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Wealth of our nation: rethinking policies for wealth distribution

By Ashwin Kumar, Kitty Ussher and Paul Hunter

Published October 2014

This paper explores the implications for public policy from the new Office of National Statistics (ONS) data source on wealth distribution in Britain, and what we know about future trends in savings, longevity, property prices and inheritance.

The case for having a greater policy emphasis on wealth - as opposed to simply focussing on income - is that a household’s wealth at a given point in time is often a better indicator of its economic wellbeing. The ONS has now made this point explicitly, stating in July 2014, that “it is important to consider both wealth and income when assessing the economic well-being of households”. Yet the policy implications are under-explored.

Using the relatively recent data source the paper describes the current distribution of assets in Britain. It then explores how this might be expected to change in future years given what we know about longevity, inheritance patterns and other demographic and policy changes. Finally we draw out implications for the public policy debate focussing primarily on intergenerational transfers including inheritance, as well as issues relating to housing and consumer debt.

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Making work better: an agenda for government

October 2014

In this major Smith Institute report, Ed Sweeney, the former chair of the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), shows that Britain has too many poor performing workplaces where employees are often badly treated, underpaid, over-worked and ignored. The report argues that this long tail of broken workplaces is holding back the recovery and costing the nation billions in lost income and welfare benefits to those in work.

The report, welcomed by Labour, the TUC, and EEF the employers’ organisation, calls on government to do more to narrow the divide between the rest and the best and to positively intervene to tackle problems at work. The evidence to the report demonstrates the urgent need to improve employment conditions and raise management standards as a means to boosting productivity and making work better for the UK’s 30m workers.

The report is the product of a nine month inquiry on the world of work, involving research, interviews, discussion events around the country and opinion polling. It provides a comprehensive and up to date examination of the good and bad in Britain’s workplaces. It calls for a fresh approach to improving employment practices centred on the idea of ‘workplace citizenship’, with employees having a greater say, new employment rights and support for fair pay: including a right to request extra leave after five years of employment; rights to information on executive pay and low pay; extension of free childcare for working parents and ‘use it or lose it’ parental leave; reform of the ICE regulations to strengthen employee voice; and mandatory living wage contracts in all public procurement.

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Outsourcing the cuts: pay and employment effects of contracting out

September 2014

Contracting out public services in the UK is now well established. Nevertheless it is still a deeply divisive issue and the debate about outsourcing tends to generate more heat than light. What is particularly surprising given the scale and scope of contracting out is how little researched it is, not least in terms of how it affects employees.

This report, commissioned by UNISON, seeks to help bridge that information gap by profiling and evaluating in some detail the impact of contracting out on employee pay, terms and conditionsin five case-study contracts. The findings raise some important issues for politicians, policy makers, and contracting authorities and agencies, some of which should cause deep concern. In particular, the lack of information about terms and conditions, the impact of the cuts on outsourced low-paid workers, and the growth of the two-tier workforce (and the widening gap between them). It also raises wider questions about the impact of outsourcing on the quality of public services and the broader social effects (not least the public cost of failing to pay public-sector workers a decent wage). Click here to view.


Older publications

We are currently updating our website. Reports published before April 2014 are not available on the website at present. However we can send them by email on request, just email us on info@smith-institute.org.uk. Please bear with us and sorry for any inconvenience.

Housing and planning: What makes the difference? A Smith Institute survey and discussion paper on the relationship between councils and house builders

By Andrew Heywood

Published July 2014. Price £9.99

This discussion paper and survey is the latest in a series of Smith Institute reports on housing and growth. Our focus is on what can be done to boost housing supply, provide more affordable homes and create better places. This paper makes an important contribution to that debate, not least in highlighting the evolving relationships between councils and developers. As the report makes clear, getting that relationship right is critical to addressing the nation’s housing crisis. There is historical data available on planning applications and the performance of local planning authorities (LPAs), as well as plenty of technical guidance issued by the Planning Advisory Service and others. However, there is little academic research on the planning process and its outcomes, and even less on best practice and “what works”. This review and survey of councils and developers is intended to help address that information gap and provide some new insights into how individual LPAs and developers shape local housing markets. The paper does not claim to be an authoritative guide to the rights and wrongs of the council/developer relationship, but hopefully does capture the experience and opinions of those involved.

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Housing associations and the NHS: new thinking, new partnerships

By Denise Chevin

Published July 2014. Price £9.99

The treatment and care of more people in their own communities and the provision of more support to allow them to stay in their own homes or in specially designed accommodation is vital if our society is to cope with an ageing population and the growing number of people with multiple long-term conditions. Furthermore, given the increase in demand and the consequential rise in healthcare costs, it is essential to secure efficiency savings and productivity improvements wherever possible. Much greater integration of health and housing is widely seen as one way of meeting these challenges, yet progress has been painfully slow and often unnecessarily bureaucratic. Although in theory there is everything to be gained from the health and housing worlds working closer together, all too often they operate in silos and are disconnected and detached from each other. This report, which captures the views of a range of healthcare and housing professionals and experts, explains why that is so and asks what can be done to remove the barriers to collaboration. That discussion is then followed by perspectives on what works and how new partnerships are reaping the benefits of better integration. In particular, the report breaks new ground by highlighting some excellent pioneering schemes and different types of innovation. 

The report provides a snapshot of current thinking around some elements of the agenda, including using surplus NHS land to improve clinical outcomes. The report aims to stimulate a debate across both disciplines and help shape the policy response.

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Making global connections: the potential of the UK’s regional airports

Louise Congdon, Michael Ward, Steve Brittan, Nigel Schofield, Stuart Patrick, Mark Povall, Jim French, Dougal Ainsley, David Mundy, Jon Riley, John Godfrey, and James Brass. Edited by Paul Hackett.

Published July 2014. Price £9.99

This collection of essays by airline insiders, airport operators, aviation experts and leading businesses, warns that the decline of regional airports will damage local economies and undermine the UK’s competitiveness. This report follows on from work the Institute has undertaken on regional economic development and local economies, including research on transport links and how London connects with the rest of the country. An important component of this is regional airports and regional connectivity, in particular with London’s airports.

As the report documents the number of domestic routes to London (especially Heathrow) has fallen dramatically since 1990. Many passengers from the regions no longer have the choice of flying via Heathrow because domestic flights have been squeezed out. This is largely a consequence of capacity constraints which have increased the commercial trade-offs between long haul and domestic flights. Large parts of the UK now have no connection to the UK’s main hub airports which provide access to important worldwide markets. The authors explore different options for reversing this trend, including increasing capacity, better use of regulation and a long-term strategy for regional air travel.

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NHS surplus land for supported housing: why now and what are the possible cost savings?

A Smith Institute research paper

July 2014

This research paper forms part of an ongoing programme of work examining the relationship between housing and health. The programme aims to explore how good housing and housing related services for older people and vulnerable adults can help prevent illness and promote independent, healthy living; how new partnership working can improve a neighbourhood’s capacity to care and help de-medicalise services; and how housing associations can help deliver better services and long-term cost savings for healthcare providers. This paper looks specifically at how using surplus NHS land to build supported housing can help meet demand and reduce the costs of care. It makes the case for thinking differently about cost savings in the NHS, notably in regard to alternative provision of supported housing through innovative partnerships between housing associations and NHS trusts. In particular, the paper aims to quantify possible future savings that can be made based on existing land disposal programmes. The evidence suggests that even by disposing of small parcels of surplus land significant savings can be realised over the long-term.


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All change – delivering future city transport

Smith Institute and PwC
Published July 2014

This joint publication with PwC explores the views of and vision for the future of those on the frontline of urban transport. In particular, the report tries to understand how that future is being shaped and managed in response to: changing customer expectations and demand; governance and the devolution agenda; funding and financing in a foreseeable future of continuing austerity; delivering new infrastructure to tighter expectations on time and reduced cost; and service delivery in an environment of constant change. This publication was been informed by a series of regional roundtable discussions with transport planners and officers, decision-makers, transport service providers, academics, local business, trade bodies and funders. It also takes a steer from a survey of councillors held in Spring 2014.

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The growth of the private rented sector: What do local authorities think?

A Smith Institute assessment of councillors and officers views on the role of the private rented sector in their area
 
Published June 2014
 
The private rented sector has been the only tenure to grow in the last decade. Yet despite its resurgence after decades of decline and then stagnation the PRS is still viewed by some as primarily
not a tenure of choice. However, there has been a growing recognition that with rising housing demand, undersupply of new housing and problems accessing mortgages the PRS is not only likely to stay but continue expanding. Whether such growth will be driven, as it has in the past, by small landlords or by intuitional investors and larger landlords is still unclear.
 
Nevertheless, what is clear, and as the report demonstrates, councillors and local government officials have serious concerns about the quality of the PRS housing stock and management, especially the homes for those on low incomes. As some officers note in the interviews this perception can often taint views on PRS landlords and dampen the enthusiasm amongst elected members for encouraging the PRS to grow in their area.
 
This assessment of views from councillors and officers responsible for housing sets out to explore some of the key issues for the private rented sector in their area. The report covers a range of concerns issues and captures the views of both councillors and officers on the growth and future growth of the PRS; how it is supported and regulated; the quality and management of the PRS; actions they would like central government to take (including additional resources and freedoms for local authorities); and how investment in the PRS might change.
 
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