In an article written last Wednesday for Church Times, an Anglican newspaper, David Cameron claimed that Britain was a “Christian country”. In response fifty-five assorted public figures including academics, scientists and comedians wrote a letter to the Telegraph newspaper on Easter Sunday saying that it was no such thing and in fact: “repeated surveys, polls and studies show that most of us as individuals are not Christian in our beliefs or our religious identities.”
That depends on how the question is asked. The results of the 2011 census supports Cameron, with narrow majorities in England and Wales, and Scotland and an overwhelming majority in Northern Ireland identifying as Christian. Yet the 2012 British Social Attitudes Survey (BSAS) places Christians in the minority comprising only 46 per cent of the population. Read more
Business users breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday after the UK’s statistics authorities announced they have decided against scrapping the 200-year-old census. They plan instead to replace paper forms mailed to households with an online questionnaire. Read more
The March 19 Budget will be delivered against a background of broad economic positivity, but that tone may not sit well with everyone. Since George Osborne’s speech this time last year, fortunes have been mixed: the labour market has been slow to pick up in the East Midlands, the north has been hit by job closures and production of transport equipment has fallen.
Elena is a 26 year old Italian woman with a degree in child psychology who has been working in London as a nursery teacher for nearly a year. She moved to the UK after months spent looking in vain for a job in Tuscany, a region where the unemployment rate, at 7.9%, is well below the Italian average of 11.3%.
But Elena is not counted among more than 16,000 Italians that moved to the UK, according to official statistics updated for the FT by the Italian Ministry of Interior. These numbers are based on the registry of Italians living abroad (AIRE). Elena has a vague knowledge of this register but decided not to sign up for fear of losing important rights and services (including healthcare) in her home country. Read more
Members of the professional middle class in England and Wales have seen a rapid decline in their options when looking for a place to buy a house. The number of electoral wards where the average property price is above the affordability threshold has risen from just 101 (1.1 per cent) in 1995 to 489 (5.7 per cent) in 2012.
Aberdeen’s economy is booming. The gateway to Britain’s offshore oil and gas reserves, it has long helped to buoy up Scotland’s economy. And now with a wider economic recovery kicking in, it’s acting like Viagra on the area’s house prices.
Property values in Aberdeen and the surrounding area grew faster than anywhere else in the UK in 2013, according to new data produced by estate agents Savills exclusively for the FT.
Aberdeen has even outpaced last year’s hotspot, Elmbridge in Surrey. Read more
Surprisingly strong Christmas period retail sales data out today showed that UK shoppers spent 7.1 per cent more than in December 2012. Read more
Will your area of London be affected by the closure of ten fire stations today?
This map divides London into regions around each existing fire station. In areas shaded dark red, the nearest fire station will be closed. In regions shaded lighter red, the local station will lose a fire engine or specialist rescue unit. In blue-shaded regions, the nearest fire station will gain an additional fire engine.
By Dan Thomas, map by John Burn-Murdoch
The animated map below shows a year’s worth of my mobile phone data obtained from my mobile operator, Three.
Every point that appears on the map is a phone call I made or text message I sent, with the location derived from the handset’s distance from the nearest antenna masts.
This news story has more detail on the reasons companies hold this data, the implications for your privacy and other cases where individuals have used data request laws to shed light on just how much personal information organisations hold. Read more
The new radio series from Sir Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, is an entertaining, accessible look at Britain’s social history – and one that readers of this blog will probably find rather interesting.
(c) Financial Times/Shaun Curry
Sir Andrew opens the first episode declaring “It is about us, not governments”, and that is the theme running through the series. With a mixture of single statistics, and interviews he tries to build a picture of changes in the life of ordinary British people, rather than looking at policy.
With each episode clocking it at around 15 minutes, and the timeframe running from medieval times to the current day, the programme aims for historical sweep, rather than contemporary analysis. Read more
After five years of historically low interest rates across the US, UK and eurozone, Wednesday’s vastly improved job forecast from the Bank of England raised the prospect of a return to more normal monetary policy.
A report out today from McKinsey attempts to quantify the impact of years of ultra lose monetary policy has been on the winners – and losers. Whilst there are few surprises in the report, it does attempt to put numbers on the winners and losers.
Unsurprisingly, it is governments that come out on top. The consultancy estimates that between 2007 and 2012 the US, UK and eurozone governments collectively benefited to the tune of $1.6tr from lower borrowing costs and the increased profits from central banks.
For consumers though it is a mixed bag. Read more
By Kate Allen, Callum Locke and Martin Stabe
House prices in the UK are a perennial topic of interest. But different indices measure house prices in different ways, causing confusion among home-owners, who can’t be sure whether their house price is going up or down.
This has become particularly noticeable in recent years as the indices readings have diverged.
Gentrification and commercial developments are breaking up Chinatowns in US and British cities, squeezing Chinese communities out of the vibrant neighbourhoods that grew up around earlier generations of migrants.
The changing demographics of New York City further highlight this pattern, with Asian communities having sprung up in Flushing and Queens, where they were traditionally focused in Lower Manhattan.
The animated maps above show decadal changes in the spread of localised Chinese and Asian communities in London, New York and San Francisco, created using data from the 2001 and 2011 editions of the UK census and the US censuses of 2000 and 2010. Read more
Wokingham is the top area in Great Britain for technology jobs, with the silicon sector accounting for more than five times as large a share of its labour market than the national average.
According to a report compiled by data firm Markit for KPMG, the south east of England is host to almost two in every five local authorities with technology employment location quotients (LQs) greater than 1.0, indicating that tech jobs comprise a larger proportion of the local job market than the equivalent figure across England, Wales and Scotland.
Sources: Markit Economics for KPMG, using ONS data Read more
Government climate change policies will save the typical household £41 in energy bills by 2030 according to figures released by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, although the same policies will increase the retail price of electricity by 41 per cent.
One of the ways DECC achieves its net savings figure is by assuming sizeable energy efficiency savings over the coming decades. By 2030, the document projects efficiency savings equivalent to 5 per cent of what the typical dual fuel bill would be were the policies not put in place.
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) today announced that its typical dual fuel energy bill will rise in price by 8.2 per cent in November.
SSE is blaming the price hike on increases in wholesale energy costs, network distribution charges and changes to the government schemes energy companies pay into. SSE’s own figures, however, show the biggest increase in any component of the bill comes under other costs at its end including profit margins.
A few weeks ago, the Financial Times leader column – the voice of the newspaper – issued a fairly damning verdict on the Information Commissioner’s Office about its weak enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act. Big central government departments – particularly the Cabinet Office – routinely flout the law. The ‘paper wrote:
The Cabinet Office scarcely pretends to comply. And why would it? Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, is responsible for enforcing the act – and he has proved to be a paper tiger. He has the power to investigate, demand documents and prosecute the non-compliant. But his preferred regulatory tool is forbearance. So the worst that departments have to fear from refusing to follow the law is being asked to have another go at answering requests at some later date.
Mr Graham replied fairly grumpily on our letters page.
…we served a decision notice against the Department for Education, clearly setting out our position in general and on the specific point that the secretary of state’s private email was caught by the act (in the circumstances of that case). We also served a further decision notice ordering the Cabinet Office to comply with a request for information relating to the prime minister’s use of non-GSI email accounts. Non-compliance with the commissioner’s decision notice is contempt of court.
The record shows that the Information Commissioner’s Office regularly makes difficult decisions that challenge Whitehall – and we are not afraid to make them
It was not terribly convincing – and was filleted by others fairly comprehensively. But last week, the Information Commissioner’s Office released some documents in response to a FoIA request about the letter. The surprising part of the release is that it suggests the ICO’s staff not only wrote the letter, but are convinced by their arguments. Given that, it is worth unpacking the claims it makes – not least for their benefit. Read more