To start the year, we want to examine four big issues that preoccupied public policy in 2016, giving you the most insightful perspectives from the think tanks. We’ll go on to suggest where the action might be in the new year.
1. Can we seal the deal on Brexit?
The wide mandate claimed by the government in enacting the “will of the people” through Brexit comes with risks. Missteps will have drastic political consequences, and delays are proving to be just as damaging. Downing Street is already being criticised for cautious micromanagement, and in the absence of a clear plan set out from the centre “trying to divine the Government’s position from the personal musings of individual ministers is creating unhelpful uncertainty” (Institute for Government).
In 2015, we worried about
Pressure on A&E. Yes, this was as much a concern last New Year’s Eve as it was in 2015. Here are four ideas on how to deal with the issue Institute for Economic Affairs
Who benefits from innovation. In a landmark essay, Geoff Mulgan admits that there is little evidence that innovation provides genuine social benefits Nesta
After weeks of drama in Paris with global consequences, the last week has seen a shift to more prosaic issues. Now that there has been some time to digest the latest Spending Review, think tanks have been pondering what this means for various aspects of local services.
NLGN looks at the overall policy implications of further austerity and sees the “weakening, if not demise of the very old idea that redistribution from richer areas to their poorer counterparts can solve regional social and economic problems”. At the same time, the piece wonders whether the size of the cake will grow enough to compensate for the fact that people’s shares are getting more measly.
Tomorrow, ministers attending the COP21 UN climate talks in Paris will discuss a 48-page statement of purpose – which leaves much to be decided in subsequent talks.
There are some peculiarities about the nature of the discussion, argues Andrew Simms at PRIME economics. Emissions agreements based on temperature rises should be understood as agreements on the degree of acceptable risk nations can stomach from climate change. Communities around the world have different exposure to climate risk – and they may take more dramatic action into their own hands.
In the UK, the response to the Paris Attacks has already turned into an argument over police funding, with a senior police officer telling Theresa May that the expected cuts in the Chancellor’s Spending Review will ‘reduce very significantly’ the UK’s ability to respond to a Paris-style attack. SMF Chief Economist Nida Broughton lays out George Osborne’s options, concluding that he may be able to avoid the appearance of compromising security by changing the definition of ‘defence’.
George Osborne is due to publish the 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) on 25th November, where he will set out how the public sector will have to deliver the £20 billion further savings required to eliminate Britain’s deficit by 2019/2020.
So, what does it all mean? The Institute for Government argues that the hard work remains to be done, taking a look at implications for DfT, DEFRA, DCLG and the Treasury – all of whom will have their budgets cut by 30% up to 2020. More broadly, IfG casts doubt on the government’s intention to deliver ‘more with less’, although it certainly agrees that there will be much less to manage with.
Poverty is used to being threatened with military-inspired action. After facing down LBJ’s declaration of war, it might be feeling fairly confident about seeing off Cameron’s threatened ‘all-out assault’. The think tanks, however, have heard the battle cry and are preparing the intellectual ammunition. Here’s our round-up.
On Monday, the UK’s second chamber will take the national spotlight when Members of the House of Lords discuss the government’s draft regulations on tax credits.
The Institute for Government looks at the implications of peers exercising their ‘fatal power’ on secondary or delegated legislation. The Constitution Unit provides a useful primer on the conventions covering the Lords’ role in relation to delegated legislation and financial matters (see also the Institute for Government), as well as exploring what might happen if the government is indeed defeated.
On Tuesday, Theresa May told the Conservative party conference:
“What I’m proposing is a deal: the fewer people there are who wrongly claim asylum in Britain, the more generous we can be in helping the most vulnerable people in the world’s most dangerous places. And my message to the immigration campaigners and human rights lawyers is this: you can play your part in making this happen – or you can try to frustrate it.”
Journalists called it “as tawdry as it was contemptible” (Spectator) and an “awful, ugly, misleading, cynical and irresponsible speech” (Telegraph).
When the Adam Smith Institute produces a piece titled ‘Owen Jones is entirely right here’, you know there’s consensus on an issue. With a refugee crisis unfolding in Calais, how different would our approach be to immigration if we didn’t just care about people who happen to have been born in Britain, they ask? Similarly, British Future calls for some perspective from the right-wing press, noting that ‘the world is struggling with its largest refugee crisis since the Second World War’ but the number of refugees in the UK has actually fallen by 76,439 since 2011.