Category Archives: The Independent View

The Independent View: The Living Wage can be fair but affordable in tough economic times

On Saturday, Adam Corlett outlined his concern that how the Living Wage is calculated could cause problematic increases over the next few years. He raises some valid issues. However, the Living Wage has been designed so that it cannot rise uncontrollably, and in reality it is likely to rise much less, relative to general pay, than Adam is suggesting.

The Living Wage’s growing popularity shows so many employers have been willing to take on the commitment to pay enough for a decent living standard, even though times are tough. With average living standards going down, this reflects a widespread moral view …

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The Independent View: The Lobbying Bill threatens grass-roots campaigning

 gagging law

Take a good look at this picture. This is what grass-roots political activism looks like – and you’ll be seeing a lot less of it if the coalition’s “Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill” becomes law.

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The Independent View: The merits of Swedish-style localism in improving UK healthcare

Swedish flagDebate about NHS reform has been intense in 2013 as the service has entered its historic 65th year and the need for greater accountability has become apparent in response to lapses in care such as those at Mid Staffordshire.

In light of this, it is important to learn from what is already established practice abroad and one of the best examples is Sweden, a nation with a word-class healthcare system with a history and ethos closely comparable with our own revered health service.  It was developed after the war by a reforming social democratic government, it is financed from general taxation, it is universally accessible and it was traditionally provided by the state.  On closer inspection, however, there are significant differences in both design and performance which may be instructive for the UK.

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The Independent View: I know what next month’s living wage will be and it doesn’t relate to the cost of living

On 4 November we will learn the level of the new Living Wage, which many employers have volunteered to pay as a minimum. At present it is £7.45 an hour outside London. I’m betting that next month it will rise to £7.65.* How do I know? Well, the current calculation is remarkably simple, and it has nothing to do with the cost of living. What’s more, future increases risk making proposed living wage policies unaffordable or even damaging.

Academics at Loughborough University do calculate the wage needed to fund, after tax and benefits, what members of the public consider a basic …

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Tsar code of practice could have stopped Nick Clegg’s mistake with Caan

tsar 200The government’s growing use of tsars is not governed by the principles or rules that apply to other advice given to ministers. It is time for a code of practice. That could have shielded Nick Clegg from his mistakes over James Caan.

Nick Clegg has enlisted two social mobility tsars.

He appointed Alan Milburn as his Independent Reviewer on Social Mobility in 2010 and appointed him to the chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission in 2011. (Clegg welcomed the Commission’s report yesterday.)

Two years later, Clegg launched Opening Doors, which aimed to give more young people from poor backgrounds access to work opportunities on merit. In June 2013, he announced the Opening Door Awards and asked businessman James Caan to chair the panel of five judges. The awards are intended to recognise employers’ efforts to take on capable young people whatever their backgrounds; winners will be announced in November 2013.

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2014 Councillor Achievement Awards are now open for nominations

Do you know an inspirational councillor who has gone above and beyond expectations to serve their community?

The LGiU and CCLA are delighted to announce that the 2014 Annual Cllr Achievement Awards are now open for nominations. Back for a fifth year, the Cllr Awards are the only national awards ceremony to celebrate the outstanding work of councillors from across the political spectrum.

Councillors play a vital role in championing the interests of their communities, but all too often their contributions can be overlooked and undervalued. The C’llr Awards provides a brilliant opportunity to highlight the dedication and commitment …

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Labour Uncut editor Atul Hatwal writes… The two paths to a Labour deal with the Lib Dems

There’s a lot of nonsense talked about the Lib Dems. Intermittent stories about a UKIP surge into third and a Lib Dem collapse to below 10% at the election are symptomatic of an excitable Westminster bubble rather than the reality on the ground.

I write this not as a committed Lib Dem supporter, hoping for the best. Far from it, I’m lifelong Labour (boo, hiss) and even edit a Labour blog – Labour Uncut. But if Labour want to maximise their chances of becoming the government after the next election, it’s important that they take a realistic view of …

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Closed for business? The UK needs more foreign students

Heathrow Immigration QueuesConflating international students’ use of the health service with so-called ‘health tourism’ sends out the wrong message to prospective students.

The government’s new Immigration Bill, according to immigration minister Mark Harper will:

Stop migrants using public services to which they are not entitled, reduce the pull factors which encourage people to come to the UK and make it easier to remove people who should not be here.

The measures focus on enforcement and clamping down. They include a requirement for temporary migrants, such as overseas students, to make a contribution to the National Health Service to prevent so-called “health tourism”.

International students make up around half of all migrants coming to the UK. According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, they contributed £13.1 billion to the national economy in 2011.

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The Independent View: The Lib Dems can – and should – be the Party of the Entrepreneurs

Every party claims, in some way, to be on the side of small business, but none has really given new and potential businesses much time or attention. Firms that do not yet exist are much less easy to champion and harder still to help than existing small businesses, but they are no less important.

It may be no wonder, then, that not one of the three main party leaders mentioned entrepreneurs in their Autumn conference speeches. That’s why today we at the Adam Smith Institute are helping to launch The Entrepreneurs Network, a new think tank dedicated to giving …

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The Independent View: Endgames – International lessons for the Liberal Democrats in the final phase of coalition

institute for governmentIn Nick Clegg’s party conference speech last week the Deputy Prime Minister made it clear that he wants the Liberal Democrats to remain a ‘party of government’ beyond 2015. This requires the party both to make a success of the next 18 months, and to plan effectively for the period beyond the next election.

Based on research into coalitions in other countries – and the specific question of how smaller parties have fared – the Institute for Government recently published a paper setting out five lessons for the Liberal …

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The Independent View: Will competition and choice open up the banking sector for the better?

Credits CardsIn light of the launch of this week’s Current Account Switching Scheme, the Liberal Democrat conference was well timed to ask at a fringe meeting: “Will competition and choice open up the banking sector?”

In short, the scheme guarantees that anyone who wishes to move their current bank account to another institution will be able to do so hassle-free in seven working days. No burden is placed on the customer and it is all underpinned by a seven-day guarantee. This is real progress from the previous 30-day process and importantly the lack of a guarantee that often saw customers doing the legwork themselves. I hope to see positive effects of the changes in the months to come.

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The Independent View: A liberal democracy must protect all people from the state. Support Emergency Motion 2 on Legal Aid

Last week Chris Grayling, the Minister for Justice, responded to 16,000 consultation objections, with changes to his criminal legal aid proposals.  He conceded that someone who’s been arrested should be able to choose their solicitor; and criminal representation shouldn’t be just about price, but quality too.

You may think justice has been saved. But it hasn’t. Far from it. Which is why we are asking you to urge your conference voting reps to choose the Legal Aid Motion (Emergency Motion 2) for debate.

Because Chris Grayling is still removing legal aid and access to justice from whole groups of people, defined by …

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The Independent View: Conference 2013: Lib Dems must stand up for the environment

For a fleeting moment in May 2010 there was genuine optimism that the environment might be put at the heart of Britain’s political agenda.

With a coalition of Liberal Democrats, praised by many, including Friends of the Earth, for their manifesto’s prioritisation of environmental issues, joining forces with a ‘vote blue, go green’ Tory party, fresh from championing the Climate Change Act, it looked as if yellow and blue really could produce green.

But three and a half years later Cameron’s pledge to lead the “greenest Government ever” now seems little more than a cynical sound bite.

Perhaps less expected is the …

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The Independent View: No real choice on nuclear

Atoms are not the only fission products of nuclear power. This is a technology with a unique capacity to divide people and parties. The pro- and anti- lobbies have been fighting it out for forty years and are no nearer to agreeing about its role in our energy system than they were when they began.

When we joined the Coalition we had a settled policy that was an important part of our distinctiveness as the greenest of the major parties. The policy we took into the Coalition Agreement was clear and unambiguous. We had long opposed any new nuclear construction. In …

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The Independent View: Legal Aid for children in prison. A disastrous day for liberal values

Today is a disastrous day for children in prison. The abolition of legal aid for children in prison will give a blanket of secrecy to child abuse.

The Howard League legal team has represented hundreds of children in prisons and privately run secure training centres to help them to progress successfully through their incarceration and to make sure the arrangements for their resettlement are safe and supportive. Legal aid to pay for this work is being abolished.

Not only will this mean that children will not get the courses they need to address their offending or the local authority support to …

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Independent View: Cable should revisit Mill’s Principles of Political Economy

John Stuart MillCable should revisit Mill’s Principles of Political Economy

With new analysis this week showing as many as 50,000 women lose their jobs each year while taking time off to have a baby, insecurity appears to be the new normal for British workers.

From mothers losing out whilst on maternity leave, to the rocketing growth of zero hour contracts on which as many as 1m people are now employed, millions of people face instability at work. These bad employment practices combined with the on-going squeeze on wages means that over half of people say they struggle to keep up with bills. As conference approaches, Vince Cable would do well to consider these issues as matters of pressing importance.

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The Independent View: Concerns about lobbying bill are not alarmist

So the pot has addressed the kettle again. Tom Brake and Chloe Smith have accused 38 Degrees of being either alarmist or scaremongering about the effects of Part 2 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. Perhaps they would like to add the  famously hysterical Electoral Commission to their list of doom-mongers, as they have also expressed serious concerns.

Mr Brake and Ms Smith claim that Part 2 will save the UK from unaccountable big-spending American-style Super-PACs. No alarmism there, then – especially when the only thing preventing this horror is that non-party spending …

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The Independent View: It’s not alarmist to raise concerns about government plans for non-party campaigning

The government ministers leading on the transparency of lobbying, non-party campaigning and trade union administration bill need to make their minds up. Last week, the newspapers were briefed that the government was “open to changes” to the bill following severe criticism from senior charities. This week, Tom Brake and Chloe Smith are lining up to attack 38 Degrees for “scaremongering” over the bill. So what is the truth?

Unlock Democracy has campaigned for several years now for the introduction of a statutory lobbying register and so has taken a keen interest in this bill. Our

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The Independent View: Lost hours playing Snake – and reining in the banks on food pricing

About a decade ago I was addicted to the classic Nokia game, Snake. If I had a spare few minutes I’d be guiding my pixelated reptile around the black and white screen of my mobile phone, trying to beat my high score. It was simple, hopelessly addictive and I couldn’t put it down.

As I happily helped the Snake on my screen eat itself full, like most people I was blissfully unaware that something was seriously unfair with global food pricing. The rules governing how much food costs – and banks taking advantage of them – was, and still is, locking …

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The Independent View: Time to bring industry into the classroom

 Too many young people leave education without the skills and understanding of industry that businesses need. The big increase in apprenticeships in recent years means that a lot more people are now experiencing vocational learning on the job.
But there is still a problem in further education colleges, where most vocational learners still get all or the majority their training. Currently only around 11% of teaching staff at these colleges also work in their chosen profession. In certain sectors such as STEM, where industry standards and practice move fast, knowledge can quickly become out of date. This leads to a gap

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The Independent View: Liberal Democrats should support nuclear power

nuclear-power-station

Liberal Democrats should vote to support nuclear power at the 2013 conference. I say this after 20 years campaigning against nuclear power, including five years as head of Greenpeace UK. Nuclear is not perfect. But it is better than fossil fuels.

The best form of energy is energy efficiency. Next best are renewables. But however efficient we get, and however fast we expand wind, it will take many decades before we can be entirely reliant on renewables. Denmark has set itself a target of 2050 for this. The EU has a target of 20% by 2020. If the 2020 target is met, that still leaves 80% of the journey to travel. So other low-carbon technologies are needed to protect the climate.

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Independent View: Conference – Time to kick the nuclear energy habit

Nuclear no thanksThe movement against nuclear energy waits anxiously. Given Ed Davey’s apparent enthusiasm for new nuclear, it is more than a little alarming to learn that a proposal to support nuclear new build has been put forward as part of the Green Growth and Green Jobs debate at Glasgow. Are Lib Dem’s really willing to abandon one of the party’s unique selling points?

The proposal (Option B 4.3.3) asserts that nuclear power could play a limited role in achieving a zero carbon Britain – provided that concerns about safety, disposal of radioactive waste and cost, including decommissioning, can be adequately addressed. If we could turn the optimism behind this motion into energy, we’d be able to keep the lights on forever.

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The Independent View: Early years reform – should Clegg take another stand?

childcareWith a childcare announcement expected imminently, early years is shaping up to be both a key battleground for the next election and a major coalition split. All agree on wanting to bring down prices for parents, while driving the quality and accessibility of childcare. So far so good. But since More Great Childcare was published at the start of the year, proposals have courted criticism, with experts questioning whether this reform package would actually jeopardise quality and push up costs.

In a high profile move last month, Nick Clegg stepped in …

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The Independent View: Employee ownership and responsible capitalism go hand in hand

The Fourth of July was a day of celebration in the UK this year. It was the first annual Employee Ownership Day, designed to raise awareness of employee owned business. Celebrations were more reserved than the Fourth of July celebrations in the US – the most indulgent thing I could find was a commemorative cushion cover made in a John Lewis factory in Lancashire. But employee ownership is definitely something to be celebrated, even if we don’t go in for the carnivals and fireworks.

Employee Ownership Day is part of a wider government strategy to promote employee ownership. Other initiatives …

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The Independent View: Trident – when two into four doesn’t go

It is welcome that Danny Alexander is to publish a paper into the alternatives to a like-for-like replacement for Trident this summer. In doing so, the Liberal Democrats have made a sea-change in the transparency of British nuclear weapons policy, which for more than half-a-century has been veiled in official secrecy and occluded behind impenetrable bromides.

But the leaks surrounding the paper suggesting a “Third Way” style compromise on Trident by reducing the number of submarines to two feels hollow. The current four submarine Trident force is the minimum currently required to ensure that one is always at sea

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The Independent View: What does the Spending Review mean for UK cities?

This week’s announcements were both a preview of the coalition’s spending plans for 2015/16 and a sign of the government’s direction of travel. For cities, the spending review was mixed. Despite the Government delivering the Single Local Growth Fund devolution was fairly limited, with an emphasis on central government control rather than local autonomy, and most of the policy announcements lacked a focus on ‘place’.

Wednesday’s announcement of the Single Local Growth Fund was an important move towards greater localism, but the allocation of £2bn a year for five years was paltry compared with the £49bn over four years Heseltine …

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The Independent View: In tough times, parents need the government to help them, not to judge them

fifties-familyBackbench Conservative MPs are causing trouble and the marriage tax allowance is rearing its ugly head again. First, the so-called Alternative Queen’s speech would introduce tax breaks for married couples, alongside other excruciatingly right wing measures such as a Margaret Thatcher Day and the reintroduction of the Death Penalty. Also this week Tim Loughton has tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill which would introduce a tax break for married couples with children under five, where one parent is a breadwinner and the other is a

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The Independent View: rheumatoid arthritis and public awareness

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system attacks the body instead of defending it, causing inflammation that often results in serious damage to bones, joints and tendons, and can also affect internal organs like the heart, eyes and lungs. Currently the disease affects an estimated 690,000 people across the UK.

To coincide with the launch of the first national Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week, NRAS has today published a major new report on public awareness of the disease called ‘Breaking Down Barriers’, which includes a ComRes survey of over 2000 members of the British …

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The Independent View: Government must do more on youth unemployment

More than a year has passed since Nick Clegg launched his flagship £1 billion Youth Contract. The Deputy Prime Minister pinned his hopes on the scheme, hailing it as “a major moment for Britain’s young unemployed people”. Clegg’s scheme, it was promised, would set young people on “the path to work” before the long term damage is done.

Yet one year on and youth unemployment remains one of the biggest challenges we face as a nation. The number of young adults seeking a job continues to cling to one million – and it has done for nearly four years. There is …

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The Independent View: An invitation to ORGCon 2013: the UK’s leading digital rights conference

It becomes clearer every year how technology affects our rights and civil liberties in all sorts of ways. Businesses or governments try to block access to more information online. States make ever more demands for powers to surveil their citizens. Some of the laws governing what we can say on the Internet are too strict, with people punished severely for saying something online that would not be an offence if it was said in the local pub.

Open Rights Group’s national conference ‘ORGCon’ is the place to learn about, discuss and debate how technology affects our freedoms and democracy in these …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarEd Wilson 18th Apr - 10:12pm
    Let's try again. "...power 4 million homes..." means onshore wind produces a number of kilowatt hours which, when divided by the notional power consumption of...
  • User AvatarRoland 18th Apr - 9:56pm
    A scary thought has just occurred - the Pensions Minister either doesn't actually know or want us to know, just how much pension tax relief...
  • User AvatarRoland 18th Apr - 9:46pm
    Ed Davey's defense of on-shore wind is totally undermined by the hard data coming out of NETA... Whilst there might be sufficient capacity to provide...
  • User AvatarRoland 18th Apr - 9:39pm
    Whilst Steve Webb (deliberately?) overlooks the simple fact that the low pay receive disproportionally more from the state than the higher paid, I think the...
  • User Avatariain bb 18th Apr - 9:29pm
    If Greaves says 1950 then I guess he's right. By chance I was handed a Manchester Guardian for 25 February 1950 the other day and...
  • User AvatarDavid-1 18th Apr - 8:44pm
    Here is David Lloyd George speaking in 1931: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/mr-lloyd-george-speaks-to-the-nation