The week in policy 12th - 16th July
Excitement from the weekend’s sporting activities swiftly turned to disappointment after a gruelling two hours of kicking the ball around. The disappointment was accompanied by confusion at the fact that while 60,000 fans were allowed to be packed in shoulder to shoulder at Wembley, 500,000 unlucky people are isolating this week because they got pinged, most likely just from walking past someone in the street. At this time, Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ may not be the most appropriate choice of anthem, as the crowds bellowed out ‘hands, touching hands, reaching out, touching me, touching you!’
It is just this type of mixed messaging that has caused the term ‘freedom day’ to evolve into ‘chaos day’. Not the most confidence inspired nickname, and now that Boris has washed his hands of all responsibility, businesses are left at a slight loss. Chaos indeed.
Freedom of choice day
- On Wednesday, the government released their guidance on life post-19th July, when all restrictions will finally end. This means the decisions are in the hands of businesses, who were given only five days to work out what to do.
- They have named the guidance ‘working safely’, which apparently can only be achieved after a thoroughly rigorous health and safety risk assessment. It’s that easy.
- However, if an outbreak should occur, the line suddenly blurs between government guidance and health and safety law. This leaves business vulnerable to liability, and scientists are yet to discover if the virus can penetrate a solid insurance policy.
- In our opinion, the guidance is less than helpful. With different businesses coming to different conclusions about their arrangements, there will of course be inconsistencies, which may lead to conflict with customers who feel that because the guidance is no longer law, they won’t have to follow it.
- The IoD is calling for government guidance to be clarified, and more confident, in order to encourage the workforce back into the office should they wish to go.
- IoD: Government's guidance fails to inspire confidence in the return to work | Institute of Directors | IoD
A skeleton plan with no backbone
- On Thursday, the Prime Minister gave a speech in parliament on the levelling up agenda.
- This is a slogan that has been bandied around plenty of times by the government, but despite the speech, we feel things still haven’t completely been cleared up.
- In his speech, Boris pledged to give more power to local authorities, rewriting the rule book on local devolution.
- He has set out a skeleton plan for the agenda, but we are still waiting for him to flesh out the details.
- Mentioning regional disparities, he proposed more investment in transport, skills and business across the UK.
- He also recommended changing the title of the ‘county mayors’, which is definitely a pressing matter on all of our minds. Our suggestion is ‘Shire Sires’.
Employment figures are getting hire
- Employment is on the rise again, as June recorded an increase of payroll employees by 356,000. The percentage of the population currently employed is 74.8%.
- Meanwhile, the unemployment rate has fallen to 4.8%, showing that the labour market is continuing to recover.
- As government aids such as furlough continue to unwind, we may see an uptick of workers re-entering the labour market.
- But with people getting pinged left right and centre, further guidance is needed on what businesses should do about staff shortages while people are isolating. Businesses can’t be expected to have to close down every month due to an only potential threat of coronavirus.
Come on down, the prices rise
- The Consumer Price Index rose to 2.5% from 0.1% in the last 12 months.
- Economists are debating whether this rise in inflation means the economy is in trouble, or just that the economy is growing again.
- But despite seeming quite high, economists predicted inflation would reach this level as a direct result of coronavirus, before tailing back off once the economy recovers.
Week ahead in Policy
To make up for the lack of football and tennis, the 2020 Olympic Games are starting next week in Tokyo. Sadly, athletes will be sprinting, or long-jumping, or synchronised swimming to a silent arena as spectators will not be allowed. But it took a marathon to get us here in the first place, and despite the hurdles, the complete lack of smooth sailing, and wrestling with the virus, countries are diving into the deep end, and I’m sure there will be a lot to discus.
Of course the big news next week is the lifting of restrictions on 19th July. In our weekly roundtable with coronavirus itself, we have urged it to stop tormenting us on Monday, but we’re still working on the exact strategy. The variants really made sure we were delta bad hand. In the meantime, we will continue working with our members to ensure the transition from restrictions to no restrictions is as smooth as possible.
Parliamentary activity will be dominated by the APPG on Fair Business Banking, who are hosting a range of interesting Zoom events. Links are below.
Next week is also Net Zero Week, an important week for the IoD. We are excited to be working with Scotland on a virtual event at which David Miliband, Rachel Sibande, Douglas Lamont, and Mark Logan will be speaking on how organisations can step up their responsibilities to tackle climate change and build sustainable businesses for a fairer, greener world.
Tuesday 20th July
- APPG on Fair Business Banking are hosting a roundtable on ‘Resolving Insolvency: Are conflicts and self-regulation detrimental to the interests of business, consumers and creditors?’ The roundtable will take place on Tuesday 20th July between 9.30am and 11am. You can register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_71eDbfXGSbu_TNI2_Aov1w
- APPG on Net Zero – a parliamentary briefing of the report: ‘Qualifying the race to Net Zero’. Sign up here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87379022120pwd=UmVROER2TlVqTDJaOExYaTFtMVUzdz09
Wednesday 21st July
- APPG on Fair Business Banking are hosting a roundtable on levelling up choice for small businesses with the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and the Minister for Small Business. The event will take place online on 21st July 2021 between 9.30am and 11am. If you would like to attend, please register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_7G-cpQKjSNiDsYTU5COQ6w
Thursday 22nd July
- APPG on Fair Business Banking - a parliamentary briefing on Net Zero and mandatory transition plans.
- Italy is hosting the G20 environment and energy ministers to discuss joint strategies in tackling climate change.