While Labour’s promised freeze in business rates will help many small companies in April 2015 – and plenty of large ones as well – the move will not exactly be transformational for struggling companies.
The idea that the saving (estimated at around £400) does not exactly seem enough to make a small firm take on a new member of staff on its own; contrary to briefings by Labour.
The big change that many tenants have instead been demanding is a revaluation of business rates to reflect the post-recession landscape.
The last valuation of commercial properties was at the height of the boom, since when there has been a major divergence of fortunes across the country.
Rental levels have stayed roughly the same in affluent areas – such as Mayfair retail – Read more
Britain has spent more than £33bn on military campaigns overseas over the last 20 years according to the government’s own data – with the vast majority of that money spent on the Afghan intervention.
The debate over what to do in Syria in recent weeks has focused mainly on the human and political costs: both of intervening and not intervening. More than 600 British troops have died during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Advocates of action have argued that it would have saved countless Syrian lives.
But with Britain in the grip of fiscal “austerity” – and more spending cuts seen as inevitable in the coming years – the cost of further military actions would be relevant.
The public have been consistently opposed to Syrian intervention, with fewer than one in five voters believing Britain should join the US in strikes according to ICM.
David Cameron, in the August 29 Syria debate, said he was aware of the “deep public scepticism” about war, saying it was “linked to the difficult economic times people have had to deal with.”
Ministers have never put any figure on how much an intervention in Syria might have cost. Past guidance by governments on military action have often been an under-estimate.
Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, says there is usually a “conspiracy of optimism” Read more
Labour and the Tories are both already taking some credit for the fast-evolving situation at the United Nations, where Russia is seeking an initiative to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control.
The rapid diplomacy in New York has seen the US put on hold plans to take military action in response to the chemical weapons attack last month that Washington claims killed more than 1,400 people.
So, presuming that Syria does go ahead and hand in its chemical weapons – which is a big if – whose position is vindicated: David Cameron or Ed Miliband?
(The negotiations are still on a tripwire with Moscow and Washington disagreeing over whether to maintain the threat of military action against Damascus.)
Don’t be surprised if the counter-arguments come into sharp focus at prime minister’s questions today.
David Cameron will claim that only the threat of military strikes against the Assad regime Read more
Unions are likely to keep their substantial voting powers in internal Labour decisions indefinitely after Ed Miliband’s spokesman played down the idea that these reforms were ever likely to take place.
Mr Miliband is currently pushing through reforms which will end the automatic affiliation of 3m union members to Labour, instead inviting them to sign up to the party individually.
That reform is likely to see a plunge in the number of union members paying small subscription fees to Labour every year.
As a result some party insiders had raised the prospect of a reduction in the 33 per cent Read more
The unions seem very angry at Ed Miliband’s proposed funding reforms. Why would Labour want to alienate its comrades?
Ed Miliband won the leadership as a direct result of the votes of union members, heavily encouraged by their general secretaries. Proving that he is not “Red Ed” is seen by some aides as a tactical necessity. Read more
Ten out of the 12 towns picked for a “Portas Pilot” high street makeover have seen a fall in occupied retail units in the last year in a stark sign of the worsening state of Britain’s town centres.
Mary Portas, the retail “guru” who carried out a review of high streets for the coalition, admitted the statistics as she was quizzed by MPs on Monday.
“That is happening across the country, that is the tsunami we saw coming,” she told the communities select committee. “The big chains are not going to be on the high street in the way they were before.”
Major retailers would still want to have outlets in major shopping centres and prime high streets: but they had deserted “secondary” and “tertiary” high streets and were never coming back, she said.
The first wave of 12 Portas Pilot towns were awarded government support and a share of a £1.2m fund called the High Street Innovation Fund. They included Bedford, Croydon, Read more
One of the most cunning tricks up the sleeves of the Exchequer is so-called “fiscal drag”: the way that the government can raise more income simply through inflation.
That is because unless tax thresholds rise in line with prices, people slip into higher bands: for example the upper rate of income tax. And they may not even notice.
It is a politically less painful way of raising extra tax than by visibly lifting rates at Budget time.
Property is a case in point: According to new research published today, the Treasury could see an extra haul of £2bn a year through stamp duty if house prices continue to rise as anticipated by experts.
The research has come from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, who are campaigning actively against stamp duty. Read more
If the Tories appear to be gaining traction in the political debate of recent months it may reflect the decision to focus on a small number of core “wedge issues”: immigration, benefits, the economy, the unions. On these the Conservatives know they have an electoral advantage: in contrast to say “NHS” or “jobs”.
That stategy was drawn up at Chequers two months ago at a gathering of senior Conservative figures including David Cameron; Grant Shapps, chairman; and Craig Oliver, head of press.
It was there that the decision was taken to take the gloves off over the Labour links with the unions: the fruits of which could be seen at a bruising session of prime minister’s questions not long before recess began.
There will be more to come on the unions, with Michael Gove, education secretary, to lead the charge on this at the end of the month, I hear. (You may remember that the Read more
It’s not totally unheard of for political donors to spread their largesse over more than one party. (Andrew Rosenfeld, now one of Labour’s most generous benefactors, was previously seen as close to the Conservative party. The property developer and one-time tax exile gave £10,000 to Ken Clarke in 2001 and was even considered a potential Tory Treasurer.)
But today’s donation figures include an unprecedented gem involving the mysterious “Ms Joan L B Edwards”.
Mrs Edwards gave more than half a million pounds in her will after she died in September 2012: spread between both the Tories and the Lib Dems.
According to party sources, her will specified that the money should go towards “whoever Read more
For George Mudie to criticise the Labour leadership may seem easy to dismiss out of hand. After all, who is he?
Labour insiders are brushing off today’s criticism as the kind of thing that bored journalists latch on to on a quiet afternoon during the Commons recess.
Mudie is not exactly a politician of historic distinction, having led Leeds council in the 1980s and having served as a minister in the education department for just one year in 1998/99.
Yet his remarks have caused a big ripple in Westminster because of what he said – not who said it.
He is the first MP for some time to go on the record with an articulate criticism of Ed Miliband, which is all the more striking for appearing to lack malice.
He himself admitted on his BBC interview that he is a “grumpy” and Read more
When the coalition promised a lobbying bill it was only belatedly – after the scandal involving Tory MP Patrick Mercer offering to ask questions on behalf of a fictitious Fijian company.
Weeks earlier the bill had been conspicuously absent from the Queen’s Speech, despite having been an obvious candidate for inclusion. Read more
Maria Miller, the culture secretary, has urged the BBC to tackle alleged sexism in its sports department in a row which could overshadow the corporation’s coverage of the Open golf championship at all-male Muirfield.
Ms Miller has written to Tony Hall, BBC director-general, to establish what he is doing to avoid a repeat of the kind of offence caused by John Inverdale, the sports presenter, in comments about the winner of this year’s Wimbledon women’s tennis title.
Mr Inverdale provoked outrage when he said that Marion Bartoli was “never going to be a looker”, a remark for which he and the BBC later apologised.
He will be anchoring coverage of this week’s Open. Read more