Magazine article Public Finance

Numbers Game

Magazine article Public Finance

Numbers Game

Article excerpt

Warming up

February 2016 was the warmest February the world has seen since global record-keeping began in 1880. The scale of the rise above average temperatures, 1.35°C, was also the biggest jump for any month yet recorded.

No accolade for academies

March's Budget included a £1.5bn plan to convert all state schools into academies by 2022, a move that runs counter to public opinion, according to YouGov polling. The proportion of people opposed to academies has held steady at 39% since 2013, but the number in favour has fallen from 33% to 25% over the past three years.

Almost half (48%) of teachers polled said creating more academies would make educational standards worse, while only 17% felt this would improve outcomes.

Central attraction

Local government employment has been in steep decline since June 2010, with ONS figures for December 2015 recording a loss of 79,000 posts (3.4% of employees) compared with a year earlier. The end of year headcount stood at 2.23 million, 710,000 down on June 2007's peak. Employment via central government, by contrast, increased by 32,000 (1.1%) during the year to reach 2.95 million.

The opposing trends have been amplified by changes in classification. Academies are centrally funded, for example, whereas local authority maintained schools sit within local government. Last year, 40,000 people switched from local to central as a result of academy conversions, accounting for roughly half of the losses in local government.

The sudden drop in central headcount, in mid-2012, came about as 196,000 staff at English further education and sixth form colleges moved into the private sector.

Distrust fund

British people's trust in the government reached a 10-year peak in the spring of 2015. Presumably influenced by campaigning around the general election, 37% of those polled - aged 15 or over - said they "tended to trust" the government. Sentiment quickly slipped back down again, with only 31% still tending towards trust by the autumn.

Trust hit a low of 19% in the autumn of 2009, doubtless fuelled by the financial crisis and the MPs' expenses scandal.

As of the autumn, 64% of people said they tended not to trust the UK government, very close to the average across the EU. In Greece, Spain, Slovenia and Portugal, around 80% don't trust their government.

2.5% Increased zeroes

Some 801,000 people were working under zero-hours contracts in November 2015, according to ONS figures. This is 2.5% of employed UK workers, up from 2.3% a year earlier.

41% Suck it and see

Polling by Populus in November 2015 found that 41% of adults in the UK thought a sugar tax on soft drinks would be effective in tackling obesity. …

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