Sian Berry is a campaigner for the Campaign for Better Transport
Allowing lorries to use the M6 Toll Road for free has put Britain’s sole pay-for-use motorway back in the headlines. But this marketing wheeze exposes the weakness of the operator’s position and the flawed logic behind privatised road building.
The M6 Toll’s operator, Midland Expressway, recently announced it was to allow lorries free access to the road during July. Giving away your product with the hope that punters will subsequently adopt the paid-for version is a good way for new players to announce themselves to the market. But the M6 Toll has been around for a decade. That such desperate measures are under consideration shows the mess the 27 mile road has got into and the problems of using private finance to pay for new roads.
The M6 Toll has been struggling for some time. Traffic levels on the road have been falling since 2006 and in the last quarter it carried just a third of traffic it was built to handle. The cycle of lower use has gone hand in hand with higher tolls as Midland Expressway attempts to make running the road pay. Read More
Nigel Stanley is head of campaigns at the TUC
Before Mrs Thatcher destroyed Britain’s post-war pension consensus, Beveridge had given us a decent state pension that kept up with earnings, and Barbara Castle had added an earnings related state pension (SERPS) to those whose employers did not provide a decent workplace pension on top.
However while this gave most the prospects of a reasonable retirement income, it depended on long-term collective thinking and an active – and not exactly cheap – role for the state. That is why the post-1979 Conservative government broke the link to earnings, hacked away at the value of SERPS and encouraged personal pensions.
Employment changed too as the economy restructured. Large traditional industries shrank. Companies globalised and reduced their core workforce as jobs were contracted out or moved abroad. New companies no longer felt under any duty to provide earnings linked pensions – or indeed any pension at all.
With the state and the employer retreating the onus switched to the individual worker to build up their own personal pension. Efficient markets were meant to provide optimal outcomes in this as in everything else. Read More
The home secretary Theresa May announced today that under the Conservatives those convicted of killing a police officer will have their sentences raised to the ‘whole life’ category, usually reserved for the very worst types of murderer.
It may be true, as May says, that “to attack and kill a police officer is to attack the fundamental basis of our society”; but what about the alarmingly high death rates for those in police care or in contact with the police?
What, if anything, is the government doing about this? Read More
Today’s labour market statistics are very much a case of ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’.
Taking ‘the bad’ first, unemployment rose by 15,000 on the previous period whilst employment fell by 43,000. The employment rate fell to 71.4 per cent down 0.2 percentage points. As work from the Resolution Foundation has demonstrated, the UK faces a large ‘jobs gap’ to get back to pre-crisis employment levels.
But today’s figures also have some ‘good news’. In many ways today’s statistics are the mirror image of the ONS releases of the second half of 2012, when the headlines showed falling unemployment but the detail contained many causes for concern.
Today’s bad headline numbers on employment and unemployment camouflage some better details – the number of people in employee positions rose, the single month figures) as opposed to the usual three month periods) look a bit better and much of the fall in employment was driven by a fall in the number of self employed workers – many of whom may actually have been in a state of under-employment. Read More
Richard Murphy is the founder of the Tax Justice Network
This table has just been published by the OECD and shows the “tax wedge” (the difference between before-tax and after-tax earnings) taken from employment earnings for all 34 OECD countries:
Unemployment rose by 15,000 between January 2013 and March 2013 to 2.52 million, with the unemployment rate now at 7.8 per cent, today’s labour market statistics reveal.
The headline figures are:
The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 for January to March 2013 was 71.4%, down 0.2 percentage points from October to December 2012. There were 29.71 million people in employment aged 16 and over, down 43,000 from October to December 2012.
The unemployment rate for January to March 2013 was 7.8% of the economically active population, up 0.1 percentage points from October to December 2012. There were 2.52 million unemployed people, up 15,000 from October to December 2012.
The inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64 for January to March 2013 was 22.4%, up 0.1 percentage points from October to December 2012. There were 9.00 million economically inactive people aged from 16 to 64, up 47,000 from October to December 2012.
Between January to March 2012 and January to March 2013 total pay rose by 0.4% (the lowest growth rate since March to May 2009) and regular pay rose by 0.8% (the lowest growth rate since comparable records began in 2001).
Responding to the latest figures, John Salt, Website Director at totaljobs.com, said economic indicators continued to be mixed, and the UK “continues to bump along the bottom – with few jobs being created – and we’re far too susceptible to small shocks”.
“The government will argue that the recovery is a marathon not a sprint but, in either case, we are barely off the start line,” he added.
We will have more detailed reaction later today on Left Foot Forward.
Jenny Jones AM is leader of the Green Party on the London Assembly and Green Party Mayoral candidate for 2012
The Mayor of London’s rather unpleasant comments about slothful workers in his Telegraph column conceal his much more worrying position on Europe. He wants to see “a pared-down relationship based on free trade and cooperation”, so that “we would no longer be forced to accept the vast corpus of EU regulation and legislation – much of it too detailed and interfering – that has added to the costs of British business”.
He has also said that he would want us to leave the Union if we didn’t win a relationship on his terms.
I’d better say immediately that although the Green Party’s view of the EU is that it needs reform and it’s more likely that can be achieved that from within, I personally would vote to leave, believing the EU to be too expensive and too complex to reform. However, I love the EU social and environmental legislation that has helped so many people out of poverty and helped slow down the depredation of our planet. Read More
Right-wing think tank Bow Group has admitted that the privatisation of the Royal Mail could see the price of a stamp increase and Post Offices in rural areas close.
In a letter to every Conservative MP, group chairman Ben Harris-Quinney said privatisation could endanger “the financial stability of Post Offices” in rural areas by separating Royal Mail further from the 11,500-network.
“It is likely to be deeply unpopular with the British public, prices will rise at a time we can least afford it, an amenity that many communities consider crucial will be removed and a sell off will also impact on the significant heritage of Royal Mail,” the letter read.
“The privatisation of Royal Mail is likely to swiftly form a poisonous legacy for the government now, and a poisonous legacy for the Conservative Party going forward,” it added.