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Thursday, 19 October 2017

Inflation Rises to Five Year High

Inflation increased to three percent in September, the highest in five years. 
The Resolution Foundation have warned that this rise will hit low and middle income families standard of living; a working family with two children could lose  up to £315 pounds a year. 

Food and transport are the main drivers of rising costs  rising by 0.8% since last year. Benefits are currently frozen for the next four years, so an increase in inflation could hit recipients very hard.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the figure highlighted the risk of setting benefits rates far in advance, with recipients set to lose out as an unintended consequence.
A spokesperson said:
“This morning’s inflation figure, taken together with the latest inflation forecasts, means that the four-year freeze on most working-age benefits is now expected to cut the benefits of 10 million families by £450 a year in real terms – up from £320 back when the freeze was first announced. The extra £130 loss is not the result of any deliberate decision by the government – it is the consequence of inflation being higher than was expected when the policy was set.”
Scottish Chambers of Commerce CEO Liz Cameron said: “The figures today continue to highlight the divergence between cost of living and real wages which characterises the fragility of the UK economy.  
“Speculation continues to increase around the prospect of an interest rates rise in November, yet the inflation figures emphasise the uncertainty this would cause to both Scottish business and the UK economy as a whole.
“In the current climate, while real wages are falling, the MPC should continue to hold steady on interest rates.
“It is critical that the measures provided in the Chancellor’s upcoming Autumn Budget are clearly designed to boost business confidence and increase investment. 
“Ensuring a stable environment for business growth will contribute to rising wages, and a subsequent rise in consumer confidence.”
Source: Holyrood 

Monday, 16 October 2017

Centre for Local Economic Strategies publishes Post Brexit Procurement Policy Framework

Centre for Local Economic Strategies publishes Post Brexit Procurement Policy Framework

The Centre for Local Economic Strategies has published a study that recommends progressive procurement policy for a post brexit environment. 

CLES has been working for 10 years on a study that looks at how "anchor institutions purchase goods and services can bring direct benefits for local business and organisations and indirect benefits for the local economy, social economy and people". 

There are currently three governing principles that are followed as standard practice: 

1. ensuring competition in the process and the movement of goods and services across borders;

2. ensuring procurement is undertaken in a legally compliant and risk averse way; and

3. ensuring procurement is undertaken in an efficient manner, with cost the predominant decision-making criteria.

To this CLED suggests adding three further principles to ensure more sustainable procurement:

1. The Directives talk about the importance of flexibility in procurement so that processes are more reflective of the nature of the good and service being procured and its value, thus making it simpler.

2. They talk about the importance of Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) to national economies and the need to procure more of them.

3. And they talk about the need for the process of procurement to be linked to and address wider social and environmental goals.

CLES also set out a best practice guide for how to best implement post-brexit procurement.  They see Brexit as a "significant opportunity for UK Government and place based anchor institutions to re-shape legislation around public procurement and in turn how procurement is undertaken in policy, strategy and practice terms."

You can read the full report and recommendations here. 

Source: CLES 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

£6 Million pound fund announced for rural tourism infrastructure.

A six million pound investment in rural infrastructure has been announced by the Scottish government. The boost comes as record tourist numbers have been seen in the UK over the last year. The money will go towards improving parking, recycling points, campsite facilities and footpath access. 
The fund will be launched in 2018 and be administered by local councils and public sector partners. 
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The tourist boom that our country is enjoying is great news. It means more jobs and investment but it can also mean pressure on transport, services and facilities – especially in rural areas. The Scottish Government is determined to help.
“Our new £6 million Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund will take bids from communities and work with local councils to support projects that enable even more people to enjoy Scotland, the most beautiful country in the world.”


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

“Brexit: What’s at Stake for Businesses”

A new report published by the Scottish government details how uncertainty is impacting companies. The report is published just as Theresa May failed to assure EU citizen's rights in the case of a no deal Brexit. 

Businesses believe that Brexit may impact recruitment, and hinder future growth. The report uses business leader's own words and focuses on issues such as:

  • Glasgow Airport's possible loss of the legal framework to fly its current EU routes and some long-haul, including to the US and Canada
  • Loch Melfort Hotel, Argyll worries about the difficulty of having to attract and retain staff.
  • The Scottish Salmon Company with 60 sites, employing more than 500 people – on importance of remaining in the Single Market to allow trade relationships to grow
Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe Michael Russell said:
"This report articulates the concerns of Scottish businesses as the Brexit clock ticks towards the UK’s departure from the EU. It is clear that there is a great deal at stake for every business. Their voices must be listened to before irreversible decisions are taken.”
Founder and Creative Director of Maramedia Nigel Pope said:
“I’m delighted to see the publication of this report. As a producer of international wildlife programming with global relationships it’s essential that our business retains access to the Single Market for future growth.”
Amanda McMillan, Managing Director of Glasgow Airport said:
“The uncertainty regarding the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU is already having an impact on the aviation industry. A number of airlines have stated they will scale back their UK growth plans, focusing instead on adding capacity at airports in the EU. This has the potential to undermine Scotland’s connectivity.”

Source: Scottish Government report. 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Job creation for inclusive growth in cities

Joseph Rowntree has published a report that identifies 'more and better jobs' in UK cities. 

The report shows:

  • There is a significant shortfall in labour demand in 12 major UK cities.
  • Local industrial strategies can raise labour demand in cities and can complement supply-side policies.
  • Policy interventions should be based on clear and robust aims and rationales, and careful coordination with supply-side initiatives.
  • The priorities for demand-side policies are:

  • Identifying and targeting inclusive growth sectors, fostering demand-led skills development, building closer employer engagement and partnership focused on priority sectors.
  • Lobbying for greater devolved powers, and strengthening policy analysis and evaluation frameworks.

Joseph Roundtree Foundation find freeze on benefits 'single biggest policy driver' behind expected rise in poverty

The Joseph Roundtree Foundation has released research that shows that almost half a million more people would be forced into poverty over the next three years if the proposed freeze on benefits goes ahead. 

A new briefing by JRF published yesterday highlights how the freeze makes families worse off - the majority of whom are in work. The freeze is the single biggest policy driver behind the expected rise in poverty by the end of the Parliament.

JRF is calling for the Government to target its resources better at struggling families. Rather than increase the personal tax allowance to £12,500, which would overwhelmingly benefit better off families, JRF is urging the Government to remove the benefits freeze. Only £1 in every £6 spent on raising the personal tax allowance goes to the bottom half of the income distribution.

The influential thinktank say that the hit on families is set to be just under £1bn more than the £4bn initially forecast, due to prices rising quicker than expected.

They found the plans, which were drawn up while George Osborne was Chancellor, will lead to 470,000 more people living in poverty by 2020/21.
They say that in 2019/20, when the freeze is set to end, a couple with two children receiving the soon to be rolled out Universal Credit will be £832 worse off a year than they would have been had benefits risen in line with inflation since 2010.
They say that boosting income related benefits with inflation in 2018/19, at a cost of £2.8bn, would instead result in 380,000 fewer people living in poverty in 2020/21 - nine in 10 of whom would be in families with children and 17 in 20 would be working families.

Chief Executive of the foundation, Campbell Robb said: 
“People who are just managing at best are being hit in the pocket by the freeze on benefits and tax credits. It means millions of families are finding life even harder to make ends meet - whether paying for the weekly food shop, covering energy bills or finding enough money to pay the rent.

“While the Treasury gains from this policy in the short-term, more children living in poverty has costs the Exchequer an estimated £6.4bn per year in lost tax revenue and additional benefit spending.

“The focus should be on making sure low-income family budgets keep pace with the cost of essentials, while reducing the benefit bill through increasing employment and enabling people on low pay to increase their earnings.

“No government wants to fight an election on a record of rising poverty and falling living standards. Circumstances have changed, so policy needs to change too. As prices rise, the priority should be to protect the budgets of the lowest income families. It’s time to lift the freeze.”

Source: Joseph Roundtree Foundation/

Monday, 9 October 2017

Nicola Sturgeon Announces that the Scottish government will pay 'settled status' fees for EU migrants

The first minister announced yesterday that the Scottish government will pay the settled status fee for any EU citizen working in the public sector. 

This follows Theresa May's assurance that 'settled status' will be offered to EU citizens who have been in the UK for 5 years or more. This statement came with a strongly suggested caveat that there will be a fee to pay to ensure status. 
Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, Ms Sturgeon said EU migrants had made a big contribution and their right to remain in Scotland should be guaranteed.
She said: "It appears that the UK government is going to make EU citizens apply for what they're calling settled status and possibly charge a fee for that.
"They haven't said what that fee would be, but if it's the same as it is for residents, it will be around £65.

"We will pay that for workers in the public sector. Why? Because it helps individuals, it helps us keep vital workers in the NHS and public services and it sends a message to EU nationals that we want them to stay here because we welcome them."

Source: BBC