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Patrick Spencer: What the new Government should do to ensure migrants are better skilled – and supported

Patrick Spencer is Head of Work and Welfare at the Centre for Social Justice.

The debate around immigration has become fraught to the point of complete intransigence in recent years. Events as close to home as the Grenfell Tower tragedy and as far afield as the Syrian civil war have brought the subject to the fore again. Inflammatory rhetoric here as well as in other countries hasn’t helped. As we leave the European Union, cooler heads must prevail.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) is today releasing a report that brings a level-headedness to the debate that is sorely needed. Importantly, it places the interests of immigrants squarely at the centre of its proposals. Immigration policy should not just be about who is allowed to come and work in Britain, but also how we support those people who do, so that they can avoid the trappings of low pay, unsafe working conditions, crime, social marginalisation and poverty.

The reality is that uncontrolled immigration growth over the last 15 to 20 years has worked – to a point. Our services, manufacturing and agricultural industries have benefited from skilled and inexpensive labour from EU new member States.

However, the economic costs of low-skilled immigration have been both wage stagnation at the bottom end of the income spectrum – analysis at the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration found that “an inflow of immigrants of the size of 1 per cent of the native population would lead to a 0∙6 per cent decrease at the 5th wage percentile and a 0∙5 per cent decrease at the 10th wage percentile” – and low levels of productivity boosting capital investment. High-skilled immigration has had the opposite effect though, increasing wages, productivity, innovation and capital investment.

In the long term, it is also likely that the British economy will demand less low-skilled labour. Automation, technology and changing firm dynamics are likely to mean a greater focus on hiring higher-skilled workers, and more fluid jobs in which individuals are expected to take on multiple roles and work across multiple teams. The CSJ argues therefore that is irresponsible to continue to operate an immigration system that is deaf to the demands of our changing economy, and risks leaving migrant labourers unemployed and at risk of falling in to poverty.

It is for this reason that the CSJ’s first policy recommendation for this Conservative Government post-Brexit is folding all EU immigration in to the existing Tier 2 skilled immigration system, and tightening up the eligibility for Tier 2 applicants so that they are genuinely skilled and can command a wage well above the UK median. Key to this recommendation is carving out occupations that are deemed of strategic interest to the UK economy, for instance nurses and doctors who come to work in our NHS, but do not earn above average salaries.

The Government’s responsibility to immigrants should not stop there. For those that do come to Britain legally, whether under refugee status or another route, we must make sure support is there to reduce the risk that they and their children become socially marginalised, end up in low-paid work or unemployed, and get stuck in the criminal justice system. It is naïve to think the immigration policy debate ends on day two.

In that vein, the CSJ also recommend more integrated support for refugees when they come to Britain, including better financial support, longer term housing options and help with English speaking skills. The report also calls for a beefing up of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement financial powers and reach. There are potentially thousands of foreign individuals kept in forced servitude in Britain today, and many more working in unsafe conditions for illegally low pay.

Finally, it is high time the Government addresses the huge disparities in economic outcomes among minority and indigenous ethnic groups. Generations of immigrants from some groups still perform poorly in the education system, labour market and criminal justice system.  The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that poverty rates among Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Groups are twice as high as for White British groups. Dame Louise Casey discovered that individuals of South East Asian and Caribbean descent were three times and twice as likely to live in deprived parts of the UK, when compared to White British groups. Just one third of Bangladeshi women living in Britain are in employment compared to three quarters of White British women. One in five Black African and Black Caribbean men and almost one in four Mixed Race men are economically inactive. Unless the Government addresses the problem with real gusto, it will persist.

This report calls for calmer and more long-term thinking on immigration policy that prioritises high-skilled immigration and increases support for parts of the country that have struggled due to uncontrolled low-skilled immigration. Public opinion reflects this – polling by Hanbury Strategy earlier this year found that 51 per cent of the UK public recognise that not all parts of the UK have benefited from immigration, while YouGov polling in 2018 found that ‘treating EU citizens who want to come and live in the UK the same as people from elsewhere in the world’ was supported by 65 per cent of respondents and scrapping the limit of high skilled immigrants was supported by 46 per cent of respondents.

This is a great opportunity for the new Government to fix this long-standing issue of contention in British politics for the long term.

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5 tips for keeping your indoor plants alive year-round

Westlake Legal Group Untitled-32 5 tips for keeping your indoor plants alive year-round indoor plants houseplants horticulture Home Resources home and design Home & Design Home growth flowers floral design floral care design decor
Photo courtesy of Nikki Norton

While gardening has been around for centuries, it is now becoming increasingly more common to surround not just the outside of your house with flowers, but the inside of your home with natural life, as well.

The truth is, those indoor plants are as good for you as they are trendy. Houseplants release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, removing up to 87% of air toxins in 24 hours, according to recent research from NASA. Plus, a study from the Journal of Physiological Anthropology states active interaction with indoor plants, such as smelling and touching, can reduce physiological and psychological stress. 

In order to reap the benefits, though, it is essential to understand how to care for the living things growing in your space. 

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Happy pre-turkey day! Im resolving myself to find the best spot on the couch tomorrow, right next to wine! . . I visit my family up north generally once a year, and this year my grandma is 98! She’s sure kicking it for her age! I wish I look half as good as her when I’m her age! . . I’m not posting for the rest of the week, or answering emails for that fact.. BUT! I will have a trip to NYC, so I can’t promise I won’t be insta-storying! —I get to go pick out my wedding dress Friday!! . . Photo: @jacquelynepiersonweddings Plants: @modernfoliage Rentals: @smthingvintage Flowers: @sweetrootvillage Catering: @welldunncatering Planning: @tarteventco . . #modernfoliage #thanksgiving #realweddings #weddinginspo #tropicalwedding #dcbride #vabride #mdbride #dock5 #cozyvibes #interiordesign #dcdesign #plantdesign #weddingrentals #nycbound #sunnyvibes #midcenturymodern #rattanfurniture #hopephilodendron #palmtrees

A post shared by Modern Foliage Designs (@modernfoliage) on Nov 21, 2018 at 3:29am PST

The first thing to know, according to Nikki Norton, horticulturist and owner of Modern Foliage Designs, LLC, based in Haymarket, is that most houseplants are tropical, preventing them from surviving outside in Virginia’s climate and creating more challenges for indoor care. 

Here, we share best practices from both Norton and Morgan Walker, horticulturist and owner of Petals and Hedges in Leesburg, for ensuring your indoor plants thrive throughout all four seasons, continuing to bring your safe space to life. 

Don’t overprotect them
Much like caring for a pet, it is essential to give plants their space. 

According to Norton, a common misconception people have about indoor plants is that they need a lot of attention. Houseplants are a lot like weeds growing in a garden, Norton explains, in that they shouldn’t be overburdened with treatment until there is a problem or need. Keeping a consistent eye on your plants is key.

Go easy on the water
While humans are supposed to drink a certain amount of water daily, plants are completely different. According to both Norton and Walker, people often water their plants far too much. 

“The one thing that always amazes me is how many clients ask, ‘How many times a day should I water it?’ and I’m like, no, that’s the wrong way to think about it,” says Norton.

For her own houseplants, Norton waters about every three weeks, but it isn’t necessary to keep a watering schedule, rather check on your plants every so often.

“Most people over-water and they turn to mush or they under-water and dehydrate,” Wallace says of one of the most common houseplants, succulents. “There is a happy balance, and you need to make sure your container has good drainage, so they are not sitting in water or drying out too quickly.”

Cut back on fertilizer
As the weather cools down, your plants require different care, especially when it comes to fertilization.

“If you are fertilizing frequently, you should cut back because they won’t be growing as naturally or quickly, which means they won’t be taking in that much water, too,” says Norton. 

Be wary of the light
When the season changes, so does the sun’s rotation outside, which means it’s time to move your houseplants to a new spot in order for them to get the proper exposure to light.

“The sun will set faster, meaning your plant will get less light throughout the day if you keep it in the same spot,” explains Norton. “The sun sets lower in the south, so there’s more light in your southern window closer to winter, but in the summer that would be your western window.”

According to Walker, most plants go through a dormancy stage when the seasons change, meaning they shed old leaves to make room for growth. When this happens, she recommends re-potting them into larger containers so the root’s have more space to grow, feed them with fresh, sterile soil and make sure they aren’t too close to a heat source that could dry them out.

“Finding the right spot for your plant with proper light exposure can be hard indoors for those who lack windows with perfect exposure,” says Walker. “You can find grow lights on Amazon that provide some extra rays to keep them happy.”

Learn the plant’s life cycle
While it takes time, plant owners eventually grow an intuition for properly caring for each one. According to Walker, knowing your plant and understanding what amount of water, soil and sun exposure makes it happy is the most important part of keeping houseplants alive.

“Garden plants can rely on mother nature—they get nitrogen from rain, from mulch, there are earthworms—whereas houseplants are 100% reliant on you,” says Norton.

Want more home and garden tips? Subscribe to our weekly Home e-newsletter.

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NYC business owners: The new minimum wage is forcing us to lay people off, cut hours

Westlake Legal Group cb NYC business owners: The new minimum wage is forcing us to lay people off, cut hours wage The Blog New York minimum layoff jobs hours growth fire city $15

The city’s unemployment rate is more or less steady, the WSJ notes in this piece, so fans of across-the-board statutory wage hikes can tell themselves that these anecdotes are just that — anecdotes, not data suggesting a large-scale shift.

But wait a few months, as they’re not done yet raising the minimum wage in NYC. Although it’s already $15/hour for businesses with 10 or more employees, those with fewer than 10 can pay as little as $13.50 an hour. Come January 1, that’ll change and every worker in New York will need to receive $15/hour.

The smallest businesses, already operating on tight margins and crushed with exorbitant rents, will be squeezed tighter while the bigger boys cope more comfortably. That’s progress for you.

Susannah Koteen, owner of Lido Restaurant in Harlem, said she worries about the impact raising wages could have on her restaurant, where she employs nearly 40 people. She hasn’t had to lay off anyone, but the increase has forced her to cut back on shifts and be more stringent about overtime. She said she changes her menu offerings seasonally and raises prices more often since the wage boost.

“What it really forces you to do is make sure that nobody works more than 40 hours,” Ms. Koteen said. “You can only cut back so many people before the service starts to suffer.”…

While Ms. McNally said she always has paid her employees at least $5 above minimum wage, January’s increase tightened that gap. “With raising minimum wage to living wage, it feels now like we’re at the bottom of the pay spectrum,” she said. “There’s absolutely no benefit to being a retail business in New York.”

Thomas Grech, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said he has seen an uptick in small-business closures during the past six to nine months, and he attributed it to the minimum-wage legislation.

Koteen was planning to move to a bigger location but scrapped that idea because she can’t afford to hire more people now. Sacrifices like that have been going on piecemeal in service industries since the new $15 mandatory wage took effect in January, as CBS noted at the time:

Bloostein said he has scaled back on employee hours and no longer uses hosts and hostesses during lunch on light traffic days. Customers instead are greeted with a sign that reads, “Kindly select a table.” He also staggers employees’ start times. “These fewer hours add up to a lot of money in restaurants,” he said…

A New York City Hospitality Alliance survey of 574 restaurants showed that 75 percent of full-service restaurants reported plans to reduce employee hours this year in response to the latest mandated wage increase. Another 47 percent said they would eliminate jobs in 2019. Eighty-seven percent of respondents also said they would increase menu prices this year.

Not even socialist icons are immune from basic economics on this point, as we were recently reminded. But dogma is undeterred: Every member of the Democratic 2020 top tier has endorsed a national $15 minimum wage, and even centrist-y longshots like Amy Klobuchar and John Hickenlooper have followed suit. In fact, when Politico checked around with the various campaigns in June, the one and only Dem in their enormous field who outright opposed a $15 hourly minimum wage was Michael Bennet, who favored a $12 wage instead.

There are certain progressive proposals that the far-left chatters about, like the Green New Deal and abolishing ICE, which are unlikely to pass even if they had total control of government. (Pelosi wouldn’t immolate the centrists in her caucus for either plan, I think.) But there are others, like gun control, on which there’s such unanimity of opinion and on which they’ve expended so much rhetoric that they’d have to follow through if given the chance regardless of whether some are reluctant to do so. The $15 minimum wage is in that category. The problems faced by small businesses in New York will be faced by every small business in the country if government flips next year, never mind what NYC entrepreneurs have to say about it. Or CBO, for that matter.

The post NYC business owners: The new minimum wage is forcing us to lay people off, cut hours appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group cb-300x153 NYC business owners: The new minimum wage is forcing us to lay people off, cut hours wage The Blog New York minimum layoff jobs hours growth fire city $15   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

WATCH: Cleverly – Extra NHS funding comes from economic growth

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Daniel Rossall-Valentine: Tech now underpins prosperity in every sector – so to thrive, we need more engineers

Daniel Rossall-Valentine is Head of Campaign for This is Engineering at the Royal Academy of Engineering, and Deputy Chairman of Sevenoaks Conservative Association. He writes in a personal capacity.

“It’s the same formula: it is education, infrastructure and technology —those three things”, so said Boris Johnson in June when interviewed by the Evening Standard about his agenda for government. According to Boris, those are the three principles which informed his time as Mayor of London and will be his priorities as Prime Minister.

These priorities are very welcome because they recognise the essential connections between three vital elements of wealth generation, and represent a more sophisticated view of economic growth than the one-dimensional and idealistic catchphrase of “education, education, education” which prevailed under a previous government.

The UK is involved in a long running battle to raise its productivity. We have long needed a better vision of what we need to do to boost productivity and I believe that this vision is now being developed.

Engineers and technicians must be at the heart of this new vision. Engineers are essential for innovation, they design, build and improve technology and have become central to national productivity, economic growth and living standards. Engineers are the people who turn scientific principles into practical application, social benefit and economic value. Our world is being unified in a new way; by a series of threats that know no borders. We face big challenges, including overpopulation, environmental degradation, malnutrition, biodiversity loss, cyber-terrorism and global warming, and technology is central to building solutions for each of these and making our world work better for everyone.

In truth, technology is not a sector anymore; it is now the driver of productivity and economic success (and indeed survival) for organisations in every sector. The analytical and design skills of engineers have become more and more valuable as the rate of technological change accelerates. No sector of the economy is now protected from the forces of technological change; healthcare, agriculture, retail, and education are just four examples of sectors which are currently experiencing rapid technological change; change that offers significant improvements in productivity and benefits for users.

Growing our domestic tech capacity offers great benefits to the UK. Tech firms have shown that they can scale very rapidly. The rise of “tech unicorns” (recent startups valued at over $1 billion) demonstrates the economic and social potential offered by tech. Engineering has been proven to be a very effective multiplier of economic growth. The UK should not be modest about its future in tech because we have significant advantages, including a trusted legal regime, access to capital and credit, access to support services, unparalleled access to tech customers, an educated workforce, world class universities, stable taxation and intelligent regulation.

However, the UK has one great and persisting tech weakness which threatens to impede our growth, and that is an inadequate number of engineers and technicians. The UK needs to grow its pool of engineering talent, to ensure that UK-based tech companies can remain in the UK as they scale rapidly, and to enable engineering companies to win big projects. If the UK doesn’t expand its pool of engineering talent we risk losing tech firms, tech projects and tech investment and the huge economic and social value that they bring. The proportion of jobs that require technical skill is growing and Britain should aspire to a growing share of this growing pie.

Young people are avid consumers of technology, but we need more of them to aspire to mastering the engineering that underpins the technology so that they can become developers, makers and creators of technology, rather than mere users. We also need more young people who combine engineering skills with the entrepreneurial and managerial skills that will enable them to form and scale business enterprises; so that the UK can capture an increasing share of lucrative engineering value-chains; and provide the GDP and employment that flow from end-to-end technology development. Increasingly people who are not tech-savvy are at risk of being automated out of a job, so the need for upskilling the UK in technical skills is pressing.

This technical skills shortage has long been recognised and a multitude of projects have been started to encourage young people to consider engineering. And yet despite the number of initiatives, the shortfall of talent has not only persisted but seems to have grown larger over the last decade. We also need to diversify our talent pool and ensure we are attracting young people from all backgrounds; because only a diverse profession guarantees the diversity of ideas that technical fields rely on.

The UK has made good progress in raising the profile of engineering in the last few years. The Industrial Strategy and Grand Challenges of 2017 were very welcome developments at putting technology centre-stage. The Year Of Engineering 2018 led to a very significant change in the perception of engineering amongst school pupils. This year-long Government campaign also encouraged greater collaboration between the many professional engineering institutions that make up the UK’s complex engineering landscape. We can be optimistic that the UK has got into the good habit of paying far more recognition to the engineers and entrepreneurs who enable, create and democratise the technology which improves lives, saves time and generates wealth.

Too often we allow our natural British reserve about talking about wealth to prevent us talking about wealth creation. Social benefit and commercial success are too often portrayed as trade-offs, when they are mutually reinforcing; the best technology delivers for investors as well as society-at-large. Technological success is a stool with three legs; technical progress, commercial success and social benefit. Technology is more than technology: technology is inherently social, and inherently financial, and we need more technologists who look at the full picture rather than the purely technical aspects of technology. Without profit, technology is the greatest creator of loss and debt known to mankind, and without social benefit technology can be a force of social division, rather than a democratising force.

To maximise the benefits of technology we need to close the technology skills gap, and this requires action by many players. We cannot rely on Government alone to solve this persistent problem. We know that too few young people are studying engineering related degrees and apprenticeships. One major factor is the image of engineering. Unfortunately, a number of unappealing stereotypes have become attached to the profession of engineering. Many young people assume that engineering involves hard, manual work, and male-dominated workplaces. Too many young people also believe that engineering is a narrow specialism that offers only a limited range of job opportunities. The problem is particularly acute with female students. Inspiring more girls to pursue STEM subjects and careers will not only help us to address the skills gap in science and technology, but it will also help us to create a more diverse workforce that truly represents the world we live in.

The UK has a great tradition of innovation and enterprise but only by unlocking the interest of our young people by presenting a positive vision of business enterprise and technology can we continue to succeed in this increasingly competitive field. One recent example of success is the This is Engineering campaign which was developed by a number of the UK’s leading technology companies and launched in January 2018. The campaign presents young people with positive, modern, authentic images of careers in technology and engineering, through the medium of short films which are available on many social media platforms. The films also highlight the societal benefits that new technology delivers, the team-work that technology and engineering projects rely on, and the creativity that is required at every stage in the design and build process.

By helping to promote careers in technology and engineering we can ensure that more and more young people see technology not just as a range of products to be consumed but also as a range of careers to be considered.

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Adam Honeysett-Watts: After three years of gloom under May, it’s time for fun with Johnson

Adam Honeysett-Watts is Director of Conservatives in Communications and works in the financial technology sector. 

Before this leadership election got underway, I wrote that the next leader must be able to tell the Tory story – of aspiration and opportunity – and identified Boris Johnson as the person best-positioned to do that.

Having previously supported David Cameron and then Theresa May, I like to think I back winners – at least, in terms of those who reach the top. That said, while the former will be remembered for rescuing the economy – while giving people the power to marry who they love and an overdue say on Europe – the latter, much to my disappointment, has no real legacy. Johnson should avoid repeating that mistake.

His final column for the Daily Telegraph, ‘Britain must fire-up its sense of mission’, was jam-packed with the kind of Merry England* (or Merry UK) optimism that we experienced during the Cricket World Cup and that the whole country needs right now: “They went to the Moon 50 years ago. Surely today we can solve the logistical issues of the Irish border”. Quite right.

You’ve guessed it, I’m chuffed that Conservative MPs, media and members supported Johnson’s bid to become our Prime Minister. I’m looking forward to May handing him the keys to Number Ten and him batting for us after three, long years of doom and gloom. Sure, optimism isn’t everything – but it can set the tone. A detailed vision must be articulated and executed by a sound team.

Whichever side you were on before the referendum (or are on now), in the short term, we need to redefine our purpose, move forward with our global partners, unite the UK – and defeat Corbynism.

Mid-term, we should invest further in our national security and technology, improving education and life chances and encouraging greater participation in culture and sport, as well as boosting home ownership. Plus the odd tax cut here and there would be well-advised.

However, we must not put off having debates – for fear of offending – about controlling immigration and legalising drugs, and about funding for health and social care, as well as protecting the environment, for these issues matter and will matter even more in the future.

We should also avoid the temptation to ban political expression, alternative media and sugary foods, and celebrate instead free speech, press freedom and the right to choose.

Again, I look forward to Johnson peddling optimism and hope that people get behind him, because, ultimately, he will write our next chapter – and if we jump onboard and provide support, much more can be achieved by us all working together.

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Patrick Spencer: Some advice for the new Conservative leader. Stick to these three ideas to boost productivity.

Patrick Spencer is Head of Work and Welfare at the Centre for Social Justice.

The Conservative leadership contest has proved to be the battle of ideas that the party wants, needs and should probably have had back in 2016. Yes, Brexit has dominated the discussion, but in amongst chat of proroguing, No Deals and backstops, we have heard interesting ideas about, for example, tax reform, a national citizens’ service and early years support for young mothers. During the Parliamentary stage of the contest, the Centre for Social Justice hosted the Social Justice Caucus of Tory MPs, holding their own hustings event for the Conservative leadership, and the candidates didn’t disappoint.

The litany of new ideas stem from the fact that most of the candidates felt it is time to reshape the Government’s fiscal strategy. The last nine years have been defined by successive Coalition and Conservative government’s support for fiscal rebalancing. David Cameron and George Osborne successfully formed governments after two general elections on a platform of fiscal prudence.

However, the political landscape has changed. Younger voters who weren’t around to vote in 2010 now make up a sizeable chunk of the electorate. Years of austerity, job growth and a much healthier national balance sheet has meant that ‘austerity’ is increasingly unpopular.  Combine this with the perceived economic harm that a No Deal Brexit may cause, and the case for loosening austerity is compelling.

In this vein, Boris Johnson has argued for lower taxes on higher earners as well as increased spending on education. Esther McVey wanted to cut the International Aid budget and spend savings on the police and education. Dominic Raab called to raise the National Insurance Threshold and cut the basic rate of income tax. Michael Gove hoped to reform VAT so that it becomes a Sales Tax. And Sajid Javid said he would slow the rate of debt reduction, which would free up £25 billion for new spending commitments.

Even outside of the leadership circle, Tory MPs and right-of-centre think tanks are advocating for a new spending strategy.  Neil O’Brien has coined the ‘O’Brien Rule’, which allows for budget deficits as long as debt as a percentage of GDP is falling. This sentiment was echoed by Philip Hammond, who called on every leadership candidate to commit to keeping the deficit under two per cent of GDP as long as the national debt was falling.

Considering the appetite to do something, the next leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister should be warned that spending for spending’s sake is not a good idea. If the decision is taken therefore to loosen the fiscal taps, it should be carefully targeted so that this increases growth and more importantly, productivity.

The Centre for Social Justice released a report in 2017 that highlighted a clear policy agenda that used tax and spend policies to boost productivity across the UK. It is roundly recognised that the productivity conundrum in the UK has not been the result of any one issue but, rather, is a confluence of factors that have taken hold of our economic and social machine.

First and foremost, British companies do not invest and innovate enough. Compared to other countries we have lower levels of capital investment, lower uptake of new-generation technologies such as robotics, and entrepreneurs sell out too early. Britain has a proud history of innovation and technology, and yes we do have several world beating unicorn companies, but in recent years we have lost ground in the innovation stakes to the US, Germany and the Asian economies.

The CSJ recommended a raft of policies that could help reverse this, starting with a ramp up in public funds available for research and development. Public cash for R+D has a crowding in (as opposed to crowding out) effect. We also called (counter-intuitively) for the scrapping of Entrepreneurs Tax Relief. It is expensive and does little to help real entrepreneurs, and only acts as a tax loophole for asset strippers (this policy has recently been advocated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Resolution Foundation). We also called for simplification of the tax system. Look at the Annual Investment Allowance, for instance, that was decreased by 75 per cent in 2012, increased by a factor of 10 in 2013, doubled in 2015, only for it to then be almost cut in half in 2016.

Second, the CSJ called for a radical increase in support for vocational education in the UK. While businesses needed some help to innovate and compete, the labour market needs support in terms of skills and competencies. Recommendations included a new spending commitment for FE colleges and more support for adult learners who are in low skilled work. The Augar Review called for the Government to make £1 billion available for colleges, a good start but realistically the Government will have to go much further in the future. here is an example of where public money can make a big difference in public policy.

Last, if the next Prime Minister wants to support productivity growth, they can look at rebalancing growth outside of London across Britain’s regions. London is home to less than a quarter of the UK’s population but contributes to 37 per cent of our economic output. It attracts a disproportionate number of high skilled and high paying jobs. Public spending on infrastructure in London dwarfs that spent in the North and Midlands. Reversing this trend will of course take a generation, but by boosting transport spending on inter-city transport (most obviously Northern Rail), tax breaks for companies that set up in struggling cities such as Doncaster, Wigan or Bradford, as well as more money for towns and cities to spend on green spaces and cultural assets (such as museums, public art, restaurants and bars) that attract young people.

These three productivity-generating policy areas will allow any Government to loosen the fiscal taps without bankrupting the country. When the next Prime Minister appoints his Chancellor, he or she would be well advised to stick to the basics of cutting taxes, spending more on education and rebalancing growth outside of London.

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Can economic forecasts regain their political authority?

Given how much political and financial capital is expended on producing and communicating them, economic forecasts are in a pretty dire rut as a tool for influencing the public.

Leave aside, if you can, the question of whether you believe them generally, dismiss them en masse, or like them on some topics but not on others (and whether that coincides with when they agree with your views).

Consider instead their place in the political landscape. The broad reputation of economic forecasts is almost universally woeful. Having at one time been treated with implicit respect – those clever economists with their complex models – the reverse is now true. Either people tend towards pre-emptive scepticism or they are openly hostile.

Even politicians, who tend to lag behind public opinion by some years, appear less keen on trumpeting official forecasts as central planks of any given argument. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (“Spreadsheet Phil”, don’t forget) holds to the practice – though even then not as obsessively as Gordon Brown once did – but it’s notable that his would-be successors now tend to reach for fundamental principle to lend their speeches authority.

The roots of this disillusionment with forecasting surely lie in the Brown era. His own endless capacity for working the political angle of every number played a part, but really it was the system-wide failure to see the financial crisis coming that did the most damage.

Politics deepened the wounds and made them scar tissue. George Osborne, ever a close student of Brown, displayed a pretty shameless capacity to miss almost every target and prediction without comment, never mind apology. His politicised use of forecasts reached its nadir during the EU referendum, when Vote Leave were able to skewer his over-egged predictions by repurposing a 2014 SNP line: “Project Fear”.

The Remain campaign’s overconfidence that alarmist forecasting would secure victory led them to make a serious mistake: not only did the excess of spooky figures harm their campaign, but they made testable short-term predictions of instant recession after a Leave vote which then visibly did not come true.

They were out to win, of course, not to serve the  reputation of economics, so they might not care. But the harm was still done. Now any OBR number, on the impact of any political decision, is routinely believed or disbelieved on essentially partisan lines.

You might think that fair or unfair. It’s good that people have developed a greater scepticism of numbers and authorities which were undoubtedly being abused to serve political ends.

At the same time, economic forecasting – done well, and independently, and honestly – has potential to be an informative tool. Businesses use it for good reason (though not always with success).

And – like polling after 2015, for example – it should be possible to learn from and correct mistakes. Predictions are only ever testable against real events, and getting things wrong is part of learning and improving.

The difficulty facing economic forecasters, in and outside government, and politicians who wish to be informed by and inform voters using such forecasts, is how to restore a reputation so severely damaged by serious mistakes and equally serious misuse by those in politics. It’s hard to see any road to do so which isn’t long and uncomfortable for all involved.

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Amazon spillover in Fairfax (and what to do about Tysons traffic)

In Virginia, Victor Hoskins, the current head of Arlington County economic development, has been hired by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority to serve as its new CEO, and he’s already thinking ahead.

Hoskins was instrumental in the regional effort to bring Amazon’s HQ2 to Arlington County and, while he’ll move across the county line to Fairfax Aug. 5, he is not leaving Amazon behind him.

In fact, Amazon may rely more on Fairfax County than it does HQ2’s own Arlington County home to staff up all those new jobs.

“About 33% of those jobs will be residents of Fairfax County. About 18% will come from Arlington County and 15% from D.C. So everyone is going to benefit, but Fairfax in particular is going to get the lion’s share of the jobs, which is really nice,” Hoskins told WTOP.

Fairfax County has a big pool of talent to offer Amazon. There are roughly 150,000 technology professionals working in Fairfax County, or about one out of every four people.

It is also a highly-educated county, with nearly 60% of the adult population holding at least a four-year college degree. And Fairfax County also ranks as one of the highest household income counties in the country, which will make those big Amazon salaries important for recruiting.

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority recently launched a program with a $1 million initial annual budget to develop ways to attract, retain and train more IT talent in the county.

Fairfax County’s crown jewel right now is rapidly developing Tysons Corner, but many people who live or work in the Tysons area aren’t boasting about all the new development. They’re complaining about the growing traffic it brought.

Hoskins said he is well aware of commuter congestion, and has made it a priority to work with developers and planners to address it. But he said he also thinks Metro’s Silver Line, and more development itself — particularly residential and mixed use development — will, in time, actually help ease some of those traffic woes.

“We can really take advantage of those Metro stations, and the great thing is when you build in and around Metro stations, you actually reduce the number of car trips. Millennials don’t like to own cars. We want to create a place where they don’t want to own cars or have to own cars. That is really the focus,” Hoskins said.

By 2050, Tysons may have more than 200,000 people working there, but more than 100,000 people living there, according to projections in Fairfax County’s comprehensive Tysons Corner plan.

Hoskins is entering big territory. Fairfax County covers more than 400 square miles with a population approaching 1.2 million. It is now home to more than 600,000 jobs, more than double what it was three decades ago. It has more than 117 million square feet of office space, one of the largest suburban office markets in the nation.

And, Fairfax County will keep growing. In Tysons Corner alone, a whopping 45 million square feet of new development over the coming decades is either planned, proposed or already under construction.

Arlington County has named Hoskins’ interim replacement when he leaves.

Alex Iams, assistant director at Arlington County Economic Development since 2014, will be the acting director. Before joining the director’s office, Iams worked on land use and infrastructure finance plans for the redevelopment of Crystal City, ground zero for Amazon’s HQ2.


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Iain Mansfield: Brexit by October 31. Stop using the Left’s language. And stand for skilled workers. Essentials for our next Prime Minister

Iain Mansfield is a former senior civil servant, winner of the Institute of Economic Affairs Brexit prize and a Conservative councillor candidate. He writes in a personal capacity.

Our next Prime Minister will take office at the most challenging time since the 1970s. Not only is there Brexit – an issue of fundamental national importance, that has destroyed the last two Prime Ministers and poses an existential challenge to the future of the Conservative Party – but the old political assumptions are changing. Across the West, traditional voter coalitions are shifting, as citizens reject centrist compromises. Flatlining productivity, unaffordable houses and millions of voters feeling abandoned, either culturally or economically, are just some of the challenges they will face.

Many of those who voted for David Cameron in 2010 are lost to the party, alienated by Brexit. In Britain today, age and education level are better predictors of a person’s vote than class. To win a general election, our next Prime Minister must forge a new coalition of voters that unites the traditional Tory shires with the left-behind Leave voters in the Midlands and North. Even more importantly, they must deliver authentic right-wing policies that address the causes of ordinary working people’s dissatisfaction. People want change and, if the Conservative Party does not deliver it, they are likely to seek answers in the flawed blandishments of Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism.

In that context, there are three essentials that our next Prime Minister must prioritise for the good of the people, the nation and the party:

  • Leave the EU by 31 October, on WTO terms if needed.
  • Openly champion conservative values rather than speaking the language of the left.
  • Reposition the party as the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes.

Leave the EU by 31 October, on WTO terms if needed

Not only is delivering on the outcome of the referendum a democratic imperative, it is vital for the continued existence of the party. Recent polling shows that, if we have not left the EU, the Conservatives are likely to suffer devastating losses in a general election; these figures could be even worse if large numbers of members, councillors or even entire associations defect to the Brexit Party. Many members have held on over the last few months purely out of hope that the next Prime Minister would deliver where May failed: another betrayal in October would see these members permanently lost.

Leaving with a deal is preferable, if some changes to the backstop can be agreed and Parliament will pass it. If not, as I have argued previously on this site, we have nothing to fear from No Deal. Preparations for such should be put into top gear on the first day in office. The Prime Minister must make clear that they will under no circumstances ask for an extension; and that they are, if needed, prepared to systematically veto any measure put forward by the EU on regular business if the UK is for some reason kept in. While every effort should be made to secure a deal, if it cannot be reached, Parliament must be faced with the simple choice of permitting a WTO exit or voting no confidence in the Prime Minister – a gamble, admittedly, but one that is preferable to another disastrous extension.

Openly champion conservative values rather than speaking the language of the left

In recent years too many Conservative politicians have allowed our opponents to define the playing field. We cannot beat the socialists by adopting the language and assumptions of socialism. Our next Prime Minister must stop feeding the narrative of identity, grievance and division, with its assumption that an individual’s potential is defined by their characteristics, that so-called ‘burning injustices’ are solely the responsibility of the state to address, and that the government always no best.

Changing the narrative will be a long endeavour. The systematic appointment of those with conservative values into key ministerially appointed positions; an authentically right-wing approach to policy making in Whitehall; and the withdrawal of state funding from the network of organisations that maintain the left’s grip on the policy narrative are essential. But over and above this, the Prime Minister must be willing to personally stand up and champion individual liberties and freedoms; to condemn progressive authoritarianism and to be visibly proud of Britain, our culture and the rich global heritage of our citizens.

Reposition the party as the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes

Young, metropolitan graduates may once have been natural Conservatives, but no longer. There is little hope of reversing this in the immediate aftermath of Brexit. Instead of squandering our effort here, our new Prime Minister should instead make the party the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes, particularly in the midlands and north.

Such voters have a natural affinity to the traditional conservative values of low tax and individual liberty, but also greatly value and rely day-to-day onn strong public services. This places the Conservatives in a difficult position after a decade of austerity: Labour made hay campaigning on cuts to police numbers and falls in per pupil spending in 2017. But how to fund significant increases in core services without raising taxes or alienating core Conservative voters, such as via the disastrous proposals on social care in the 2017 manifesto?

To find the funding the next Prime Minister must be bold enough to slay the progressive sacred cows that soak up billions annually in public funding. Three immediately spring to mind:

With the additional £15 billion plus a year, the Prime Minister could at a stroke increase police funding by 25 per cent (£3 billion), boost school funding per pupil by 20 per cent (£8 billion) and increase spending on social care by 20 per cent (£4 billion). And then split the proceeds of further growth between public services and tax cuts.

As well as this, we should champion the interests of the high street, enterprise and small businesses and oppose crony corporatism. Multinational companies that make use of aggressive tax avoidance, abuse their market position or actively work against UK sovereignty should not enjoy government grants, procurement or time in No. 10. Fundamentally, our next Prime Minister should spend more time listening to the Federation of Small Businesses and less time listening to the CBI.


As members, we have two candidates set before us. Both are able politicians and tested leaders who represent the best the Parliamentary party has to offer. As we assess who should be not just our next leader, but our Prime Minister, we should do so against their ability to deliver these vital elements.

Both have committed to delivering Brexit by October 31 – but which one has the ability, the genuine will and the courage to do so by any means necessary? Both are true-blue Conservatives – but which one will truly champion our values, taking the battle to our adversaries with the eloquence and conviction of a Thatcher or a Churchill? Both recognise the importance of reaching out to new voters – but which one can devise and push through the policies needed to unite the Tory shires with the Leave voters of the north? Consider carefully and cast your vote.

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