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MAY Theresa October 2016 thumbs

We’re only a few months into the new Government’s time in office, but there are already various key points on which this administration differs from its predecessor. As a handy crib-sheet, here’s our run-down of each of the main shifts in policy:

  • Airports: the previous policy of circling in a holding pattern has been brought to an end, with the decision to expand Heathrow.
  • Deficit and surplus: Last week, Philip Hammond formally ditched George Osborne’s surplus target (the target date had already slipped from 2015 to 2020 under his predecessor).
  • Grammar schools: While David Cameron had ruled out any new selective schools, Theresa May’s most eye-catching announcement thus far was to pledge to allow existing and new schools to adopt selection should they wish to do so.
  • Compulsory academisation: As well as adopting an education policy that Cameron always disliked, May has ditched one that he supported. The Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, to compel under-performing schools to become academies has been dropped.
  • Industrial Strategy: Cameron and Osborne tended to be shy about the idea, not least due to fears that it smacked of 1970s corporatism and picking winners. May, on the other hand, has promised a “modern industrial strategy” and has created a Whitehall department to deliver it.
  • The state pension: As Paul wrote this morning, ministers appear to be planning to abandon the triple lock after 2020.
  • Annuities: After pension savers were granted greater freedoms to access their money, the second stage of the policy was meant to be the establishment of a second-hand annuity market, allowing existing pensioners to sell their annuities. Hammond moved swiftly to cancel the plan.
  • Northern Powerhouse: This Osborne project still exists, but it seems to have been downgraded by the Government. In September the Prime Minister was forced to clarify that she did support it continuing, though the Ministers now appear to have a broader focus on economic improvements beyond the South East generally.
  • Mayoral devolution: Like the Northern Powerhouse, this programme hasn’t been abolished but the new Prime Minister appears somewhat less enthused about it than her predecessor. Mayoral applications, once rushed through, will now be “reviewed on a case-by-case basis”, and it’s reported that Downing Street has some qualms about handing power to cities without any equivalent consideration of rural areas.
  • Aid spending. While Cameron saw higher aid spending as an achievement to boast about, May is more keenly aware of the frustration many voters feel about sending billions abroad while controlling spending at home. The appointment of Priti Patel to DfID was a pretty pointed statement of a tougher intent – Patel had in the past called for the department to be abolished. Apparently with Number 10’s approval, she has set about demanding greater scrutiny and transparency in development spending.

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