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Poverty in suburbia: A Smith Institute study into the growth of poverty in the suburbs of England and Wales

The report identifies that poverty is prevalent in suburbia, and worryingly high and increasing in some city suburbs. The findings show that there are approximately 6.8 million people in poverty in the suburbs of England and Wales, and that the gap in concentrations of poverty is narrowing between urban centres and suburbs in many of our major cities. It analyses how poverty has changed since the recession and who is at most risk of poverty by place in regard to age, housing and household constitution, employment and wage levels, and access to benefits and services. The report also looks at how poverty in suburbia could grow in the future and calls for a suburban renaissance.

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Building the future: women in construction

Meg Munn MP, Professor Linda Clarke, Christine Wall, Barbara Bagilhole, Jane Nelson, Mandy Reynolds, Sarah Davis, Stacey Clifford, Christine Townley, Judy Lowe, Ian Woodcroft, Steve Craig, and Andrea Oates. Edited by Meg Munn MP.

Women have made great advances in the world of work. The employment rate for women continues to rise and today there are more women in work than ever before (now accounting for just under half of the workforce). But, in construction – still one of the largest employers in the UK – progress has been abysmally slow. As the authors of this report point out, women account for only 11 per cent of the construction workforce and just 1 per cent of workers on site. Furthermore, the gender pay gap in construction is still wider than in other industries. In order to fill the skills gap the authors argue it will have to recruit and retain more women, and not just in support roles. This report picks up the challenge facing the sector and shows that change can happen. There are no easy answers, but all the authors are convinced that women must be central to the modernisation of the construction industries.

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Localism and Labour: Perspectives on a new English deal

Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn MP, Clive Betts MP, Andy Sawford MP, Councillor Lib Peck, Councillor Doug Taylor, Graham Allen MP, Councillor Sir Richard Leese, John Healey MP, Councillor Keith Wakefield, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, Councillor John Merry CBE, Lyn Brown MP

Published January 2014

The Smith Institute has published a new report which includes chapters from senior national and local Labour politicians who set out a new agenda for local government and argue for a radical shift of powers from Whitehall to the town hall. The booklet presents a unique insight from both leading Labour MPs and councillors. It highlights local innovation, what Labour councils are calling for and the new agenda of the shadow department of communities and local government team.

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The Great House Price Divide

This briefing paper forms part of our on-going work programme on the housing crisis. It follows recent reports we have published on council housing, the London housing market, the future of housing associations, housing and philanthropy, and home ownership. The research is intended to inform the debate about the state of the residential property market and house price movements in England and Wales. Our aim is to document what has happened across the country to house prices since the financial crisis, and to place the spotlight on some of the policy implications. The purpose of the report is not however to argue that high prices are good thing but to draw attention to the growing spatial disparities.

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Tomorrow’s borrowers: personal debt by 2025 and the policy response

Published November 2013. Price £9.99

This report suggests that urgent action is needed to stop the UK sleep walking into a major personal debt crisis. It concludes that an economic recovery will not by itself reduce the risk of problem debt. Personal indebtedness is likely to carry on increasing, with greater levels of unmanageable debt among both low and middle income households. 


The report shows that on current trends it will take longer to pay off the debts incurred in youth. By 2025 there will be many more single and older people trapped in problem debt. To mitigate the risks to tomorrow’s borrowers the report calls on government to take immediate action, including a national government-backed campaign to make people more aware of the risks of taking on high cost credit and offer better incentives to save.

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Does council housing have a future? A Smith Institute opinion survey of councillors in England with lead responsibility for housing

Published November 2013
Stock retaining councils all over England are now familiar with the new Housing Revenue Account (HRA) framework, which allows for the self-financing of council housing. Although the new regime has its critics, the HRA reform (Localism Act 2011) achieved cross-party support and is widely viewed as an opportunity for councils to improve their housing management and maintenance, strengthen local housing partnerships, enhance accountability, and support new build (including new council homes). This survey takes a snapshot of how the new HRA system is performing and asks what it has to offer councils and council tenants. The survey is distinctive in that all the respondents are elected councillors who have lead responsibility for housing in their area. The results make for interesting reading, not least in highlighting the priority councillors give to social housing. New build council housing is seen as a top priority and there is overwhelming support for abolition of the debt cap on HRA borrowing. By all accounts the survey shows that council housing has a future under the HRA system, albeit perhaps on a more modest scale than is sometimes suggested.

The Case for a Property Speculation Tax

By Andrew Heywood and Paul Hackett.

September 2013

This paper provides a timely and thought provoking analysis of the case for a Property Speculation Tax (PST) as a possible instrument to tackle the emerging housing boom in London and other property hotspots. Our intention is primarily to stimulate a national debate on what actions government can take to prevent speculation in the housing market. A PST may not be the right response, but we believe it is a fiscal tool worth further consideration and debate.

The future of school and community sport

Clive Efford MP, Baroness Sue Campbell CBE, Alan Watkinson, Professor Kathleen Armour, Dean Horridge, Sue Tibballs, Jane Ashworth OBE, Barry Horne, Arun Kang, Peter Crowe. Edited by Clive Efford MP.

Published September 2013. Price £9.99

The success of school and community sport is key to changing attitudes of younger people towards sport and physical activity. Building on the success of the 2012 Games, the authors urge government to work more with schools and community clubs to increase participation levels (especially disadvantaged groups).

The report highlights the cost of illness owing to inactivity (forecast to be £49 billion by 2050) and the benefits school sport can have in terms of improved behaviour and concentration levels throughout the school day. School sport also provides the opportunity to instil the right attitudes and skills to develop a sporting habit which often continues into later life. This can have huge health, educational and social benefits.

The report examines the barriers some young people face and places the spotlight on the government’s decision to dismantle the network of School Sport Partnerships, which were central to bringing together schools and community clubs to increase participation levels. A number of authors call for the barriers between school and community sport to be removed. Not only to increase participation levels but also to build community cohesion and help coaches spot talent.

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Effective and representative? A review of NHS foundation trusts’ councils of governors

Published September 2013. Price £9.99

Concerns about governance and local accountability in the NHS have been in the media spotlight since the Francis inquiry (2010-11) into the poor quality of care provided by the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. Whilst it is unfair to associate any of the existing council of governors with the failings at Mid Staffordshire, this reports draws attention to issues such as the election and independence of governors.

The findings in this report suggest that councils of governors provide an important link between the hospital and local community and have a key role in guiding trust boards and holding them to account. However, standards vary enormously and some trusts could learn more from each other.

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Rebuilding the relationship between affordable housing and philanthropy

Stephen Howlett, Dan Corry, Paul Hackett, Stephen Burns, Vicki Prout, David Orr, Theresa Lloyd, Danyal Sattar, Nick Salisbury, Brian Ham, Lord Richard Best, Peter Malpass, Alexsis de Raadt St James

Published September 2013. Price £9.99

This new report undertaken in collaboration with 
Peabody and New Philanthropy Capital, calls for the relationship between affordable housing and philanthropy to be rebuilt. The unique collection of essays brings together experts and practitioners from both the philanthropy and housing worlds who examine how the two sectors can work more closely together. 

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