit, the communique totaled the final commitments at 870m, just short of the 1bn planned.

UNICEF has welcomed the commitment from the G7 to rollout vaccines, emphasising that without a global vaccination programme, the world will be more at risk of variants that could threaten the vaccinated and unvaccinated. They also call for an accelerated timetable in light of several forecasts which suggest that G7 countries will have enough vaccine supplies to donate 1 billion doses by as early as the end of 2021, rather than the 2022 goal proposed.

Moreover, despite the large numbers of vaccines promised, it is not clear that they will go far enough. In a critique, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown argued that 11bn vaccine doses are needed to guarantee all countries the same levels of anti-Covid protection as the west. He said: ‘The gift of 1bn doses from the richest countries to the poorest is headline-grabbing and welcome. But it falls billions of doses short of a solution and does not answer what Johnson called “the greatest challenge of the postwar era”.’

Alongside the communique, the G7 set out frameworks to strengthen its collective defences against threats to global health. This includes the ‘Carbis Bay Declaration’ which promises to reduce the time taken to develop and licence vaccines, reinforce global surveillance networks, and reform and strengthen the World Health Organisation.

Girls’ education has been a primary objective for UK foreign policy in recent years so it was no surprise that this was a focal point for the UK, particularly with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) coming up next month. The UK pledged £430 million to the GPE to get the world’s most vulnerable children, particularly girls, into school. This funding pledge is on top of the £400m of UK aid which will be spent this year on bilateral efforts to increase girls’ access to education.

At the session, G7 leaders discussed also how to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic in a way that creates opportunities for everyone. Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to targets set at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in May to get 40 million more girls into school and 20 million more girls reading by the age of 10 in the next five years.

Plan International has welcomed the funding commitments from the G7 and the action plan to address the ‘devastating impact’ of the pandemic on girl’s education. However, it argues that the G7 funding commitments to GPE, totaling $2.75 bn will not be enough. GPE hopes to raise $5bn from donors, including $3.5bn from the G7.

Meanwhile, ActionAid has highlighted that the new funding pledge for girl’s education comes at the same time as the Government is cutting its aid budget on girls’ education by 40%. They argue that advancing girl’s education should form part of a wider Government response to gender equality, including by tackling violence against women and girls.

Climate change
Under the Prime Minister’s plans to Build Back Better for the World he laid forward a new approach intended to give developing countries access to more, better and faster finance while accelerating the global shift to renewable energy and sustainable technology. It includes a £500m Blue Planet Fund to protect the ocean and marine biodiversity and a Nature Compact to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. WWF has welcomed these announcements but has called for pledges to be converted into concrete policy goals and implemented at pace to reach the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This will be vital ‘to abate the induced catastrophes the world is increasingly experiencing and will continue to unless we urgently transform our broken relationship with the natural environment.’

Alongside this UK, Germany and USA announced new action to scale up protection for the world’s most vulnerable communities against the impacts of climate change. The £120m new funding from the UK and £125m new funding from Germany will enable quicker responses for vulnerable people when extreme weather and climate-linked disasters hit. This will protect those most at risk in Africa, South East Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific and help reduce losses and damage to communities, infrastructure and livelihoods caused by climate change.

Finally, the G7 Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and multilateral partners also pledged to invest over $80 billion in the private sector in Africa over the next 5 years. The investments will support the long-term development objectives of African economies, including those which have been negatively hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. With investments focused on renewable power, infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture, and technology sectors it is aimed that they will provide clean, reliable power to millions of people, help create jobs and reduce poverty.

Investment in education

Reactions to the resignation of the Education Recovery Commissioner

The Education Recovery Commissioner Sir Kevan Collins’ letter of resignation followed the Government’s announcement that it was offering a further £1.5bn in education catch up support for young people, around 10% of what he had suggested was needed.

Sir Collin was direct about the impact of this gap between the two figures, stating: ‘I do not believe it is credible that a successful recovery can be achieved with a programme of support of this size’. He also said he believed ‘the settlement provided will define the international standing of England’s education system for years to come’.

This link to international standards in education was picked up by Labour leader Keir Starmer at last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions. Starmer pointed out the funding, equivalent to £310 per child over the next four years, paled in comparison to the US’s catch up plan worth over £1,600 per child and £2,500 in the Netherlands. He quoted Sir Kevan Collins describing the catch up as ‘too small, too narrow and too slow’.

Labour responded to the announcements with an opposition day debate on investing in children and young people, which Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green commented that the amount of catch up funding offered is inexplicable given the Prime Minister’s claim that children’s education is his priority. The Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson did not attend the debate and it was instead taken by the Secretary of State for School Standards Nick Gibb. The entire House voted to issue a motion of regret of the resignation of the education recovery commissioner and:

‘…agrees with Sir Kevan’s assessment that the current half-hearted approach risks failing hundreds of thousands of young people; and therefore calls on the Government to bring forward a more ambitious plan before the onset of the school summer holiday which includes an uplift to the pupil premium and increased investment in targeted support, makes additional funding available to schools for extracurricular clubs and activities to boost children’s wellbeing, and provides free school meals to all eligible children throughout the summer holiday.’

The Government has expressed that what has been announced is only part of the full catch up plan, of which more is to be revealed at the Spending Review. This is despite previous commitments to have Sir Collins’ recommendations delivered outside of that process, and a catch-up programme in place by September 2021. As Green rightly pointed out, Johnson has repeatedly said that education and the future of young people is a priority and key element of the coronavirus response. This makes the comparably low funding which caused the Commissioner to seems strange and out of touch with the Government’s skills drive, particularly given the lack of support for 16-19 education within the support programme. Pundits have wagered the Treasury ‘took a carving knife’ to more substantial plans set out by Secretary of State Gavin Williamson, leading calls for his resignation. Researchers at the IFS, however, commented that the decision may have been taken out of fears of the benefits of extra tuition and education support leading to a permanent increase in spending.

During a media round following the resignation news, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi recentred teachers’ unions as detrimental to education catch up, mentioning their opposition to extending the school day. Angela Rayner hit back, stating Tory Minister’s ‘always try to attack unions to distract from their own failures’.

Although the investment in education recovery so far totals over £3bn, as Sir Collins said, reducing spend in education at this point is a false economy. Further, the Institute for Fiscal Studies noted that if the losses to learning over the last year are not addressed ‘costs could easily run into hundreds of billions as a result of lost skills and productivity’. The sector will eagerly await the next announcements at the Spending Review, although it seems unlikely that it will meet the former Recovery Commissioner’s recommendations amongst a package of spending. The question left after that is whether Sir Collins was right in his estimations of what failing to make up for the learning loss of the pandemic will mean.

Sector responses:
• Labour Shadow Education Secretary said:
‘Kevan Collins’ resignation is a damning indictment of the Conservatives’ education catch-up plan.
He was brought in by Boris Johnson because of his experience and expertise in education, but the Government have thrown out his ideas as soon as it came to stumping up the money needed to deliver them.’

• Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education Daisy Cooper said:
‘Sir Kevan was a good appointment and many of us were cheering him on. The Government’s pitiful offer of a £1.4bn to support a generation of young people who have lost months of learning was an insult to him and to our young people.

Our children deserve better than this useless Education Secretary. Time and time again he keeps getting it wrong. It really is the last straw – the Education Secretary has to go.’

• Director of Education & Skills at Nacro Lisa Capper commented:
‘We must see more focus on closing the clear and significant attainment gap among 16-19-year-olds, an often-overlooked group. It is also vital that no matter where you learn, all 16-19 year olds see the benefit of this funding, including those who learn with charitable and independent providers. These students are often those most in need of support to catch up, and who benefit from the wrap around support these centres provide.’

• Sutton Trust Executive Chair and Education Endowment Foundation Chairman Sir Peter Lampl said:
‘Creating an ambitious, sustainable recovery plan to support every pupil is a considerable challenge. The extension of tutoring for the most disadvantaged young people is crucial as it’s a highly cost-effective method of making up for lost learning. The focus on quality teaching, investing in the teaching profession and early years practitioners is also much needed.

‘However, the proposed funding is only a fraction of what is required. Low-income students who have already been most heavily impacted by Covid-19 will be disadvantaged even more and overall standards, which have fallen dramatically, will be very slow to recover.

‘Sir Kevan Collins is right that much more will be needed if we are to mitigate the long-term impact of the pandemic.’

• National Association of Head Teachers General Secretary Paul Whiteman said:
‘Today’s statement confirms the disappointing scope and scale of the government’s ambition for children and young people. The government has missed an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of young people in the short term, and ignored the necessity of putting down some firm recovery foundations for the long term. By every measure, this is a low-cost option when what pupils deserved was something first class.’

• Education Policy Institute
The EPI found that the new education recovery package of £1.4bn amounts to around £50 extra per pupil per year – a fraction of the level of funding required to reverse learning loss seen by pupils since March 2020. They commented the Government ‘decided not to take the opportunity’ to offer evidence-based interventions to protect against long-run negative impacts to education and wellbeing.

• Association of Colleges Chief Executive David Hughes said:
‘The plans for the next steps of the recovery plan will disappoint colleges and students with the least amount of time left in education. The extension of the tuition funding is good news but the failure to fund additional teaching hours or to extend the pupil premium to age 18 means that many disadvantaged students may fall through the gaps.’

Global Tax Reform

Global tax reform

The G7 has agreed to back a historic two pillar international agreement on global tax reform that will mean the largest multinational tech giants will pay their fair share of tax in the countries in which they operate – and not just where they have their headquarters. As part of this landmark deal, Finance Ministers also agree to the principle of a global minimum rate that ensures multinationals pay tax of at least 15% in each country they operate.

The plan is based on two ‘pillars’ that have long been under discussion by the OECD, Group of 20 (G20) countries and their so-called Inclusive Framework. Under pillar one, countries would get a new right of taxation over a share of profits generated in their jurisdiction by an overseas-headquartered multinational. This would mean taxing the source of a company’s revenue regardless of the firm’s physical location. This would crack down on profit-shifting to low-tax jurisdictions. The rules would apply to global firms with at least a 10% profit margin – and would see 20% of any profit above the 10% margin reallocated and then subjected to tax in the countries they operate.

Under Pillar Two, the G7 also agreed to the principle of at least 15% global minimum corporation tax operated on a country by country basis. This is lower than a 21% proposal put forward by the US president, Joe Biden, earlier this year and lower than what the Labour party has been calling for. However, it is still regarded as a turning point, and the inclusion of “at least” in the G7 deal means it could be negotiated higher.

Which companies would it apply to?
The burden is likely to fall primarily on technology and pharmaceutical firms that have been able to place their business locations and intangible intellectual property in low- or no-tax locations and book their revenues in those jurisdictions. The details about which firms would be affected have yet to be worked out. The Biden administration has proposed that about 100-150 multinationals would be within the scope of pillar one. At any rate, the digital profits tax would apply only to firms making profit margins of over 10%–meaning many firms with low margins, including possibly Amazon – would remain exempt (its profit margin in 2020 was only 6.3%).

Moreover, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak is reportedly pushing for the City of London to be carved out of the G7’s plans for a global tax agreement. The Financial Times quotes an official close to the discussions as saying that the UK was one of several countries pushing for ‘an exemption on financial services’.

How much would it raise?
The OECD estimated last October that as much as $81bn (£57bn) in additional tax revenues each year would be raised under the reforms. Pillar one would bring in between $5bn and $12bn, while pillar two, the global minimum rate, would collect between $42bn and $70bn. However, this assumed that a global minimum rate of 12.5% would be applied under pillar two. It also captures a larger number of multinationals under pillar one. The Tax Justice Network advocacy group estimates that a 21% minimum rate would bring in $640bn in underpaid tax each year.

There are various estimates for how much individual countries would recover. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank’s Centre for Economic Justice, the UK would reap an extra £14.7bn annually from a 21% global minimum rate. IPPR reported that a global minimum corporation tax rate of at least 15% could raise £7.9bn for the UK, but warned this rate would not be enough to end the race to the bottom on tax. The Labour party said that the lower rate of 15% would let big multinational firms off £131m per week which could be used to fund the NHS and other public services instead.

What next?
The topic will be discussed at OECD group meetings in Paris on 30 June – 1 July 1st, and then again when G20 Finance Ministers and Central Governors meet in Venice on 9 – 10 July.

However, global corporate tax reform will prove difficult to implement. In the EU the plans will require a directive, subject to veto by the low-tax economies such as Ireland or Hungary, and passage of associated changes by national parliaments. Ireland’s finance minister Paschal Donohoe tweeted: ‘I look forward now to engaging in the discussions at @OECD. There are 139 countries at the table, and any agreement will have to meet the needs of small and large countries, developed and developing’. The battle for low-tax countries is likely to be about building support for a lower minimum rate (closer to Ireland ‘s current rate of 12.5%) or seeking certain exemptions.

Political prospects are difficult in the US too. Biden team could probably push through the global reform in the evenly divided Senate under so-called ‘reconciliation’, which requires a simple majority, if they can do so before the November 2022 mid-term elections or do not lose seats in that electoral contest.

Cabinet office

Cabinet reshuffle speculation

This is a post from Daniel Loman and Jennifer Prescott. 

Despite Number 10 saying there is no reshuffle planned speculation continues to mount as to what changes the Prime Minister may decide to make to his Cabinet. And if as Number 10 said in late May there are no plans for a reshuffle it does not mean one cannot happen in the weeks or months to come or events cannot transpire that forces the hand of the Prime Minister. Here are our thoughts based on reports and the Government’s direction and policy priorities of where each member of the current Cabinet stands.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak: Despite Sunak’s stock not being as high as it was this time last year it would be very shocking to seem him depart the Treasury. For the moment he seems to have been unharmed from the Greensill lobbying row. Sunak was also probably received the most praise during Dominic Cumming’s mammoth committee appearance, but in the eyes of the Prime Minister that could be a negative.

Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs; First Secretary of State, Dominic Raab: Dominic Raab has managed to stay out of any Covid related scandals and when Johnson was in hospital he acted as deputy PM. Dominic Cummings said the Foreign Secretary did not get ‘enough credit as he should have done’. Similar to Sunak, praise from Cummings could do more to harm Raab than help him.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel: Towards the end of last year it seemed inevitable that Patel would be moved from the Home Office. However despite the finding that she had broken the ministerial code of conduct Patel now seems to be on more steady ground. Patel also seems quite central to the Government’s priorities and the Prime Minister would probably have some people scratching their head if he moved on from Patel now considering he has backed her throughout everything that has already been.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove: There has been speculation that Gove could take over as Health Secretary, with sources claiming he is a consensual figure within the Cabinet, as well as one of the most experienced. Dominic Cummings spoke favourably of him, insisting that he was not responsible for the failings of the Cabinet Office. However, recent reports that he acted unlawfully by awarding a Government contract without tender process may jeopardise his promotion.

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland QC: Publicly there has been little to suggest the Prime Minister would have a reason to move on from Buckland. The impact of Covid on prisons hasn’t really been a headline issue and neither has the court backlog. Buckland has spent more time in his job than the four people who held it before and he is probably good value to continue, he is also the first QC to have the job since Ken Clark (2010-2012).

Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace: Another Minister who is probably safe, the Prime Minister will likely want someone with some experience after the announcements made in the Integrated Review earlier this year.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock: Dominic Cummings has claimed that Hancock should have been fired for ‘15, 20 things’ so surely, he will be moving on from the Department of Health and Social Care. It seems most commentators (including us) think Hancock will be moved on. However it is worth considering that Number 10 will probably be eager to avoid validating Cumming’s concerns. The Prime Minister may also take the view that he wants Covid as far back in the rear-view mirror as possible before changing Health Secretary and that may be a little further down the line.

COP26 President, Alok Sharma: Sharma is thought to be safe in his role, especially as it could be disruptive to switch ministers just months ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng: Having only being in role since the beginning of the year, it seems unlikely that Johnson would choose to move Kwarteng, who is seen as a passionate champion of the PM’s plans for a green industrial revolution.

Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities, Elizabeth Truss: There are rumours that Liz Truss could be in line for a promotion to the role of Foreign Secretary. She has consistently been ranked as one of the most popular figures of the Cabinet amongst Conservative members and her performance as Trade Secretary has impressed many.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Dr Thérèse Coffey: The Work and Pensions Secretary sent a tweet to footballer Marcus Rashford questioning his comments about low income families just hours before the PM performed a U-turn over the provision of free school meals vouchers, which was seen as an embarrassment for Downing Street.

Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson: Williamson is perhaps the Minister who is the surest thing to either be sacked or reshuffled. The resignation of Sir Kevan Collins and the constant criticism for a lack of support for pupils during the pandemic are things Williamson is having put at his door and this doesn’t even speak on what went on around free school meals.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice: Eustice has been a very vocal opponent of tariff-free meat imports from Australia, positioning himself against Liz Truss and the PM. This could be a reason for Johnson to remove him. It is reported that Eustice and Truss have rowed over the deal, which Eustice believes is a bad for British farmers. Another reason he could possibly lose his role is that he is not fully on board with the green agenda the Government is pushing. There is talk that chief whip Mark Spencer could take over as Environment Secretary.

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick: Jenrick is a strong ally of Rishi Sunak’s and seems to be well liked by the PM, however, it is uncertain whether this would be enough to save him in a reshuffle after his role in the ‘cash-for-favours’ housing bid scandal.

Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps: Shapps is perceived to have done a decent job as Transport Secretary and has become one of the Government’s more reliable communicators. He managed to secure a deal with France to open the border back after the Covid variant scare in December and despite being in Spain last summer when his Department changed the quarantine rules, he has largely managed to avoid any negative attention.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis: Lewis has kept a relatively low profile, apart from when he made the news after stating in the Commons that the Government would go against international law as part of a new Brexit proposal for trade across Northern Ireland’s borders.

Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack:  Jack will probably stay in post as presuming the Prime Minister would only accept an MP from a Scottish constituency there are only five alternatives. Douglas Ross is also the leader of the Scottish Conservatives and an MSP, so he is surely of the running, David Mundell was sacked as soon as Boris Johnson became PM. That leaves only John Lamont, David Duguid and Andrew Bowie as possible candidates so Alister Jack is probably safe.

Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart: Simon Hart seems to be doing a good job of selling the Government’s Levelling Up agenda in Wales. There is no obvious reason the PM would want somebody else to take over the role.

Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: Baroness Evans has been Leader of the House of Lords since Theresa May’s first Cabinet. There would be no apparent reason to move Evans so unless the Prime Minister just feels like a change, she should be safe.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden: Dowden finds himself in a situation not too dissimilar to Robert Buckland, Covid has had a big impact on the area he oversees, but with the exception of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s defiance none of it has really been headline news.

Minister of State, Lord Frost: Frost has been in the news a lot recently as he has been angering EU diplomats over his approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol, so much so that the EU has reportedly been urging Boris Johnson to remove Frost from his Cabinet role.

Minister without Portfolio (Co-Chair of the Conservative Party), Amanda Milling: There is no real reason to think Milling will be moved, however the position she occupies lends itself to the possibility of her being moved.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay: Barclay stands as a figure who is probably unlikely to see himself drop out of the Cabinet, he might be an outsider for a position of Secretary of State if Johnson finds himself with one too many positions to fill.

Lord President of the Council, Leader of the House of Commons, Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg: Rees-Mogg is a controversial figure as one of the Conservative Party’s highest profile Brexiteers and a key member of the European Research Group. His latest gaffe was his attack on a journalist under cover of parliamentary privilege. A reshuffle could be a chance for the PM to get rid, however, not having Rees-Mogg on his side could be even more troublesome.

Chief Whip, Mark Spencer: Spencer is being touted for the top job at DEFRA if Eustice departs, if this happens there has been some rumblings that Gavin Williamson could go back to being Chief Whip.

Attorney General, Michael Ellis QC: Ellis is currently filling in for Suella Braverman QC who is on maternity leave, so it is unlikely to expect any change here.

Weekly Economy Summary

COVID-19: Weekly Economy Summary – 13 May

The Economy Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.


UK gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have grown by 2.1% in March 2021, the fastest monthly growth since August 2020, as schools in some parts of the UK reopened throughout the month. March’s GDP is 5.9% below the levels seen in February 2020, and 1.1% below the initial recovery peak in October 2020. Latest estimates also show only small revisions to GDP in January (now negative 2.5%, from negative 2.2%) and February (now growth of 0.7%, from 0.4%). 

Economic outlook 

NIESR central forecast for UK economic growth in 2021 has been revised up to 5.7%, compared to 3.4% in February, with 4.5% growth forecast for 2022. The significant upward revision reflects a better-than-expected first quarter – a greater resilience to further lockdowns – and the large rise in Covid-related public spending in the 2021-22 fiscal year announced in the March Budget.   

The poor Covid-19 performance has greater permanent cost for the UK compared with other major economies. The size of the economic contraction means that the level of GDP is nearly 4% lower in 2025 than NIESR had forecast it to be before the Covid-19 pandemic, equivalent to around £1,350 per person per year (2018 prices) falling further behind the US and Germany as a result. 

Thanks to the extension of furlough and other support measures to the autumn, NIESR now forecast unemployment to peak at 6.5% in the final quarter of this year (compared to 7.5% in February). This central forecast is compatible with an assumption that around 450,000 of those remaining on furlough in September will not be taken back after the scheme ends. 

Income growth and a degree of forced savings under lockdown provide a strong basis for a consumption growth forecast of 5.9% in 2021. NIESR forecast household saving then to fall to a level higher than that seen before the pandemic but close to historical averages: a faster or further fall constitutes the principal upside risk to our consumption and GDP forecasts in 2021. 

NIESR’s central forecast is for CPI inflation to rise over the coming months, reaching 1.8% in the final quarter of 2021 before falling to 1.5% at the end of 2022 and settling just below its 2% target between 2023 and 2025. Bank Rate is not forecast to rise until 2023 but there is considerable uncertainty regarding both the direction and instruments of monetary policy.   

Double jobs and mental health crisis facing young people risks outlasting the pandemic 

Young people have experienced the largest employment hit and sharpest increase in mental health conditions of any age group during Covid-19 in a ‘double crisis’ that risks outlasting the pandemic, according to a report by the Resolution Foundation. The report, Double Trouble, examines the worrying trends in young people’s mental health in the run-up to and during the crisis, their links to changes in the labour market, and the risks posed to young people’s post-pandemic living standards. The think tank recommends that the government intensifies efforts to keep young people in work by expanding and extending the Kickstart Scheme, and ensures that access to mental health support is strengthened in the period after pandemic.  

Business confidence 

The success of the UK’s vaccine rollout has also influenced an increase in service sector confidence, which has risen to its highest level in over a year. BDO’s latest services optimism index shows that confidence among businesses in the service sector hit a fourteen-month high in April. Businesses in other sectors also recorded improved optimism, while BDO’s output index showed a month-on-month increase in debit and credit card spending in line with the reopening of non-essential retail last month.