CBI: The CBI has responded to the Department for Business (BIS) consultation (closed on 27 April 2012) on shareholder voting rights.
IPPR: Without reform to the energy market consumers could miss out on as much as £1.9bn in 2020 in cheaper energy bills, according to a new report published by the think tank IPPR last week. The report argues that tougher regulation of the energy market is needed by regulator Ofgem to improve competition and to ensure that pricing is fairer for consumers.
It argues that Ofgem’s own evidence gives no indication that the ‘Big Six’ energy companies have achieved efficiency savings and passed these savings onto consumers through lower bills, as would be expected in a competitive market.
IISS: The latest Strategic Comment from the International Institute for Strategic Studies considers how gains by Islamist & tribal candidates in Kuwait's recent legislative elections are likely to set the nation on a more conservative path and threaten to destabilise sectarian harmony.
PC&PE: Fundamental reform of ATOL – the consumer protection scheme for holidaymakers – is needed, according to a report published last week by the Transport Select Committee. Changes introduced by the Government that come into effect last week do not go far enough. Holiday sales by airlines must also be covered & fairer, more efficient and comprehensive arrangements are needed.
NIESR: Workplace representation of employees by unions & works councils is less widespread in the UK than in most other European countries, according to a report published by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
The UK ranks 21st out of 27 countries in the European Union in terms of the proportion of workplaces where employees have access to union or works council representation, raising questions about the ability of British workers to have a voice at the workplace.
IISS: Strategic Comment from the International Institute for Strategic Studies looks at how advances in neuroscience promise to transform medicine, education, criminal justice and other fields. Militaries are among those interested in its potential: they have long sought ways to enhance the performance of troops on the battlefield, as well as to improve selection & training of personnel and the medical treatment of trauma victims.
Press release & links
PX: Is there a north-south divide political divide? A major study into public attitudes by Policy Exchange explores this issue and finds that social differences in England today are as much about town & country as north & south. The report – Northern Lights – examines the new political & social geography of England.
It reveals that, whatever their real occupations, people living in the north perceive themselves as more working class than their southern counterparts. For example, skilled manual workers – C1 voters – in the north see themselves as working class, while in the south the same group describe themselves as middle class. Overall, 51% of northerners saw themselves as working class compared to only 38% of southerners.
GSCC: The General Social Care Council has launched its new report (The supply of social work practice placements: Employers’ views) which analyses the views of employers on the provision of practice placements for social work students.
PC&PE: The Commons Public Accounts Committee has published its report on equity investment in privately financed projects. The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the CPA, said: "When a public authority chooses to fund a project using private finance it must be able to demonstrate that this was the best way to deliver real value for money for the taxpayer, not just a way to keep the project off the balance sheet.
For too long, public sector authorities have treated 30-year PFI contracts as the only game in town. This has to end. The current model of PFI is unsustainable. ……… The Treasury has now embarked on a rethink and that must be radical, producing a qualitatively different policy”.
ESRC: Steep rises in taxes on alcohol do not necessarily reduce consumption, according to research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council into the history of intoxicants in 16th & 17th century England.
Dr Philip Withington at the University of Cambridge has found that affluence rather than poverty has tended to drive consumption levels, especially among the middle classes & higher, even though legislation & enforcement is often focused on the poorer parts of the population.
CBI: The UK economy will see growth resume in the second half of 2012, with faster GDP growth during 2013, according to the latest quarterly CBI economic forecast. While inflation is expected to be somewhat higher than previously thought throughout 2012, in part due to recent oil price rises, it should continue on a downward trend and come close to hitting the Bank of England’s target in the spring of 2013.
NO: The London Borough of Lambeth failed to act as ‘corporate parent’ to a girl with multiple disabilities & complex needs, and Surrey County Council failed to arrange therapy services for her, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin.
JRF: People in Northern Ireland are caught between the impact of the recession and a programme of austerity & welfare reform, according to new research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The report, Monitoring poverty and social exclusion in Northern Ireland, found poverty in working households and poverty among pensioners has increased.
HEFCE: The Higher Education Funding Council England has welcomed a report published recently on outward student mobility. The report, by a group led by Professor Colin Riordan reviews current incentives, financial support & obstacles to outward student mobility. It also includes recommendations on how to ensure that mobility increases in the future.
NE: Putting green infrastructure such as parks, gardens and trees at the heart of neighbourhoods can bring significant economic benefits, according to a Natural England study.
Far from being an expensive luxury in difficult economic times, devoting areas of towns & cities to nature can actually bring important savings for the public purse. The findings come from a comprehensive review by Natural England of a number of studies into the economic value of green infrastructure.
IPPR: Increasing electoral turnout is not just a nice idea, it is something we must actively strive for if elections are to serve the needs of all citizens…. So how can we increase rates of electoral participation, particularly among ‘hard-to-reach’ groups such as the young and the poor?
The IPPR propose to make electoral participation compulsory for first-time voters only. Voters would be compelled only to turn out – and would be provided with a ‘none of the above’ option. The logic behind this proposal is that people who vote in the first election for which they are eligible are considerably more likely to vote throughout their lives.