James Plunkett

When a growing economy still feels bad

David Cameron was right; the good news has kept on coming. This morning’s first estimate from the ONS puts GDP growth in the third quarter at 1.0 per cent. Cue much justified squabbling over what the ‘real’ number is. A significant portion of this growth will be a one-off, post-Jubilympics bounce-back, suggesting slower underlying growth.

Four tests for Osborne’s Budget

With the Coalition taking pre-Budget briefing to new levels you’d be excused for thinking there’s little we don’t know about tomorrow’s statement. But here are four questions we can’t yet answer, and that will be crucial to assessing whether this is a Budget for low-to-middle earners as the Chancellor claims:
 1) Will the new increase

Cameron is right to focus on quality apprenticeships

If there are ‘no votes in skills’, as the old dictum goes, there seem to be some in apprenticeships. Hence David Cameron’s call this morning for apprenticeships to become a ‘gold standard’ qualification ranking alongside degrees from the best universities. His goal is to rectify Britain’s shockingly poor performance on mid-level skills compared to world

Are we facing an American nightmare?

With the Chancellor’s autumn statement due next Tuesday, we’re all talking about growth. The ECB and Bank of England now say the UK economy is set to grow at less than half the rate the OBR forecast back in March. That makes it all but certain that George Osborne will announce dramatic downward revisions to

Tories dodge a bullet on childcare

In the past year the government has proven good at cauterising self-inflicted wounds. This morning’s announcement from Iain Duncan Smith on childcare stems another potential bleeder. His department have found an extra £300 million to prevent further cuts to childcare support. It’s a welcome reversal of an ill-advised plan and a narrowly averted political foul-up. The

A reform the Tories should shout about

As of today, you can’t fire someone just for turning 65. The government has delivered its promise to scrap the Default Retirement Age (DRA), introduced by Labour in 2006 as a caveat to otherwise laudable equality legislation. This ends the practice of forced retirement regardless of someone’s ability to work. Killing it is one of

Eating into household savings

Next Tuesday, the ONS will release initial estimates of second quarter UK GDP growth. It may be a slight exaggeration to call it a ‘make or break’ moment for the Chancellor but ‘make or brake’ might not be a bad description. After six months of no growth, another three months of flat GDP would strengthen

Inflation hits work incentives

New inflation stats are out tomorrow and they’re expected to show further rises in CPI and RPI.  Aside from their brief peak in 2008, headline rates of inflation are now at their highest levels for 19 years.  That’s prompting more discussion about the way rising prices are playing out for Britain’s households, from a nice

Osborne the Reformer is an unfinished work

One interesting aspect of today’s Budget is the government’s change of tack on personal allowances. Back in June 2010, when the Chancellor committed to raise allowances from £6,475 to £7,475, he chose to cancel out the gains for higher rate taxpayers by lowering the level at which the 40p tax rate kicks in. The idea

Three charts that complicate a simple focus on growth

GDP growth figures have become the barometer of choice for commentators trying to tell the political weather – a good measure of how the public will eventually fall in the faceoff between Osborne and Balls. The story goes that a return to sustained growth will mean a return to rising living standards.  That means a