Monday 19th November, 2012: This week's news that one fifth of NHS patients are taking advantage of Labour's reforms for patients to choose the best provider is welcomed by Tony Hockley, the author of A Premium on Patients. He warns that the NHS trusts may try to obstruct their competitors but should be prevented from doing so.
Labour’s health service changes in 2006 included a plan to give patients choice of treatment from 'any willing provider'. A new analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that many NHS patients have already benefited. For some common procedures up to one-in-five are choosing to have an operation somewhere other than their local NHS trust. Already, mounting evidence indicates that choice and competition are raising quality. The latest research, which shows rising numbers of patients exercising the choice now available to them is very good news.
However, the worry now is that such progress in the spread of competition might slow down in response to the sustained spending squeeze. As NHS trusts struggle to remain in financial balance, particularly those losing patients to other providers of care, there is a very real risk that the NHS will try to protect its own. The new Clinical Commissioning Groups must not be permitted to resort to the subtle practices used by the old Primary Care Trusts to restrict choice.
Monday 12th November, 2012: Politeia Director Dr Sheila Lawlor reflects on the similar challenges facing the British and Greek economies.
At the Eastern and Western fronts of the continent of Europe, two countries, Greece and the UK, appear to follow very different paths when it comes to jobs and growth. This week the Greeks wait for another decision on access to bail out funds to pay their bills. And although not hitherto the most compliant of debtors, their Parliament on Friday passed a strict austerity programme. It included cutting the cost of employment: public sector salaries, some work related benefits – e.g. holidays and benefits – and the minimum wage.
By contrast, the direction of travel in the UK is different. Employment costs look set to rise. In addition to the fixed costs employers pay on top of wages – for NI contributions (at c. 14 per cent) holiday pay, a portion of statutory benefit and compliance, they will soon face extra costs for the new pension scheme and paternity leave. But beyond these statutory obligations there is now pressure to increase costs further as last week’s ‘living wage’ campaign showed.
Margaret Thatcher changed UK economic history, curbing the growth of public spending and the state. But, as David B. Smith suggests, while there were setbacks and mistakes, some of that legacy has endured.
Lady Thatcher was a great and transformational Prime Minister who pursued her objectives with an intellectual rigour and a determination that is rare among modern politicians. The comments that follow will concentrate on dispelling some of the myths that have been propagated about the economics of the Thatcher period. However, this narrow focus should be seen in a wider context:that of the courage of a lady who spent much of her life under the threat of political assassination; of one whose unique moral force, derived from the Methodism of her youth, gave her the strength robustly to defend her views; and of her important role in winning the cold war. Lady Thatcher’s contribution, in close co-operation with President Ronald Reagan, to the freeing of millions of Eastern Europeans from Soviet domination may eventually come to be regarded as her greatest achievement. However, it is now time to challenge some of the myths about the economic policies of the Thatcher years.
Thatcher's principles brought Britain and the world prosperity
Politeia Director Dr Sheila Lawlor considers the legacy of Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013).
Mrs Thatcher came to power in 1979. Britain was then seen as “the sick man of Europe”, its economic future written off. Strikes rent the country and the economy was held back by big and expensive government. Public spending had crept up in the ‘60s and ‘70s to 47 per cent of GDP; the top rate tax was 83 per cent (90 per cent for unearned income); and trade union power brought production to a halt when a union so ruled.
Mrs Thatcher swept to power with a belief that freedom under the law should guide change. She aimed to set the economy free, promote the rule of law and encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship. This meant challenging the power of the state and collective central state planning or ownership. Bit by bit, in the decades after World War Two, state powers had grown. And as Sir Keith Joseph, Mrs Thatcher’s mentor, used to say '"statism" is socialism’s twin'.
Friday 9th November, 2012: As the message of the autumn statement sinks in, Dr Gerard Lyons says there’s much to welcome in the statement.
Economic Recovery is the urgent priority today, but getting the future structure of the economy right is equally important, says Dr Gerard Lyons, looking ahead.
That will involve the big questions - the balance of the economy, the size of the state, regional dynamics and also the incentive structure as outlined in tax and welfare payments, among others. There is, naturally, some overlap between both important issues. Each must be taken into account when judging the Chancellor's 2012 Autumn Statement.
In the run up to the statement, much of the focus was on whether there would be another round of austerity to bring the public finances more under control. That that did not happen was good. Economic growth is the best way to improve debt dynamics. It needs both more money in peoples' pockets and improved confidence about the future so that business will invest.
The big question remains where will demand come from, one of the big worries post the Statement. The Statement also will have focussed attention on monetary policy and the need to get more lending and credit into the economy.