By Peter Hoskin
Follow Peter on Twitter
though the Guardian and Mirror are overstating
their collective case, today is still a day of momentous policy changes. You
can see our quick checklist of the biggest – which includes a couple that didn’t
make it into the Guardian’s
main round-up – below. Although, before you do, it’s worth noting that
there’s more to come later this month, from another increase in the personal
allowance to the first trial of the Universal Credit. Here are today’s measures:
of a carbon price floor. This is, in HMRC’s own words,
a “tax on fossil fuels used in the generation of electricity” – pour encourager energy companies to use
less coal, oil and gas. The Government’s early analysis
of the policy suggested that its financial implications would be minimal, for the
Exchequer, businesses and individuals. Yet the Institute for Public Policy Research
that it could drive wholesale electricity prices up by 17 per cent across the next few years, driving thousands
into fuel poverty.
to housing benefit. Whether you call it the “spare room subsidy” or the “bedroom tax”, the
simple fact is this: housing benefit claimants who have one spare bedroom will
have 14 per cent of their benefit removed, rising to 25 per cent for two or
more spare bedrooms. It’s expected to save the Exchequer around half-a-£billion
each year – from a total housing benefit bill of £17 billion – provided it can
be administered successfully.
- A new
system of financial regulation. The Financial Services Authority has been
whacked, and two new regulatory bodies birthed in its place. The Prudential
Regulation Authority is there to “promote the safety
and security” of financial institutions. The Financial Conduct Authority
will keep an eye on the City’s behaviour, trying to spot – and stop – the sort
of dodginess that led to, say, the Libor scandal. The whole shebang will be
overseen by the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee, another example
of the power accumulating on Threadneedle Street.
- The main
rate of corporation tax falls to 23 per cent. From 24 per
cent, of course. The Coalition plans to reduce it further still, to 20 per cent,
by the next election.
- Cuts to
The Government hopes to save £350 million from the £2.2 billion legal aid bill.
That will be achieved, in main part, by lowering the cut-off point for aid to a
household income of £32,000 a year. There will also be more detailed means tests
for those earning between £14,000 and £32,000. Here’s an article written
in 2010, by ConHome’s own Harry Phibbs, on the cuts and their scale.
commissioning reforms. Hmm, you may just have heard about these NHS reforms before. They’re
the ones by which clinical commissions groups – made up mainly of GPs – steer
the work of the health service. As Max Pemberton puts it in a useful
article in today’s Telegraph, “They will be responsible for organising and
paying for care, and deciding who will provide it”. This was controversial
enough when the idea was conceived, but now it seems to have attracted another
swarm of opposition. Today’s Mail highlights and attacks the possibility of GPs
themselves” lucrative contracts.
to council tax benefit. Council tax benefit reduces any claimant’s council tax bill. The
DWP has traditionally administered it, but now it’s asking councils to sort it
out themselves – along with a 10 per cent reduction in funding. What this means
for current claimants mostly depends on what their local authorities decide. The
Scottish Government along with Scottish councils is, for instance, stumping up
£40 million to bridge the “funding