Budget 2014: taxing debates

The Chancellor should focus on rewarding work by taxing wealth, argues Jonathan Todd.

Conservative MP Nick de Bois is half right. He's right that the ‘squeezed middle’ is further squeezed by income tax thresholds that have not kept pace with changes in wages and prices. He's wrong – like most politicians – to think that any update should not also apply to council tax. As much as perverse outcomes follow from the threshold for the 40p income tax rate remaining at the same level as when it was first introduced in 1988, it's also curious and d...

Posted by Jonathan Todd on 17 Mar 2014
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The Twitter effect

Alex Krasodomski-Jones on what #Duggan teaches us about how social media and the real world interact.

Since the first Tweet was sent in 2006, Twitter has become the mouthpiece of almost 650 million users: a sizeable digital chorus with eyes and ears all over the world, providing a running commentary on almost any topic conceivable. These users have, through weight of numbers alone, qualitatively changed the nature of social media. Every event now comes with a swarming cloud of Twitter comments and reports, which often is significant enough to impact – or even initiate – events fa...

Posted by Alex Krasodomski-Jones on 13 Mar 2014
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GDP growth continues but more apprentices needed

As the recovery continues, Jonathan Todd asks how to make it work for apprentices?

Yesterday, the ONS maintained its preliminary estimate of GDP growth for the last quarter of 2013 at 0.7 per cent. This seems to confirm that the economy is now in recovery phase. However, as David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), noted, it is now important to improve the quality of Britain’s recovery. Britain’s manufacturing sector did not grow as fast as first thought in the last three months of 2013. The makers who are on the march are builders....

Posted by Jonathan Todd on 26 Feb 2014
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Should welfare be a ‘moral mission’?

Claudia Wood calls for welfare reform based on a grasp of what works, not a crusade.

I was asked today to comment on the unfolding dispute between the Archbishop of Westminster and David Cameron regarding the 'morality' of welfare reform. The Archbishop made the point that while the case for reforming welfare was sound, the way it had been implemented had led to unintended consequences which meant people were facing destitution – an outrage in such a wealthy country. He was no doubt referring to the hundreds of thousands of people affected by benefit sanct...

Posted by Claudia Wood on 19 Feb 2014
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Bottom-up public services

Ally Paget reacts to Ed Miliband's plans to give more power to public service users.

Yesterday, Ed Miliband set out his party’s vision for a more responsive, more accountable state. While he acknowledged the need for further cuts, it is also highly encouraging to see Labour committing to public services designed from the bottom up as the key to saving costs in the long run. It’s heartening, too, to see Miliband building on the ‘choice and competition’ agenda which, though a watchword of the Coalition’s reforms, also underpinned the previous Labo...

Posted by Ally Paget on 11 Feb 2014
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#BenefitsStreet

Jamie Bartlett charts the online reaction to Channel 4's controversial documentary series.

I’ve rarely seen a programme talked about as much as Channel 4’s documentary Benefits Street. The kitchen sink drama has been hailed as a gritty real life account of life on welfare; bemoaned as ‘poverty porn’ that demeans and stereotypes poor people; and proof of broken Britain. Two weeks ago no less than half of the BBC’s Question Time was dedicated to the programme (granted, it was a slow news week).   The programme has generated bytes and bytes of onli...

Posted by Jamie Bartlett on 11 Feb 2014
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People power

Duncan O'Leary provides some advice for Ed Miliband ahead of a major speech on public service reform.

Ed Miliband is due to give the Hugo Young Lecture next week. It comes at a time when the opposition is starting to show its hand on policy, but these sorts of occasions are often worth watching in any case. They present opportunities for politicians to paint their ideas on a broader canvas. In 2009 David Cameron delivered the lecture and made his pitch on the big society ('The recent growth of the state has promoted not social solidarity, but selfishness and individualism....

Posted by Duncan O'Leary on 07 Feb 2014
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Mind the gap

The attainment gap in education isn't closing. We need to work out why, says Ian Wybron.

GCSE figures released last week show that the gap in attainment between richer and poorer students is widening. Demos analysis of the latest figures show that, in 2013, 38.1% of children on Free School Meals hit the government’s benchmark of 5 or more A*- C grades at GCSE (including English and Maths), compared to 64.8% of all other pupils. This represents a national attainment gap of 26.7% - an increase of 0.3% on the previous year. Looking at the local level reveals more. Not only di...

Posted by Ian Wybron on 27 Jan 2014
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Mixed messages weaken families’ relationships

Jo Salter explains how current social policy undervalues the supportive role that family can play.

There is a growing tension between the role of public services in supporting families, and sanctioning their behaviour. This may strike some as an abstract, political problem, but in the daily lives of struggling families these mixed signals can cause doubt and confusion that serve to undermine trust in public services among their intended recipients and risk compromising their effectiveness. In research published by Demos today, which explores the relationship between families in Scotland f...

Posted by Jo Salter on 21 Jan 2014
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When the going gets tough

In trying to 'out-tough' the Tories on welfare, Rachel Reeves is losing the argument, writes Claudia Wood.

It is becoming clear that the run up to the general election will increasingly turn into a game of one-upmanship. With each populist pledge the Conservatives make regarding immigration or welfare, Labour is prompted to bring out its own version. In October, as Rachel Reeves took over from Liam Byrne as the shadow work and pensions secretary, she vowed that ‘Labour would be tougher on welfare than the Tories’. This approach confirmed the Conservatives’ success in reframing t...

Posted by Claudia Wood on 20 Jan 2014
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