25 November 2015
Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive, TaxPayers' Alliance, provides an analysis of George Osborne's 2015 Autumn Statement.
Written by Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive, TaxPayers’ Alliance
Today’s Statement from George Osborne represents a big missed opportunity to seriously reshape and redefine the role of the state. With a weak Opposition and time on their side at this early stage of the Parliament, the Government could have taken some radical and robust measures: abolishing unnecessary Whitehall departments, putting an end to ring-fencing certain budgets and abolishing the expensive and unjustifiable triple lock on pensions.
However, the Chancellor ducked the challenge with a series of announcements that will surely have been made with more than one eye on the politics of a future Conservative leadership race.
Of course, it’s good news that the OBR’s economic forecasts are more positive than expected, with higher than predicted tax receipts and low interest rates effectively giving him more room for manoeuvre.
And I welcome the fact that the Government remains committed to running a surplus by the end of the Parliament. But that room for manoeuvre appears to have been used up with the u-turn on tax credits and additional spending commitments in a number of other areas.
Meanwhile, fiddly interventions in the housing market and a new payroll tax mean that Whitehall’s tentacles continue to stretch far and wide.
Ministers are still spending £73.5 billion more than they have raised in revenue this year and as they continue to borrow in every year until 2019/20, the total national debt will continue to rise in cash terms – as will the debt interest payments to fund that borrowing.
So how can any observer seriously continue to talk about “austerity” and “savage cuts” when total public spending is continuing to rise year after year?
Jonathan Isaby is Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance and was previously a columnist for the Daily Telegraph newspaper and Co-Editor of ConservativeHome.com
Back in September when it was front page news across the UK that intelligent machines and artificial intelligence (AI) would take our jobs, most of us managed to find some hope in the fact our job was too unique for a computer to do it, but is that really so?
Back in September when it was front page news across the UK that intelligent machines and artificial intelligence (AI) would take our jobs, most of us managed to find some hope in the fact our job was too unique for a computer to do it, but is that really so? I went along to a talk from Professor Lord Giddens at the London School of Economics looking at sociology and the digital revolution, and according to him we should “drop the idea that computers are not creative.” Hang on a minute, does that mean they could take my job?
Professor Giddens also talked about computers that write poetry. This poetry, like the classical music, cannot be distinguished from human-created verse. It doesn’t stop there, stand-up comedians can now be robots. Computer generated jokes are getting more complex, simple examples include: What is the difference between leaves and a car? One you brush and rake, the other you rush and brake! Terrible, I know.
You may have a greater understanding of classical music than me and can tell the difference between David’s computer generated music and that of Vivaldi. You may also wince at the terrible AI generated jokes, but quantum computers are coming and therefore the possibilities are exponential to what we are seeing today. Only last week did the Guardian report that the University of New South demonstrated a quantum version of computer code being written onto a silicon microchip with the highest ever recorded degree of accuracy.
I question how long it will be before we will be visiting art galleries with works entirely computer generated. One may even exist now. What I want to know is how this will impact our engagement with the piece? We will know there is no real heart or soul to it, it is just an image generated by a computer. It is here where I am questioning how far technology will take us. Whilst technology has the skill, will it not rip out the heart of what makes something special, and therefore does it start to become devoid of meaning?
Whilst a computer may be able to write poetry, create classical music, paint a picture and tell a joke, for it to have integrity I believe this needs to come from the heart. I am all for a technological revolution and love watching and exploring as it unfolds, but there are some things we should keep a human heart in. If we fight for this it may just be where some of our jobs stay.
23 November 2015
This autumn marks eight years since the start of the global financial crisis which led to unforeseen reputational damage to the banking sector and wider financial services. Governments moved to address the problems and harsh lessons learned. Robust prevention measures, bullish markets and recovering economies since might help us forget about the crisis.
This autumn marks eight years since the start of the global financial crisis which led to unforeseen reputational damage to the banking sector and wider financial services.
Governments moved to address the problems and harsh lessons learned. Robust prevention measures, bullish markets and recovering economies since might help us forget about the crisis.
But, the industry, eight years on, still faces an enduring and significant deficit in consumer trust.
Edelman has led the charge of measuring trust for 15 years. Tracking trust in financial services since 2011, our Trust Barometer™ has shown only modest increases in global trust in the industry – and it remains one of the least trusted industries year-after-year.
In the 2015 Trust Barometer™, only 36% of UK consumers state that they have trust in financial services.
Low trust is a core reputational issue. For the UK financial services sector, it’s crippling to the bedrock on which it is built.
The discussion of trust in the financial services sector is not new, but has come under brighter lights most recently at the Bank of England’s Open Forum on 11 November, 2015. George Osborne shared public frustrations with an industry some think went relatively unpunished during and since the crisis; Bank of England Governor Mark Carney revealed that the public still expects significant changes to be made if trust in the sector is ever to be redeemed.
Added to that, in a report released last week, our client – the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) – highlights the need for the industry to do more to address the “trust gap” which exists.
The FSCS has an important role in restoring trust in the financial services sector at large. It protects consumers when authorised financial services firms fail. Its mission is to provide a responsive, comprehensive and efficient compensation service that raises public confidence in the industry.
In Mind the Gap: restoring trust in UK financial services, the FSCS (along with Edelman’s 2015 Trust Barometer™ results) examined current consumer interactions and perceptions of the industry. Synthesising the research into a simple framework to describe the three conditions necessary for trust: Alignment, Benevolence and Competence, the report unravels the consumer trust gaps that continue to plague their relationships with financial services in the UK.
The FSCS co-authored the report with Nick Chater, Professor of Behavioural Science at the Warwick Business School and member of the Advisory Board to the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insight Team (popularly known as the ‘Nudge Unit’), which applied principles of behavioural economics to the independent research which surveyed over 2,500 UK consumers.
The partnership between the FSCS and the Warwick Business School was first inspired by another Edelman trust insight: the heightened level of trust the public places in academics. As the FSCS’ purpose is rooted in generating consumer confidence and reassurance, aligning with an academic body with such revered research credentials was essential to ensure a thorough understanding of consumer perceptions of UK financial services today. Only then could the FSCS develop solutions to address and help restore identified gaps in trust – in collaboration with the industry.
In this changing world, there is one perennial: trust is an invaluable commodity. What the FSCS’s report shows is that trust in financial services can only be restored and maintained through understanding the complex psychology of customer behaviours and perceptions. Customers also need the assurance from industry that its energies and decisions are serving the best interest of the customers. There is still work to be done.
23 November 2015
If 2015 was the year that the UK elected an all-Tory government and the opposing party drove further to the left, 2016 will see how this new polarized political landscape will pan out. What will our expert panel predict for 2016?
If 2015 was the year that the UK elected an all-Tory government and the opposing party drove further to the left, 2016 will see how this new polarized political landscape will pan out. The British people will also have their say on they position in the EU, which will determine relations with both allies and foes.
For many, 2015 symbolized a year of war, terrorism and crowds of humanity in flight. Will 2016 be a year when the world moves away from the abyss of war, or closer to it? With a new US President also set to take centre stage, 2016 will see change and uncertainty.
How will those debates play out? Who will be the focus of media scrutiny; what will shake the business world; and which cultural or social forces will shine the brightest to grab our attention?
Our expert panel will explore answers to these questions and more at Edelman’s annual Crystal Ball.
Watch the live stream of the event here from 8.30am on Wednesday 2nd December 2015.
Our Crystal Ball panel includes:
Kirsty Wark, Broadcaster – Moderator
Sue Perkins, Comedian, Author & TV Presenter
John Witherow, Editor, The Times
Baroness Tessa Jowell, Member of the House of Lords
Michael Spencer, CEO, ICAP
Ed Williams, CEO, Edelman UK
To read the predictions made in December 2014 ahead of 2015, click here.
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