Public sector

The looming Covid unemployment catastrophe

Just how widely is the economic pain from Covid-19 being felt? Still surprisingly little, according to the latest employment figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). The absence of an explosion in unemployment goes some way to explaining why the lockdowns and restrictions have been accepted so meekly by the population at large. That said, unemployment is beginning to rise significantly now. There are now 819,000 fewer payroll employees compared with the start of the crisis in February. The employment rate stands at 75.2 per cent, 0.9 per cent down on a year ago, and the unemployment rate is 4.9 per cent, up 1.2 per cent. Still, this is

Public sector pay rise masks political row to come

The Downing Street media grid must be a rather dismal affair these days, with announcements planned that barely get any attention at all thanks to a combination of Brexit and another minister being on the brink of resignation. But one story that has come off reasonably well is today’s public sector pay award. Ministers have confirmed that around one million workers in the health service, schools, armed forces and so on will receive a raise of between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent. Obviously, this works nicely politically because everyone loves a pay rise. But the small print of this announcement reveals that it’s not going to make life dramatically easier

Falling short | 4 January 2018

Hedge funds have already spotted it: Jim Mellon’s latest book, Juvenescence, reviews the new science that will lengthen our lives by 20 years. Through regeneration (stem cell) and repair (DNA) technologies, we’ll soon be living healthily and happily to 110 or more. How soon? Who knows. But the repercussions will be enormous. Major insurance companies will go bust; speculators will make a fortune shorting them; 90-year-olds who bought annuities will become destitute when their annuity provider fails; there will have to be a total rethink of the nation’s state pension age. The annuity recipients; those without savings; company pension funds (many of which are already in negative cash flow): all

Tories grow increasingly nervous about the Budget

So long, public sector pay cap. After months of speculation – and some public Cabinet feuding – over the seven-year pay freeze, No 10 today announced that the government would be adopting a more ‘flexible’ approach from now on. Police and prison officers will be the first to receive a pay rise with more sectors expected to get a pay increase as it’s rolled out across the board. This concession from the government just months after Philip Hammond argued on Marr that public sector workers get a 10pc ‘premium’ over their private sector counterparts shows that the shift in public mood proved more powerful than any argument for it. The difficult

Barometer | 6 July 2017

Banking up the wrong tree The Magic Money Tree is such a neat concept it is a wonder it has not featured more widely in literature. But there is a book of that title by Anna Rashid, self- published in April 2009 — just after quantitative easing began in Britain. In the story, a little girl finds a tree brimming with banknotes, which are given to poor ladies and children at a party. The tree grows back every Christmas but only the girl can see it. The self-published book has not yet lived up to its name — last week it was number 7,413,589 on Amazon UK’s bestseller list. Healthy

Philip Hammond holds his nerve on public sector pay

Oh to be a fly-on-the-wall at today’s Cabinet meeting. After growing calls from ministers for Theresa May to ditch the public sector pay cap, last night the Chancellor put his foot down. In a speech to the CBI, Philip Hammond said that while the public are naturally ‘weary’ after seven years of austerity, now is not the time to ‘take our foot off the pedal’: ‘After seven long and tough years, the high wage, high growth economy for which we strive is tantalisingly close to being within our grasp. It would be easy to take our foot off the pedal. But instead we must hold our nerve and maintain our focus resolutely

Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: The Tories must start acting like a Government again

‘Spare a thought for Philip Hammond,’ says the Times. The Chancellor once looked certain to lose his job – and yet while he might now be safe in his position, his role is only getting tougher. His Cabinet colleagues are queuing up to tell him that now is the time to lift the cap on public sector pay. In response, ‘the Chancellor is expected to fight a rearguard action’, says the Times, which says Hammond is ‘right’ to take this approach. This response also won’t be in ‘in vain’ if he is able to make the point that a pay rise must come with ‘a commensurate increase in productivity’. It’s true, for instance, that

How to solve the public sector pay cap dilemma

Of all the mistakes in the Conservative election campaign, possibly most grievous of all was the promise to maintain a public sector pay cap of 1 per cent until 2020. It was one thing to maintain such a policy in the 2015 election campaign – when the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) stood at 0.4 per cent. It is quite another to do it now, with the CPI at 2.9 per cent. In May 2015, the Cameron government had a policy of capping public sector pay at 0.6 per cent. Now, the May government has a policy of cutting public sector pay by 1.9 per cent. Small wonder that nurses, teacher

Tom Goodenough

Boris Johnson calls for an end to the public sector pay cap

One of the consequences of Theresa May’s disastrous election campaign is that the balance of power has swung firmly away from the PM towards her Cabinet. This change of fortunes means that ministers can now speak their minds freely in a way that would have been foolhardy just a few weeks ago. Boris Johnson is the latest to make the most of this new found freedom, saying it is time to end the cap on public sector pay. The Foreign Secretary is said to support a pay rise for such workers, and thinks this could be done in a ‘a responsible way’ without raising taxes. Philip Hammond does not agree, with

In a Birmingham jail, I found the point of Michael Gove

I went to prison last week, in Birmingham. Early start, off on a train from Euston. It was my kids’ first day back at school, as well, so I called them just before I went through the gates. ‘Daddy’s in prison?’ said my seven-year-old, incredulously. ‘Listen,’ I said to my wife. ‘She’s not allowed to turn up in her classroom and tell everybody that her daddy’s in prison.’ And then she laughed and I laughed, and I went inside and handed over my phone and went through a gate, and then another gate and then another gate and then so many more gates I rather lost count, and then I

RBS’s note from a crashing plane: wild headline-grabbing or wise advice?

Should anyone take investment advice from Royal Bank of Scotland, the institution which so misread markets before the crash that it required the biggest taxpayer bailout in banking history? Possibly not, but a bulletin from RBS’s research team this week certainly caused a stir by declaring that ‘in a crowded hall, exit doors are small, risks are high’, ‘sell mostly everything… except high-quality bonds’; and finally, ‘for the world: the game is up’. Strong stuff, indeed — and written in such staccato City language that it reads like the last scribbled testament of a passenger in a crashing plane. Behind it is the view that assets boosted by quantitative easing

How ‘stress management’ can make your blood pressure soar

We seem to be in the grip of a terrible stress epidemic. According to a new study by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, a professional body for managers in human resources, two fifths of all organisations stated that stress-related absence has increased. It even causes terrorism, apparently: the mother of Paris suicide bomber Ibrahim Abdeslam said she believes her son might have blown himself up because of stress. The total number of cases of work-related stress, depression and anxiety in the past year was 440,000, according to the Health and Safety Executive, up from 428,000 cases two years earlier. So extensive is this plague that, in the HSE’s

Out of the ashes | 10 September 2015

As a nation, we are learning to accept that our firemen are more and more redundant. The Fire Brigades Union fights austerity at every turn; its spokesmen say that every reduction in station numbers or jobs is a threat to public safety. One of their campaign posters even showed David Cameron and George Osborne alongside the words, ‘They slash. You burn.’ But the statistics undermine the union’s manipulative language of doom. The cuts have been matched by a continuing decline in dangerous fires. According to figures released at the end of last month, the fire brigades attended 495,000 incidents in the year 2014–15, a decrease of 42 per cent compared

James Delingpole

The NHS was great for Girl, but I still don’t like it

When Girl came off the horse it didn’t look like a bad fall. More like an involuntary and rather hurried dismount. She’d landed on her feet, that was the main thing, so I wasn’t initially too concerned when she lay writhing and yelling on the grass. Nasty sprain I thought. Give it five minutes… But five minutes later she was still on her back, still in pain, and I began to worry. Mainly for my darling Girl’s sake, of course, but partly for my own. ‘Oh God oh God,’ I thought. ‘She’s supposed to be going back to school tomorrow. I am going to be in such shit with her

Summer Budget: Osborne’s £60bn gamble

The Tories don’t really rate the social housing sector: that much has been clear for a good long time. They fell out a bit over their 2010 reforms to tenancies that abolished the automatic right to a council house for life, and have been scrapping over welfare reforms ever since. In recent weeks, ministers had made it quite clear that given the housing sector protested so much about the impact of the last tranche of benefit cuts, and their dire warnings hadn’t come to fruition, they weren’t going to pay much attention to the opposition to this next round of cuts announced yesterday. Perhaps, then, it wasn’t surprising that one

Susan Hill

French Notebook

An overnight stop on the Ile de Ré taken between the St Malo ferry and the Quercy, where we always spend June, reminds one how closely French history lives entangled with modern life. Sleek hotels, harbours full of private boats, overpriced gift and fashion boutiques are cheek by jowl with ancient monuments and fortifications, in streets of small stone houses so narrow that the ubiquitous bicycles barely get through. Amid the massed tourists here, they still cultivate vines, mine salt and grow potatoes to send over toute la France. The mussels and lobsters remind me of home in north Norfolk and the pretty cottages are freshly painted white with pale

The shocking truth about police corruption in Britain

Imagine you lived in a country which last year had 3,000 allegations of police corruption. Worse, imagine that of these 3,000 allegations only half of them were properly investigated — because for police officers in this country, corruption was becoming routine. Imagine that the police increasingly used their powers to crack down not on criminals but on anyone who dared speak out against them. What sort of a country is this? Well, it’s Britain I’m afraid — where what was once the finest, most honest service in the world is in danger of becoming rotten. Some of this was revealed in a little-noticed report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, which

Jeremy Vine and the truth about government spending

Those who complain about the BBC (myself included) usually only refer to a small part of a massive and divergent operation. Nicky Campbell on Radio 5 is just superb – not a hint of bias in any of his breakfast show. Jeremy Vine, too, is pretty fair and balanced. He has just ran a report on the truth about public spending, asking if we are being deceived about debt. I was invited on to talk about it, as was Sir Simon Jenkins (who wrote about spending in the Guardian here). Our exchange, and the BBC package, can be heard here. listen to ‘Fraser Nelson and Simon Jenkins discuss the deficit’ on

Mutually assured benefits: Francis Maude’s public sector revolution

A revolution is underway in Bromley. The average time that it takes for a leg ulcer to be treated and healed has been cut from 21 weeks to 5 weeks. The partnership that has achieved this dramatic improvement is one of 100 new public sector mutuals employing 35,000 people across England. These are employee-controlled businesses that have been spun out of the public sector, and which now account for £1.5bn worth of public services. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, is possessed by ‘missionary fervour’ for mutuals.  He told Coffee House that they ‘improve morale and boost productivity.’ Productivity is among Maude’s foremost concerns. Public sector productivity, according to the

Should public servants go on strike?

David Cameron has promised to change the law to make it harder to go on strike if he wins the next election. The Spectator has generally been in favour of tightening up strike laws, not trusting union leaders to do the right thing. In 1919, just as a law banning the police from striking was being passed, The National Police Union issued a sudden order to down tools, which was not a good PR move. ‘This unscrupulous attempt failed except in Liverpool and Birkenhead, where about half the police absented themselves from duty and allowed the criminal classes, who are largely Irish Roman Catholics, to riot and plunder. Order was