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By Peter Hoskin
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Even
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:

  • Introduction
    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
    reckons
    that it could drive wholesale electricity prices up by 17 per cent  across the next few years, driving thousands
    into fuel poverty.
  • Changes
    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
    legal aid.

    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.
  • NHS
    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
    “awarding
    themselves”
    lucrative contracts.
  • Changes
    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
    gap”
    .

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