Creating competition

Taking on the banks' market dominance doesn't mean breaking up the banks, argues Jodie Ginsberg.

This week, the stranglehold that high street banks have over key bank services - like current accounts, small business lending, and mortgages - came back into view thanks to Ed Miliband's eye-catching pledge to break up the bigger banks. This would create more competitors, Labour reasons, improving services for consumers. There is no doubt we need more competition in financial services, but there are other ways to deliver competition - ways that may also be more effective in de...

Posted by Jodie Ginsberg on 20 Jan 2014
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Government as 'shop steward'

Duncan O'Leary continues his series profiling the options for economic reform by Government, looking at jobs and low pay.

Last week I posted the first blog in a short series on what a new Department for Economic Reform might look to do and how. Below is the next instalment, on government as shop steward. Next week: government as industrial activist. Mission: Government as shop steward Diagnosis: Britain has a jobs problem – and the issue is quality, not just quantity. Structural changes have undercut the position of workers: globalisation means more competition for jobs, technology is replacing routin...

Posted by Duncan O'Leary on 17 Jan 2014
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We don't need another review into bank competition

Ed Miliband should reduce barriers to entry, not call for another review, argues Jodie Ginsberg.

Banking in Britain is not competitive – at least not in the way that you or I would understand. A market that works effectively is one in which consumers feel they have genuine choice. For most bank retail customers, and owners of small businesses, it is pretty unclear what that choice is. People are more likely to get divorced than change their bank account, or so the old adage goes. Even though it is now far easier to switch bank accounts – thanks to a new 7-day switching proc...

Posted by Jodie Ginsberg on 16 Jan 2014
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The true cost of the cap

Claudia Wood debunks the myth of families winning the 'benefits jackpot'.

The benefit cap statistics released last week provoked predictable reactions – finding 33,000 households were subject to the cap led the Daily Mail to label them the ‘families who had hit the benefits jackpot’. It was implied those affected by the cap were somehow gaming the system, and were now being ‘caught out’ by the new rule. But in addition to the £26,000 benchmark being essentially arbitrary (based on average household income rather than an objectiv...

Posted by Claudia Wood on 14 Jan 2014
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Government as 'consumer champion'

Duncan O'Leary kicks off a series profiling the different options for economic reform by Government, starting with the 'consumer champion'.

Over the Christmas break, Jeremy Cliffe of the Economist floated the idea of a Department for Economic Reform in a future Ed Miliband government. The question of whether ‘super departments’ are a good idea has been discussed elsewhere, so I won’t dwell on it here. But the article does beg another question. What would be the mission of such a department under a government of any stripe – and which policy tools would it use? Over the next few weeks I will be posti...

Posted by Duncan O'Leary on 10 Jan 2014
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What are our MPs worth?

Duncan O'Leary with an alternative approach to MPs' pay.

Nobody said being a Member of Parliament was easy, but it is hard not to see the raging debate over MPs’ pay as a problem of Westminster’s making. The back-story is one of MPs’ pay being held down (by comparison with other professions) to keep the public happy, with a generous expenses regime to make up the difference. We know how that ended. The next idea was to ‘take the politics out’ of decisions on pay. Deciding how much our representatives should be paid wo...

Posted by Duncan O'Leary on 09 Dec 2013
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McCarthyism, good and bad?

David Goodhart reflects on Keith Vaz's question: 'Do you love your country?'

Keith Vaz's question to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger at the Home Affairs Select Committee 'Do you love your country?' has unmissable echoes of McCarthyism. But it is not, or not just, the 'bad' McCarthyism associated with extreme anti-communism and the casual smearing of the reputations of many good Americans for their alleged lack of patriotism. It is also the 'good' McCarthyism of a hitherto semi-excluded minority, Catholic Irish Americans, claiming their pla...

Posted by David Goodhart on 05 Dec 2013
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Apprenticeships and the 'global race'

Jonathan Todd on how we encourage more employers to offer good quality apprenticeships.

The economic return to apprenticeships varies by their qualification level and the subject in which they are taken. In all cases, however, positive experiences require an employer committed to the apprentice, an apprentice committed to their work and training, and training that gives the apprentice the skills relevant to a particular occupation, which is invariably a broader set of skills than that needed in the particular job that they have at the time of the apprenticeship. While this bala...

Posted by Jonathan Todd on 05 Dec 2013
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Why aren't the real 'squeezed middle' saving?

Jodie Ginsberg on how to nudge people back into saving.

Savings rates are plummeting. The latest figures from the Bank of England show savers have been pulling money from their accounts at the fastest rate for nearly 40 years. Some £23 billion has been taken out of long-term savings in the past 12 months - or £900 for every household in the country. The combination of low interest rates, plus sluggish wage increases, and rising inflation is a toxic mix for savers - and especially for those people identified in our latest Demos report ...

Posted by Jodie Ginsberg on 03 Dec 2013
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Boris's cornflake question

The Mayor of London's speech reveals the limits of the idea of 'social mobility', says Duncan O'Leary.

Boris Johnson offered one of the more comprehensive insights into his politics this week, delivering the Thatcher lecture at the Centre for Policy Studies. The Mayor of London (and third favourite to be the next Prime Minister) had two central messages. First, inequality not only encourages endeavour but is inevitable because some are gifted while others are not. Second, society should not shy away from meritocratic competition, allowing the best to rise to the top. Boris's argument has...

Posted by Duncan O'Leary on 29 Nov 2013
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