It is not uncommon for politicians to declare their determination to change the economic model. This is a staple of left-leaning platforms, going back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s.

But proposals come from the right as well. In 2009, George Osborne, then shadow chancellor, spoke of his plan to shift the economy “away from debt and towards saving and long-term investment”, putting the theme of fiscal responsibility at its heart. The idea was that more fiscal control would allow lower interest rates, growth in investment and higher exports, which would fill the gap left by government spending.   

I found myself thinking of Osborne’s speech when pondering what the current chancellor may think of the prime minister’s proposal for another shift in the economic model – away from high immigration and low pay to higher wages, skills and productivity. Like Osborne, Boris Johnson is claiming that a single high-level factor is overwhelmingly significant in explaining the structural shape of the economy. For Osborne, the government’s macro-economic approach biased behaviour towards consumption and debt. For Johnson, a highly supplied labour market, primed by immigration, is blamed for lower skills, less investment and weak productivity.  

George Osborne saw that his macro-economic programme needed micro-economic support. Lower interest rates and government spending would not alone unleash a private sector boom, so he suggested banking reform, lower corporate taxes, and (largely unspecified) supply side measures. Johnson’s new model is less theorised, looking more like an improvised response to the shortages Britain is going through this autumn. This leaves us to guess at the policy programme intended to underpin this latest attempt to “change the model”. 

There needs to be one. British workers will not become more productive simply by removing the threat of overseas competition – in fact, less competition usually produces the opposite effect. Shortages of labour, goods and energy certainly alter economic incentives, but they create problems as much as opportunities. There are several clear areas where the chancellor should turn his attention.  

1. The Bank of England and rising interest rates  

In 2009, Osborne argued that the Bank of England’s inflation-fighting goal would automatically bring support to his new model because, under a constant inflation target, tighter fiscal policy leads to looser monetary conditions. The challenge the Bank faces today is different. Soaring gas prices, higher wages and goods shortages threaten to push inflation well beyond the Bank’s mandated 2% target. If these are all part of a plan to change the shape of the economy for the better, in the immediate future they might force the Bank to raise rates and dampen activity.

There is a lively debate about how transitory the current inflation surge might prove, and the right monetary response when price rises happen because of shifts in the pattern of demand – as has happened throughout the covid pandemic.[1] If the government’s hoped-for journey to a higher-wage nirvana has any chance of succeeding, Mr Johnson will want the Bank to take the most accommodative stance it can; if they do not, tighter policy could smother any benefits before they arise. Osborne said one of his first meetings upon becoming chancellor would be with the Governor of the Bank; considering the noises coming from the Bank about possible rate rises, Sunak’s next one may be awkward.[2]

2. The chancellor needs to know the policy for helping workers that lose out  

The government’s model appears premised on a simple idea: a cut in the supply of workers to a particular industry will raise the value of those that remain, through sheer scarcity, enhanced bargaining power and changed incentives to train and improve. But these labour shortages do not land evenly, creating a political problem. A policy that raised the pay of a tenth of the workforce and cut that of everyone else leaves most worse off and would not seem like a success to the majority. This a particular problem for workers in public sector or similar jobs, who do not see the same market forces raising their pay, but still suffer from inflation, and also those living on benefits. 

The Treasury frets at every Budget about decisions that affect one section of society more than another. Losers are louder than winners. If the prime minister intends a policy with such uneven and hard-to-predict distributional outcomes, the chancellor needs to know, and needs to know what the policy will be towards helping those who lose out. 

3. Raising productivity is not easy – workers will need training, capital and technology

Conventionally, higher wages are the result of rising productivity, not a tool to achieve it. (There is some evidence that a higher minimum wage can spur worker performance, but the prime minister’s new model is meant to extend across the pay range). Superior productivity is generally sought through improvements in specific economic inputs, such as infrastructure, skills, management and technology. Yet it is the policy of every government to seek higher productivity, and through these means – this is what the department for business, energy and industrial strategy exists to do or coordinate.   

If the new model requires a smaller number of UK workers to generate what was hitherto produced by a larger workforce, these workers will need to be better supported with capital, training and technology. The Treasury is already committed to a large increase in the capital and R&D budget. But despite this, the last set of forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility showed no sign of a surge in productivity, nor a lasting increase in business-funded investment to support.[3]

Johnson’s new economic model relies on implausible optimism

To conclude, what we know of the putative economic model requires we believe one of several implausible scenarios.

A first one is that UK workers will leap forward in productivity, earning those higher wages, without any significant change in productivity policy, beyond more restrictions on immigration and a higher minimum wage.

An alternative is that wages will rise without productivity improving in tandem, but that inflation, distributional issues and hits to company profitability will be somehow handled by the Bank and the Treasury, while most households shrug at the cost.

Another alternative is that the government has a plan to raise productivity, but it is one we have not seen, soon to be unveiled in the Budget and spending review. This is challenging, in light of the spending pressures piling up.

The government’s optimism bias makes me think the first of these is their most likely hoped-for outcome. If the chancellor is sensible, he should be thinking about the others.

________________________________________

  1. https://www.kansascityfed.org/documents/8322/JH_Guerrieri.pdf
  2. See Financial Times, 17 October 2021, “Bank of England chief warns it ‘will have to act’ to curb inflation”, https://www.ft.com/content/160e6e1a-2584-4013-8102-3ae5cfadb1d8
  3. https://obr.uk/efo/economic-and-fiscal-outlook-march-2021/ see tables 2.9 and 3.14

Original source – The Institute for Government

The UK Government was a platform pioneer. It was amongst the first to understand the potential of platforms in the design and delivery of public services—to improve how public service providers and users could interact with each other.

Early in the move to put public sector information and services online, the UK recognised that many have similar requirements. This led to the development of shared platforms—technology that could be implemented once and then re-used many times across organisations and services, rather than each organisation and service creating its own duplicate system (as in the pre-internet era).

2000 and the development of Government platforms

From late 2000 onwards, the UK created a series of shared, cross-government platforms. These platforms used open standards and open APIs to ease their integration and interoperability across both private and public sector organisations and systems. They included:

In 1994, the Government Information Service was launched, the first UK cross-government website. In 2001 it was replaced with UKonline; by Directgov in 2004 (along with the BusinessLink site to meet business needs); and by GOV.UK in October 2012

Providing identification, single sign-in and authentication services for citizens, businesses and intermediaries (those acting on behalf of others). Authentication used a range of credentials, from user ID and password to digital certificates to (later) EMV chip and PIN cards and multi-factor authentication

Orchestrating transactions between citizens and government, businesses and government, and between departments. This enabled the design and delivery of joined-up services for users, even where existing systems and processes remained siloed in multiple departments. It included Departmental Integration Servers to interface and interoperate with departments’ existing systems

Handling two-way secure communication between departments and citizens, similar to the way many banks provide secure online messaging on their websites

Handling in-bound payments to government

These platforms could be used separately, or in combination, to provide integrated services for users.

UK Government platforms in use in the early 2000s

2003 onwards

By 2003, using ‘Invest to Save Budget’ (ISB) funding, a range of additional pilots were underway to enrich the existing platforms, including:

A repository of government forms: schema, style sheets, etc.

A repository for storing a user’s data from part-completed forms

Personalisation stored a citizens’ preferences to personalise their experience while using online services. Circumstances provided a repository for citizens’ details (e.g. Forename, Surname, Address, Date of Birth, etc.) to pre-populate and auto-complete online forms with verified personal data

A central repository for rules and calculations (e.g. for welfare, taxation, etc.)

Users could choose how to receive notifications, such as a status update on a welfare claim, through their channel of choice (SMS, email, fax, etc.)

These platforms were designed in a privacy sensitive way: they enabled a user to have access to and control over their personal details, with the ability to authorise their selective disclosure if and when needed, including to pre-populate forms.

The mix of platforms provided individual personalisation of services and applied personal data stored in the user’s circumstances store. Since users’ data was validated and authenticated at the time it was acquired and stored, it also aimed to improve data quality.

The aspiration was to eventually eliminate forms: they were an out-dated hangover from the analogue paper era. In future, a user’s existing data could help to automate the determination and delivery of services, moving from a “pull” model (where users needed to apply for services via online or paper forms), to a “push” one (where users’ existing data could be used, with their consent, to determine the services to which they were entitled).

Some of the UK Government platforms in 2003

Recognition

As early as 2002, this mature platform landscape was already being acknowledged:

The UK has been in the vanguard of developing common IT architectures, and was ahead of most of the benchmark group in developing the IT core to enable secure transactions with citizens

The World’s Most Effective Policies for the e-Economy. International e-Economy Benchmarking (19 November 2002. Booz, Allen, Hamilton)

Two decades on, it’s disappointing that this early lead was later squandered—being ignored, overlooked, misunderstood or sidelined by some of those who later took charge. As a result, the UK has gone backwards in the intervening period and is years behind where it could have been.

The idea of government platforms has however recently been revived by the Government Digital Service. The new platforms developed or planned largely mirror those that existed decades ago, such as notifications, identity and single sign-in.

It’ll be interesting to see well these latest platforms are adopted across the public sector—and whether this time they thrive and survive.


This article draws on the Digital Government Archives, the more detailed review of Shared, Cross-Government Platforms and an earlier blog post UK Cross-Government Platforms, 2003 Edition.

Original source – new tech observations from a UK perspective (ntouk)

18th October 2021

Coverage of the IfG’s report on net zero and the tax system.

Source: 
Associated projects: 
Associated documents: 

Original source – The Institute for Government

The pandemic has created huge backlogs in elective care, criminal court cases, referrals to children’s social care and school learning – and failing to address these backlogs now will push up costs in future.

Performance Tracker 2021, published with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, assesses how nine public services in England – hospitals, GPs, adult social care, police, criminal courts, prisons, schools, children’s social care and neighbourhood services – have coped with the coronavirus crisis and what pressures they are expected to face over the next three years. The chancellor has already allocated extra money to help the NHS tackle backlogs, but the report says the government must consider using the spending review to allocate funds to help other key backlogged services.

The report shows that:

  • In July 2021, there were 5.6 million people waiting for elective operations, longer than at any point since at least 2007.
  • There were 58,000 criminal court cases waiting to be heard at the end of May 2021. 40% of cases had been waiting to be heard for more than six months at the end of March 2021, compared to 25% at the end of December 2019.
  • Local authorities have been unable to identify, assess and support children as quickly as they ordinarily would. There were 252,000 referrals to children’s social care between April 2020 and July 2021 – 11% fewer than the average of the same weeks between 2017 and 2020.
  • At the end of the spring 2021 term, primary school pupils were on average two months behind in reading and three months behind in maths.

Despite government spending an extra £155bn to support public services across the UK in 2020/21 and 2021/22, some services – notably schools and local authorities – did not receive enough money to cover their extra costs and have entered the recovery in a worse financial position. But, after accounting for money allocated to the NHS, defence and overseas aid, social care, schools, and the additional coronavirus spending, the money left for other ‘unprotected’ public services will be 2.3% lower in real terms in 2022/23, and 1.5% lower in 2023/24, than in 2020/21 – making it harder for staff to address backlogs.

Read Performance Tracker 2021 online:

Original source – The Institute for Government

What are county deals?

County deals are a proposed mechanism to deliver sub-national devolution in England. They will involve ‘bespoke’ agreements between the UK government and local authorities in non-metropolitan parts of the country.

As part of these deals, specified powers will be transferred from central government to the local level. Boris Johnson announced in July 2021 that new devolution deals would be negotiated with county areas, arguing that there was “no reason why our great counties cannot benefit from the same powers we have devolved to city leaders”.[1]

The government has directed local authorities to bid for powers through county deals to help them to ‘level up’ their area by increasing economic productivity, improving local services, and undertaking new infrastructure projects. According to former communities secretary Robert Jenrick, “areas with the clearest, most innovative and readily deliverable proposals that support levelling up will be prioritised”.[2]

The government is expected to provide further detail on how county deals will work in its Levelling Up White Paper, due to be published this autumn, and at the Spending Review on 27 October.

What powers may be devolved as part of county deals?

The prime minister has explicitly referred to plans for county deals to devolve powers over adult skills, local infrastructure projects, and transport systems such as bus routes.[3] Past devolution settlements in metropolitan areas have routinely included these elements, as well as powers over other forms of integrated transport, business support, planning and land use, alongside a 30-year investment fund of between £15-38 million annually.[4] Some deals with metropolitan areas have included more extensive powers over health, housing and policing.

The government has made clear that if local authorities want to achieve county deals with ambitious devolved powers, they must propose correspondingly ambitious reforms to local governance structures.

Will county deals make additional funds available to local authorities in county areas?

In previous devolution deals, such as those which agreed the creation of mayoral metropolitan combined authorities, the UK government provided additional funding for long-term investment projects. This extra funding was crucial in persuading many councils to sign off the deals.

However, ministers have not yet made any explicit promises of additional funding as part of this round of devolution deals. County deals could instead grant local areas greater flexibility over how to use existing funding streams, rather than additional resources from the Treasury.

Why have most county areas been excluded from the English devolution process until now?

Previous rounds of devolution deals, agreed by the coalition and Conservative governments since 2014, focused on transferring powers and budgets from Whitehall to metropolitan city regions.

The first devolution deal in England was concluded in 2014 by the coalition government with local authorities from the Greater Manchester area, and since then eight further devolution deals have been agreed with local leaders in ‘city regions’ across England. These nine deals have all included the formation of a combined authority headed by a directly elected ‘metro mayor’.

Two county areas – Northumberland (a unitary council) and Cambridgeshire (a county council) – have been included in devolution deals centred on the cities of Newcastle and Cambridge. Cornwall, a county area administered by a unitary authority, agreed a more limited rural devolution deal without a mayor.

23 county councils, as well as a number of unitary authorities covering county areas, have not yet agreed devolution deals.[5]

What regions could be covered by county deals?

The government has indicated that proposed county deals should operate across “a sensible economic geography of a suitable scale and one based on local identity,”[6] but it has not set out a framework to define these criteria. However, it has specified that deals will be struck with upper-tier authorities and has suggested that the geographic footprint of a county deal could encompass:

  • A county council and its district councils
  • A county council and neighbouring unitary authorities, working with district councils where appropriate
  • A single, geographically large unitary authority
  • A combination of two or more unitary authorities which share a recognisable local identity.

Local authorities will be allowed to propose the footprint of their own county deals. However, the government has specified that any proposed geography must not isolate neighbouring areas and thereby prevent them from accessing devolution opportunities.[7]

Will all areas have a county deal?

The 2019 Conservative party manifesto promised “full devolution across England”.[8] However, in line with how earlier deals were implemented, it appears unlikely that the UK government will impose county devolution on local areas.

The government is instead negotiating with local leaders on a place-by-place basis, following bids initiated by councils themselves. In previous rounds of devolution deals, many local authorities either declined to submit a bid for a deal or were unsuccessful in securing an agreement. If county deals follow a similar ‘bespoke’, locally-led approach, it seems likely that the current patchwork arrangement of sub-national devolution in England will continue.

Many counties have expressed an interest in agreeing county deals, including Surrey, Hertfordshire, Hampshire and Norfolk County Councils.[9] Other areas, such as Oxfordshire, intend to wait until the government publishes further details before deciding whether to submit a bid.[10]

Former local government minister Luke Hall confirmed to council leaders that the government would initially select a small group of proposals to run as “pilot deals”.[11] These deals are expected to be announced before the end of 2021.

How are county deals being negotiated?

There is limited information in the public domain about the process for negotiating county deals.

On 15 July 2021, Robert Jenrick, wrote to local authority leaders and mayors setting out the government’s plans for county deals and asking local authorities to come forward with proposals. The initial deadline for expressing interest was 13 August.[12]

Past negotiations over devolution deals have taken place behind closed doors through bilateral talks between leaders of local councils and the UK government, with deals ratified in a vote by local councillors.[13] The deals were formally implemented by the passage of secondary legislation in Parliament, under the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016.[14]

Will county deals lead to the creation of ‘county mayors’?

The government has suggested that county deals could strengthen local leadership by establishing elected mayors to provide a single point of accountability. The government argues that a directly elected leader could become a “champion for their area”.[15]  

However, an elected mayor is not necessarily a requirement for achieving a county deal.[16] The government has signalled that it will consider ”other governance proposals that increase stability and strengthen local leadership”.[17] The government has not yet set out which alternative accountability structures it will accept, instead inviting local authorities to suggest their own plans for governance.

East Riding and Hull City Councils have indicated their preference for forming a combined authority without an elected mayor as part of their ongoing devolution negotiations,[18] while other county councils have reported that they may propose reorganising as unitary authorities in order to access devolved powers without adopting a directly elected mayor.[19] It is possible that existing unitary authorities in county areas could also be granted devolved powers without adopting the mayoral model. This would follow the framework of Cornwall’s 2015 devolution deal.

Flexibility could prove crucial. In previous rounds of devolution negotiations, the government’s insistence that deals must include a directly elected mayor led to the collapse of several deals. Hampshire County Council stated in 2016, for instance, that it did “not see [a mayor] as the right model for a large, diverse and extensively rural area such as Hampshire and the Isle of Wight”’.[20]

In October 2021, a survey by the County Council Network found that just three county leaders of 28 respondents favoured a directly elected mayor.

 

  1. Johnson B, ‘The prime minister’s levelling up speech: 15 July 2021’, retrieved 30 September 2021, www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-prime-ministers-levelling-up-speech-15-july-2021
  2. Letter from Robert Jenrick to Local Authority Leaders and Chief Executives and Mayors’, 15 July 2021, www.emcouncils.gov.uk/write/150721_SoS_MHCLG_letter_-_County_Deals.pdf
  3. Johnson B, ‘The prime minister’s levelling up speech: 15 July 2021’, retrieved 30 September 2021, www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-prime-ministers-levelling-up-speech-15-july-2021
  4. Sandford M, ‘Devolution to local government in England’, House of Commons Library, Briefing Paper 07029, 26 March 2020, https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN07029/SN07029.pdf
  5. In April 2019, there were 26 county councils according to data published on Gov.uk. Since then, Buckinghamshire County Council has unitarised and Northamptonshire County Council has split into two unitary authorities. There are therefore 24 remaining county councils of which one, Cambridgeshire, is part of an existing devolution deal. Source: Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, ‘Local government structure and elections’, 3 April 2019, retrieved 5 October 2021, www.gov.uk/guidance/local-government-structure-and-elections
  6. Letter from Robert Jenrick to Local Authority Leaders and Chief Executives and Mayors’, 15 July 2021, www.emcouncils.gov.uk/write/150721_SoS_MHCLG_letter_-_County_Deals.pdf
  7. Hill J, ‘More deals of county deals criteria emerge’, Local Government Chronicle, 4 August 2021, retrieved 30 September 2021, www.lgcplus.com/politics/devolution-and-economic-growth/more-details-of-county-deals-criteria-emerge-04-08-2021/
  8. ‘Get Brexit Done’, Conservative Party Manifesto, 2019, p. 29, https://assets-global.website-files.com/5da42e2cae7ebd3f8bde353c/5dda924905da587992a064ba_Conservative%202019%20Manifesto.pdf
  9. Knott J, ‘Revealed: more councils bid for county devo talks’, Local Government Chronicle, 18 August 2021, retrieved 4 October 2021, https://www.lgcplus.com/politics/devolution-and-economic-growth/revealed-more-councils-bid-for-county-devo-talks-18-08-2021/; Price D, ‘Hertforshire bids to be one of Government’s ‘County Deals’, Watford Observer, 13 September 2021, retrieved 30 September 2021, www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/19575734.hertfordshire-bids-one-governments-county-deals/; George D, ‘Hampshire County Council submits bid for inclusion in ‘county deals’ pilot, The Portsmouth News, 17 August 2021, retrieved 30 September 2021, www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/politics/hampshire-county-council-submits-bid-for-inclusion-in-county-deals-pilot-3348992; Kenyon M, ‘Norfolk expresses interest in county deal as others wait’, Local Government Chronicle, 24 August 2021, retrieved 30 September 2021, www.lgcplus.com/politics/devolution-and-economic-growth/norfolk-expresses-interest-in-county-deal-24-08-2021/
  10. Smulian M, ‘Areas hold back on county deal plans ahead of white paper’, Local Government Chronicle, 30 September 2021, retrieved 4 October 2021, www.lgcplus.com/politics/devolution-and-economic-growth/areas-hold-back-on-county-deal-plans-ahead-of-white-paper-30-09-2021/
  11. Hill J, ‘More deals of county deals criteria emerge’, Local Government Chronicle, 4 August 2021, retrieved 30 September 2021, www.lgcplus.com/politics/devolution-and-economic-growth/more-details-of-county-deals-criteria-emerge-04-08-2021/
  12. Knott J, Hill J, Kenyon M and Smulian M, ‘LGC map reveals emerging devolution plans’, Local Government Chronicle, 14 September 2021, retrieved 30 September 2021, www.lgcplus.com/politics/governance-and-structure/opening-pandoras-box-emerging-devolution-plans-revealed-14-09-2021/
  13. Sandford M, ‘Devolution to local government in England’, House of Commons Library, Briefing Paper 07029, 26 March 2020, https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN07029/SN07029.pdf
  14. Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016, c.1, www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2016/1/notes/division/6/index.htm ; Sandford M, ‘Devolution to local government in England’, House of Commons Library, Briefing Paper 07029, 26 March 2020, p.17, https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN07029/SN07029.pdf ; Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, ‘Secretary of State’s Annual Report on Devolution 2019-20’ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/969199/CM_Devolution_2019-20_for…
  15. Letter from Robert Jenrick to Local Authority Leaders and Chief Executives and Mayors’, 15 July 2021, www.emcouncils.gov.uk/write/150721_SoS_MHCLG_letter_-_County_Deals.pdf
  16. Knott J, ‘Revealed: more councils bid for county devo talks’, Local Government Chronicle, 18 August 2021, retrieved 30 September 2021, www.lgcplus.com/politics/devolution-and-economic-growth/revealed-more-councils-bid-for-county-devo-talks-18-08-2021/
  17. Letter from Robert Jenrick to Local Authority Leaders and Chief Executives and Mayors’, 15 July 2021, www.emcouncils.gov.uk/write/150721_SoS_MHCLG_letter_-_County_Deals.pdf
  18. Young A, ‘Hull and East Riding councils shelve elected mayor idea as they continue to press for devolution deal’, Hull Live, 21 September 2021, retrieved 5 October 2021, https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/hull-east-yorkshire-news/hull-east-riding-councils-shelve-5943944
  19. Knott J, ‘Revealed: more councils bid for county devo talks’, Local Government Chronicle, 18 August 2021, retrieved 5 October 2021, www.lgcplus.com/politics/devolution-and-economic-growth/revealed-more-councils-bid-for-county-devo-talks-18-08-2021/
  20. Franklin J, ‘’We don’t want a mayor here’ say council leaders’, Southern Daily Echo, 15 February 2016, retrieved 30 September 2021, www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/politics/14277197.we-dont-want-a-mayor-here-say-council-leaders/
Update date: 
Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Original source – The Institute for Government

Reasonable people are shocked at the killing of MP David Amess.

But this shines a wider light on the issue of online hate around the wider process of democracy.

One MP’s constituency manager interviewed on BBC Radio 4 spoke of logging 100 death threats a week.

But I’m also sure in local government, elected members are also threatened. 

The LGA have a really useful download on handling intimidation that you can find here that can help people in the public eye. 

Data says that comms people are in the firing line

In the most recentb set from June 2021, of the 400 respondents who work in pubklic sector comms, 30.4 per cent have seen verbal abuse aimed at their organisation, 13.2 per cent have had it aimed at them or a member of staff, 6.3 per cent have revieded threats of violence and 8.3 per cent have seen racist abuse.

That’s all on a weekly basis.

Anecdotally, going back several years people in comms have been stalked online and have taken time off with their mental health. 

To act is to be reasonable

Now, this isn’t on a par with being stabbed in person but this is part of the side wash of the wider problem that should be taken seriously. 

I’ve blogged before on the legal requirement to log threats as health and safety issues. Why? Two reasons. Because the law classifies a threat as violence in the workplace and it’s the law to log them and for the employer to take steps. 

When I cover this in training on how to handle comment, criticism and abuse there’s often surprise. 

Right now, in too many places it’s just seen as a part of the job to just shrug off. 

That’s just not good enough. 

Reasonable managers will be happy to act on this. 

Original source – The Dan Slee Blog » LOCAL SOCIAL: Is it time for a Local localgovcamp?

Reasonable people are shocked at the killing of MP David Amess.

But this shines a wider light on the issue of online hate around the wider process of democracy.

One MP’s constituency manager interviewed on BBC Radio 4 spoke of logging 100 death threats a week.

But I’m also sure in local government, elected members are also threatened. 

The LGA have a really useful download on handling intimidation that you can find here that can help people in the public eye. 

Data says that comms people are in the firing line

In the most recentb set from June 2021, of the 400 respondents who work in pubklic sector comms, 30.4 per cent have seen verbal abuse aimed at their organisation, 13.2 per cent have had it aimed at them or a member of staff, 6.3 per cent have revieded threats of violence and 8.3 per cent have seen racist abuse.

That’s all on a weekly basis.

Anecdotally, going back several years people in comms have been stalked online and have taken time off with their mental health. 

To act is to be reasonable

Now, this isn’t on a par with being stabbed in person but this is part of the side wash of the wider problem that should be taken seriously. 

I’ve blogged before on the legal requirement to log threats as health and safety issues. Why? Two reasons. Because the law classifies a threat as violence in the workplace and it’s the law to log them and for the employer to take steps. 

When I cover this in training on how to handle comment, criticism and abuse there’s often surprise. 

Right now, in too many places it’s just seen as a part of the job to just shrug off. 

That’s just not good enough. 

Reasonable managers will be happy to act on this. 

Original source – The Dan Slee Blog » LOCAL SOCIAL: Is it time for a Local localgovcamp?

With COP26 less than three weeks away, Rishi Sunak’s forthcoming budget must set out a coherent tax strategy to help the UK transition to a zero carbon economy. Failing to set out a clear and consistent approach to reaching net zero will raise the costs of the transition.

The chancellor has so far been silent on how the tax system could be used to support businesses and households to make the transition, and the Treasury’s net zero review – promised for spring 2020 – has still not been published. Current concerns over rising energy prices for both households and businesses, and fuel shortages may provide a further excuse for inaction. 

Even if the chancellor does not want to actively use the tax system to promote the transition to net zero, he cannot avoid the consequences of existing policies. The move to electric cars will, over time, eliminate the £27 billion a year the Exchequer raises from fuel duty. Without a plan to shift the burden to other motoring taxes, that hole in public finances could require hefty increases in income tax.

But there is a strong case for Rishi Sunak to demonstrate that he is prepared to deploy the full range of Treasury instruments to meet the government’s target. That means reviewing existing perverse incentives – like the minimal taxation of flying despite its significant carbon impact, and the reduced rate of VAT on new build, which incentivises demolition over retrofits – and at the scope for using the tax system positively to encourage businesses and households to move to net zero.

This report says the Treasury should:

  • Publish its net zero review which set out estimates of the cost of the transition; who will bear the direct costs; how these will be shared between the taxpayer and consumers; to what extent the Treasury will look to borrowing to meet its aims.
  • Commit to a net zero tax audit to ensure that the current tax system as a whole supports the transition. This should cover all taxes, not just the few that the Treasury defines as environmental taxes.
  • Ensure that future tax changes are net zero proofed. Either the Office for Budget Responsibility or the Climate Change Committee should assess budget measures for compatibility with the net zero goals. 
  • Ensure tax policy is properly integrated into departmental sectoral strategies. It makes no sense for the transport decarbonisation strategy to say nothing about future taxes on motorists.
  • Change will be difficult for many households and businesses, and the chancellor needs both to engage with the public to make sure measures gain and retain public consent, and to work with colleagues to support those who are least able to bear the costs of change.

Original source – The Institute for Government

Three months have passed since the UK government declared it wanted to fundamentally rewrite the Northern Ireland Protocol, and the EU has now put forward an ‘alternative model’. It has portrayed this as a response to concerns raised by political leaders and businesses in Northern Ireland, but while both the EU and the UK have come to realise difficulties which they hadn’t foreseen Lord Frost will see this as a vindicating his tough negotiating stance and repeated threats to trigger Article 16. A route to a deal looks possible.

However, while the EU has offered real concessions, these proposals are far from ‘oven ready’, and further compromise on both sides will be necessary. For the UK, this requires setting aside is ideological opposition to the role of the European Court of Justice in exchange for fixing some of the practical problems on the ground.

The EU has offered real concessions which Northern Ireland businesses welcome

The European Commission has, until now, been unwilling to compromise on the strict application of its rules on animal and plant health that it argued were vital to protecting the EU single market. But the EU says its latest proposals will reduce these checks by 80%, suggesting the kinds of easements that it rejected during the years of negotiations with Theresa May’s government.

The EU has also offered to remove some customs paperwork for traders whose goods meet the criteria to prove they are staying in Northern Ireland, and has made some further proposals to  minimise disruption to the supply of medicines.  

This is all good news for Northern Ireland businesses, addressing many of the problems they have raised. However, while Commission vice president Maroš Šefčovič has said it was Northern Ireland stakeholders who informed and shaped the proposals, it is the UK government that the EU will be negotiating with – and these proposals fall still short of the UK’s demands.  

The EU’s proposals do not go far enough – further compromise will be needed

While the new approach would free business from much of the bureaucracy of the current protocol, the EU’s proposed flesibilities comie with conditions and safeguarding measures which will be unappetising to UK ministers.

The EU may have found a solution to allow sausages – usually prohibited from moving from a third country to the EU’s regulatory zone – to cross the Irish sea, but this requires Great Britain to align with EU production standards. There are also mechanisms to allow the EU to act swiftly and unilaterally if it feels rules have been breached, and new rights for EU officials to monitor checks on the grounds. This is likely to be a sensitive topic, with the UK already having refused permission for Commission to have a permanent office in Belfast.[1]

Several proposals also include review or termination clauses, which mean the flexibilities could end at the EU’s behest. It is understandable that the Commission wants mechanisms to penalise a government with form on going back on agreements, but the UK government – which has repeatedly demonstrated that sovereignty is a prize to be a valued above any other – will be resistant.

The UK will need to compromise on the role of ECJ

While the EU’s proposals are a big opening offer, the biggest problem is what these proposals leave out. The UK wants to see changes to VAT, state aid, the movements of pets and, most problematically, the role of the European Court of Justice in enforcing EU law in Northern Ireland, but – so far at least – the EU is not willing to make further concessions in these areas.

For the UK, the role of the ECJ is about sovereignty. Having fought so hard to avoid a role for the court in the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, even compromise options – like the Swiss model that maintains a role for the court but gives final decisions to an arbitration panel – may well be unacceptable to Brexit minister Lord Frost. But the EU sees the ECJ’s role in upholding EU law as central to its legal order, and a red line that cannot be crossed.

To date, the prime minister has backed Lord Frost’s approach – but Boris Johnson will be under pressure to compromise if it paves the way for an agreement that addresses the practical problems on the ground.

Solutions that address many of the UK government’s concerns with the protocol are available, but any way forward will involve a role for the ECJ. The next few weeks will determine whether the government will opt for practical fixes, or sacrifice them in the name of preserving its red lines.

This comment was co-authored with Joe Marshall

 

[1] https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2020/0401/1127912-eu-belfast/

Original source – The Institute for Government