The government’s decision to axe the collection of land price statistics threatens ministers’ ability to understand the effects of their radical housing policies, senior economists and policy analysts have warned.

Land prices are a significant component of new-build costs and the rapid housing market recovery in Britain – fired by the government-backed Help to Buy scheme – has already sparked a scramble for land, particularly in the southeast.

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By Roger Blitz, Leisure Industries Correspondent

Should we praise European football clubs for creating an international labour market or criticise them for failing to nurture homegrown talent?

Take your pick. According to the Swiss-based CIES Football Observatory, the proportion of players playing at clubs where they trained is at an all-time low of 21.2 per cent. Five years, ago, it was at 23.1 per cent.

Among the top five countries – England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France – the proportion is even lower, at 16.5 per cent. All charts are from the CIES’ latest report.

 

No surprise, therefore, that the percentage of expatriate players is at a record high of 36.8 per cent, as the transfer market continues to flourish. Many of them are Brazilians, with 471, though in 2009 there were 538 plying their trade in Europe.

The most likely place to find a club-trained player is Sweden, Slovakia and Finland. The least likely is Italy, Turkey and Russia. English clubs are producing only 13.6 per cent of club-trained players, Germany’s proportion is not much better and they are both well behind Spain and France. Read more

By Claer Barrett and Kiran Stacey

Last autumn, George Osborne came to the Commons to present his Autumn Statement against the backdrop of a stagnating economy and a recent credit downgrade. His speech was full of language about continuing with “Plan A” despite ongoing concern over whether it was working.

This year was very different. With massive increases in the OBR’s growth forecasts, this was in effect the chancellor’s victory speech: in his words “the plan is working”. But there were also plenty of warnings against voting for Labour instead.

Here’s a quick, fun, look at how the language has changed….

The Chancellor was keen to put a positive gloss on continuing austerity while the economy is picking up, promising to “fix the roof when the sun is shining”.

2013 = 2 mentions
2012 = 0 mentions

Armed with a rosy set of forecasts, the Chancellor was able to boast
confidently about his economic strategy: “The plan is working.”

2013 = 3 mentions
2012 = 0 mentions Read more

For the legions of China-watchers within the world’s investment community, there have always been two difficult questions. One, which applies everywhere, is to look at the figures and to ask whether growth can continue, or if a bubble is forming. A second question, much more specific to China, is whether the figures themselves are genuine, and whether words can be taken at face value.

For an example, take the reforms announced at the Communist party’s plenum. They were very well-received, but followed by much analysis asking if the reforms were what they seemed.

It is not a new problem. Nobody is sure whether they believe the numbers coming out of China. Even Li Keqiang, now China’s premier, once commented that the nation’s gross domestic product figures were “man-made” and not to be trusted.

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Releasing market-moving data in full at an appointed hour ought to be a non-negotiable obligation of any government statistics agency. Yet it is a task that often proves too much for the Office for National Statistics. Official data are published by newswires at 9.30am on the day of release but there is often a delay before the same information appears on the agency’s website.

This week the UK Statistics Authority, which oversees the work of the ONS, rightly insisted that everyone should be able to access official data on equal terms. An obvious solution would be to fix the ONS website. Yet the UKSA also floated a more drastic proposal in which the ONS would no longer release reports in full on the morning of publication, instead dribbling out the numbers over the course of a day.

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There is a myth that the London Olympics were delivered within budget. This claim was used recently by David Cameron, the British prime minister, to win support for the proposed high-speed rail line to Birmingham.

The principal relevant facts are these. The first detailed specification of what was needed for London to host the games was drawn up in 2002 by Arup. The report by the engineering and planning consultancy put the cost at £1.8bn, much of it to be privately financed. An extended assessment was then commissioned by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport from PwC. The financial consultancy’s 2003 report estimated the total cost at £3.1bn, requiring a public subsidy of £1.3bn. The balance would be recovered from the private sector and from asset sales after the games. According to PwC’s risk assessment, the probability that the taxpayer would need to provide as much as £2bn was less than 5 per cent.

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