CentreForum proposals to Budget 2014

Migration: a liberal challengeAdam Corlett, Toby Fenwick and Tom Papworth
March 2014

In its formal submission to Budget 2014, CentreForum urges the government to scrap Class 2 National Insurance – a "poll tax" on self-employed people – to ease living cost pressures for the one in seven UK workers currently running their own business.

It is estimated that half of these workers have annual earnings of £12,000 or less. Scrapping Class 2 National Insurance would deliver them with a £143 tax cut and cost the Treasury next to nothing.

The Class 2 proposal is part of a package of recommendations for making National Insurance simpler and fairer. CentreForum argues that self-employed workers could be helped further by a rise in the other self-employment National Insurance threshold – Class 4 – so that it matches the personal allowance for income tax.

Additionally, CentreForum calls for the removal of the requirement on local authorities to hold a referendum on any council tax rise above 2%. It accuses the government of weakening the link between local finance and local democracy.

Other measures in the submission seek to address 'unfair' tax breaks. This includes the subsidy on red diesel which costs the Treasury up to £2.4 billion each year in lost revenue. The submission also reaffirms CentreForum's longstanding proposal to hand shares in RBS to the British public.

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Select media coverage: ConservativeHome, Left Foot Forward, Public Finance

Within reach: the new politics of multiple needs and exclusions

Fabian Society in association with CentreForum and the Centre for Social Justice
Migration: a liberal challenge
March 2014

Edited by Ed Wallis and Oliver Hilbery 

Across the country there is a small group of people who face multiple problems such as homelessness, substance misuse, mental health problems and offending. They slip between the cracks of mainstream public services and they fall out of a political debate that is unrelentingly focused on majoritarian concerns.

As we approach 2015, politicians from all parties are beginning to define the ideas that will shape our public services for the future. But what does this thinking really mean for those facing multiple needs and exclusions?

In 'Within Reach: The new politics of multiple needs and exclusions', politicians and policy experts from across the political spectrum outline how our services need to change to provide the kind of support the most vulnerable in our society really need:

  • Lisa Nandy MP, shadow minister for civil society, looks at how to invest in relationships
  • Richard Reeves, associate director of CentreForum, says that independence, not inclusion, should be the goal of a liberal approach to disadvantage
  • Christian Guy, director of the Centre for Social Justice, assesses the impact of the coalition on social justice
  • Lord Michael Bichard, cross bench peer, asks why changing public services is so difficult
  • Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, takes a look at what the evidence tells us about the most excluded
  • Simon Parker, director of the New Local Government Network, considers the potential power of localism
  • Deborah Mattinson, director of BritainThinks, assesses public attitudes to the most vulnerable

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The Post Office: a front office for local government

Migration: a liberal challengeTom Frostick and Toby Fenwick
February 2014

Britain’s postal services sector is evolving. In the case of Royal Mail, a decade long decline in letter volumes and growing competition in the parcel delivery market set the stage for privatisation. The government sold 60% of its stake in the company in 2013. While the Post Office was excluded from this sale – and remains a separate state owned business – it too is in the process of change.

With government support, the Post Office is modernising its branches, developing new products and services and building on its position as a trusted community hub. It is also looking to expand its role as a ‘front office’ for government, a role examined here in the context of local government.

The report draws on previous Post Office experience of providing services for government, and on fieldwork undertaken with a study group of local authorities.

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Character and Resilience Manifesto

APPG on Social Mobility with CentreForum and Character Counts
Migration: a liberal challenge
February 2014

Chris Paterson, Claire Tyler and Jen Lexmond

Why do some talented children grow up to fulfil their ambitions while others never realise their full potential? How do we create a country in which a person’s life chances are determined by their talent, not the circumstances of their birth? These are some of the difficult questions that this Character and Resilience Manifesto aims to tackle.

There is growing evidence linking life chances to things beyond just test scores – that is ‘non-cognitive’ skills. In simple terms, these are attributes such as a belief in one’s ability to succeed, the perseverance to stick with a task and the ability to bounce back from life’s inevitable setbacks. In short, ‘Character and Resilience’.

At a summit last year, The APPG on Social Mobility heard evidence on how these so called ‘soft’ skills lead to hard results: where you are on the character scale will have a big impact on what you achieve. This Manifesto is an attempt to take the next step. It contains what we – as a cross party group – believe to be the best policies to enhance Character and Resilience across the life course.

In doing so, it is both a ‘call to arms’ to policy makers and an attempt to begin a wider national conversation on how developing Character and Resilience can help break down the stubborn blight of social immobility and enable people from every walk of life to realise their full potential.

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Read the summary of the manifesto launch on 11 February 2014

The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg said: “Improving social mobility has been one of my biggest priorities in Government. The work by the APPG on Social Mobility is so valuable because - in collaboration with leading organisations - it is helping to drive innovative thinking such as this examination of the importance of character building and resilience in helping our young people.”   

The Education Secretary, Michael Gove said: "As top heads and teachers already know, sports clubs, orchestras and choirs, school plays, cadets, debating competitions all help to build character and instil grit, to give children's talents an opportunity to grow and to allow them to discover new talents they never knew they had."

The Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt said: "This is an excellent report that tackles one of the most pressing questions currently facing our education system: how do we educate resilient young people that have a sense of moral purpose and character, as well as being passionate, reflective learners? The Labour Party firmly believes that character education belongs in the classroom. So I look forward to working with the APPG to ensure that our young people are given the hard-edged skills they need in order to fulfil their potential and enjoy the start in life they deserve."

Director-General of the CBI, John Cridland said: “There is a danger that schools become exam factories churning out people who are not sufficiently prepared for life outside the school gates. As this important report shows, alongside academic rigour we also need schools to produce rounded and grounded young people who have the skills and behaviours that businesses want.”

Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, Alan Milburn said: “As this valuable report makes clear, schools must do more to promote character skills as well as academic attainment.  It is not a question of either / or.  The core business of a school must be to do both."

It's all in the game

Migration: a liberal challengeSam Tomlin and Stephen Lee
February 2014

This report calls for a radical shake up of English football's governance structures to make clubs more transparent in their financial dealings and accountable to their supporters.

It follows an ultimatum from the Commons' Culture, Media and Sport Committee which warned that English football must reform its governance structures or face legislative intervention. CentreForum believes the time for such action has now arrived.

As well as a proposal to open up the Football Association (FA) to Freedom of Information requests, the report calls for public disclosure of clubs’ ownership arrangements, tax affairs and transfers so fans can see what is happening behind closed doors. It also contains plans to increase supporter based representation on the FA Council.

It is argued that these transparency measures will protect the national interest in the game and the community assets that football clubs represent.

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Select media coverage: Press Association (carried by the Independent, Mail, Fox Sports and various local media), City AM

Migration: a liberal challenge

Migration: a liberal challengeAlasdair Murray
January 2014

In the second of three publications aimed at setting a 'liberal' immigration agenda before the next general election, CentreForum argues that politicians must restore confidence in the immigration system without jettisoning key liberal principles such as freedom and tolerance.

To that end, the report makes a number recommendations for ensuring the immigration system is judged to be fairer and more transparent. This includes a National Insurance Advance, which would be payable by non-EU economic migrants upon entry to the UK; a plan to extend the period before EU migrants can become eligible for out of work benefits; and replacing the Conservative party's net migration target with a broader migration and population change target set at the beginning of every parliament.

Other recommendations set out in the report include a student loans style scheme for migrants to pay for English language classes and a plan to shift responsibility for asylum cases from the Home Office to the Ministry of Justice.

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Select media coverage: Daily Mail (MailOnline)Press Association (carried by the Evening Standard, The Herald and Huffington Post among others), Public Finance

Making allowances: tax cuts for the squeezed middle

To teach to learn coverAdam Corlett
January 2014

Whoever wins the next general election can raise living standards by cutting National Insurance for low and middle income earners.

This report argues that lifting people out of National Insurance is the most progressive form of direct tax cut, as it will provide the most help for low earners and ease living cost pressures for the "squeezed middle".

The report shuns Labour's plan to revive the 10p income tax band. And it says that future increases in the income tax personal allowance — the flagship policy of the Liberal Democrats in coalition with the Conservatives — should come second to National Insurance cuts.

By April, the coalition government will have raised the personal allowance from £6,475 to £10,000 in four years. But Lib Dems are now hinting it should be lifted further towards £12,500 — roughly the annual full time equivalent of the National Minimum Wage.

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Select media coverage: City AM, The Guardian [front page of print edition], New Statesman (Staggers)

The business case for immigration reform

To teach to learn coverTom Papworth
December 2013

In the first of three publications aimed at setting a 'liberal' immigration agenda for 2015, CentreForum urges the next government to focus on the quality, not quantity, of skilled workers coming to Britain from outside the European Union.

Set out in the report are a number of ideas for cutting red tape, promoting jobs, exports and growth, and making the immigration system more customer friendly.

However, one of the main complaints respondents raised was the "permanent revolution" in immigration policy. The report therefore urges a moratorium on immigration changes, at least until after the 2015 election, so that the system can bed down and businesses can get used to current rules.

In addition, the report pushes for changes in the way immigration statistics are gathered to get a clearer picture of arrivals and departures. It says the use of the International Passenger Survey to estimate numbers of migrants is particularly hopeless, and the government must improve data collection to generate accurate and comprehensive migration statistics.

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Select media coverage: Financial Times

Smarter accountability in Further Education

To teach to learn coverSam Cannicott with James Kempton and Sean McDaniel
December 2013

Further education colleges are uniquely placed to be “engines of social mobility” as many of their learners come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have left school with poor literacy and numeracy skills.

This report maintains that, while their remit is unavoidably wide, colleges’ attention must be fixed on individuals who have fallen behind in the core subjects of English and maths. Helping these individuals catch up by the time they leave college will strengthen their chances of getting a job.

To that end, the report urges the government to rethink its approach to accountability in further education and make English and maths GCSE results a key performance measure for colleges. It calls on Ofsted to be much tougher on colleges that fall short on improving learners’ literacy and numeracy skills. Colleges that operate in areas with a high NEET rate should be not be considered as 'good' or 'outstanding' by Ofsted.

The report also calls for stronger links to be established between colleges and the business community, and for businesses to step in when a college is shown to be underperforming. It points to earlier CentreForum research which stressed the importance of bringing industry into the classroom to equip learners with the skills needed for employment.

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Download the summary of a roundtable discussion on the report's research and policy recommendations

Build the infrastructure, bin the wishlist

To teach to learn coverQuentin Maxwell-Jackson
December 2013

This report urges the government to be clearer when calculating and communicating its national infrastructure programme. It is argued that the current ‘wish list’ of projects, which infrastructure minister Lord Deighton has been asked to convert into a programme, is in danger of sending the wrong signals to investors, who are not confident that projects will get long term funding.

In 2010, the coalition government planned to raise infrastructure spending levels to £200 billion over the course of the parliament. To ensure that the government meets this level of sustained investment, greater clarity is needed around how projects are to be funded to help investors make choices about their financial involvement.

Lord Deighton’s infrastructure programme is expected to be announced at the time of the Autumn Statement on 5 December.

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Select media coverage: City AM, Evening Standard, Public Finance