Mapping a smarter deficit reduction strategy
Oct 2014 24

New Office for National Statistics figures published this week have shown that the Government is on course to fail to meet its deficit reduction target again. Indeed, so far, the deficit is higher now than it was this time last year. Excluding financial markets interventions, public sector borrowing hit £11.8 billion in September alone, £1.6 billion more than last year. That has been the pattern so far this year, the Government has borrowed £58 billion in the first half of the fiscal year, 10 per cent higher than in 2013-14. So much for the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast of a 12 per cent fall. Continue Reading

The NHS has enough money. It needs to spend it better.
Oct 2014 23

“NHS needs extra cash and overhaul” scream the headlines today, with NHS England boss Simon Stevens making the case for an additional £5bn in funding per annum to stave off a funding crisis.

There is no disputing Simon Stevens’ dedication to the NHS. He took a significant pay cut to take the job when he left private provider UnitedHealth, and has since then advocated a sensible approach to funding the NHS. But his call today did rather smack of hoping that ever more money will solve deeper-rooted problems.

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Flight tax fury shows how painful it is
Oct 2014 22

Just weeks after the TaxPayers’ Alliance campaigned against Air Passenger Duty (APD) at Bristol Airport, the unpopular tax on holidaymakers has become a political hot potato in the region. Last week, the chairman of Cardiff Airport tabled an amendment to the Wales Bill in the House of Lords, asking for the devolution of APD on all flights from Welsh airports. If this was accepted, Cardiff Airport could then cut the duty and gain an enormous competitive advantage over its closest rival at Bristol Airport.

On a standard rate flight originating in Bristol or Cardiff to New York, APD adds £138 to the overall cost. For a longer flight to South East Asia that can rise to £170, while a family of four travelling to Florida with economy flights can expect a whopping £276 in duty alone. To have the ability to scrap this extra cost would give any airport a distinct advantage over others in the UK. Continue Reading

High drama at the Arts Council for Wales
Oct 2014 22

The BBC has reported upon the cuts being made to the Arts Council for Wales (ACW) in a recent article. The article, which was constructed to act more as a pre-emptive tug at the heart strings of theatre goers, suggests that the £300,000 cut to the budget would represent “potential problems” for the Council.

I’m not at this point going to start bashing everything artistic. After all, the creative industry is a multi-million pound industry and our artistic work differentiates us from every other species, but there is no question that many grants have been given to art that is by no means inclusive to the wider populace. Continue Reading

Nine Mansion Tax questions for Ed Balls
Oct 2014 20

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls wrote in today’s Evening Standard about his alarming Mansion Tax plan. So, Mr Balls, can you answer these nine questions:

1. What bands and how much?
You said that those in homes valued between £2m and £3m will have to pay an extra £3,000 a year. But what would the other bands be, and how much would be payable in each band?
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