The Chancellor must dramatically raise taxes to deliver on the government’s promises both to end austerity and cut the deficit, a think tank has said.
Chancellor Philip Hammond would need to announce £19bn in tax hikes – the equivalent of a penny on income tax, National Insurance and VAT – in this month’s budget to keep to pledges already made, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says.
The Conservative manifesto vowed to cut the deficit and Theresa May used a speech at her party conference to tell the public, after eight years of spending cuts, that “austerity is over”.
But the IFS’ annual Green Budget report says there are tough choices facing Hammond on October 29, as it underlines there is “virtually no Brexit dividend” to relieve spending pressure, despite Hammond’s hopes of a boost if a withdrawal deal is agreed.
The Treasury can expect only a “modest” £1bn-a-year saving on EU contributions by 2022/23, a figure which could “easily” be outweighed by additional spending on bureaucracy, such as new border guards, the IFS says.
And, unless there is a massive and unexpected boost to the economy, Hammond will face the choice between “substantial” tax hikes or ditching his target of balancing the books by the mid-2020s, according to experts.
If the Chancellor chooses to fund the end of austerity by raising taxes by 1% of national income, this would bring the overall tax burden close to its highest level since the end of the Second World War – though it would still be in the middle of the range for developed industrial countries.
Even £19bn of tax increases by 2022/23 would be enough only to meet existing commitments on additional funding for health, defence and aid – including the the first three years of the five-year £20bn boost promised to the NHS – while halting real-terms cuts in other areas, said the respected economic think-tank.
And this would still leave social security cuts totalling £7bn to work their way through the system.
Describing this goal as “a minimal definition of the end of austerity”, the IFS warned: “Unless there are substantial tax rises, or much-better-than-expected economic growth, the prime minister’s aim of ‘ending austerity’ is unlikely to be compatible with the Chancellor’s aim of balancing the books by the mid-2020s.”
Alternatively, the Chancellor could stick to his guns on the deficit and leave many public services to struggle under the strain of a decade and more of cuts.
Paul Johnson, the Institute for Fiscal Studies
This leaves Hammond with “the toughest of circles to square” in his autumn Budget and next year’s Spending Review, said IFS director Paul Johnson.
“He has a big choice. He could end austerity, as the prime minister has suggested,” he added.
“But even a limited definition of what that might mean would imply spending £19bn a year more than currently planned by the end of the Parliament.
“An increase of that size is highly unlikely to be compatible with his desire to get the deficit down towards zero.
“Alternatively, the Chancellor could stick to his guns on the deficit and leave many public services to struggle under the strain of a decade and more of cuts.
“He could reconcile these demands by raising taxes, and in principle there are plenty of good options, but the overall tax burden is already high by UK historical standards and he could be constrained by the lack of a parliamentary majority.”
To end austerity, ministers would also have to halt £4bn worth of cuts to day-to-day spending in other departments planned for next year, along with a further £2bn pencilled in for the years to 2022/23.
The IFS set out a series of alternative tax hikes to place the burden on better-off members of the older generation, including:
Ending the practice of writing off Capital Gains Tax on assets in a deceased person’s estate, estimated in 2012 to cost £490m a year.
Abolition of Entrepreneurs Relief, which cost £2.7bn in 2017/18.
Charging employee National Insurance contributions on those over state pension age, raising around £1.1bn.
Reforming the “indefensibly generous” treatment of pension pots bequeathed after death, which are not subject to tax if the holder dies before the age of 75.
Reforming council tax so bills are proportional to the value of a property, with a potential £8bn a year raised if rates on the top four bands were doubled.
Johnson said Hammond’s tax and spend choices for the next spending review period, beginning in 2020, will be “the biggest non-Brexit-related decision this Chancellor will make”.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the report “heaps yet more pressure on the Chancellor to explain how he is going to deliver on the Tory promise of ending austerity”.
“With billions of cuts in the form of Universal Credit still to come, and public services at breaking point, tinkering around the edges is not enough,” he added.
“It’s time the Chancellor finally came clean about where the additional funding for the NHS is coming from.”
Police in Surrey have reported an increase in the reporting of learning disability-related hate crime, after officers completed a course designed to help them work with victims.
The training was designed by not-for-profit group Dimensions, whose research reveals that while 73% of people with learning disabilities and autism have experienced hate crime, less than half (48%) have reported it to the police, as they often feel anxious about doing so.
Nearly half of frontline police officers (46%) said they had never received learning disability or autism awareness training.
More than 1,000 officers took the course, which included interactive face-to-face sessions led by a person with a learning disability who had experienced hate crime.
Ben Shiell, a Guildford-based officer who took part, said the training “really hit the nail on the head”.
“As a member of the police, hearing this from someone we’re here to protect and support was hard – and really brought home the fact that under-reporting is a pressing issue that we need to urgently address,” he said, calling for everyone in the police force to “have an opportunity to go through the training”.
Shiell added: “We all need to be much more aware of the particular challenges that people with learning disabilities and autism might face when reporting a hate crime.
“It brought to light small changes that can make all the difference for someone who has been a victim of disability hate crime: from ensuring we speak in the right tone of voice and ask the right questions, to providing additional support after the report has been taken.”
A Dimensions survey conducted afterwards revealed “overwhelmingly positive” results, with 90% of officers saying they felt more confident taking a report from someone with a learning disability or autism.
Official statistics also reveal a month on month increase in the number of recorded disability hate crimes in Surrey, and a higher average number of recorded disability hate crimes compared to 2017.
Dimensions is now calling for the National Police Chiefs Council to make the training mandatory.
Their campaign adviser, Mark Brookes, said: “The main problem with disability hate crime is awareness – too many people still don’t really understand what hate crime is and what to do about it.
“The same goes for police officers – so it’s positive to see that when they’ve got the right training, they feel more confident in supporting people with learning disabilities and autism.
“We would like to see the training adopted by other constabularies across the country – so that we can put an end to learning disabilities and autism hate crime.”
Half of British people don’t know what temperature their own fridge should be, according to a new study that suggests fridges kept too warm can lead to food waste.
WRAP, the food waste charity, says the average fridge is running at 7°C, despite Food Standard Agency guidelines stating your fridge should be set at a cool temperature of between 0-5°C.
£15 billion worth of food is binned by UK households every year, with incorrect storage – such as refrigerating it at the wrong temperature – being cited as a major cause of waste.
“Our fridges are often too hot for our food to handle, which means that milk and other food items are going off too soon and getting thrown away. We wouldn’t chuck money in the bin, but the average UK family wastes £70 a month by wasting food that could have been eaten,” Helen White, from WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste initiative, said.
Love Food Hate Waste has released a list of tips to help you keep your food at optimum temperature.
The temperature inside a fridge rises significantly each time the door is opened and could take hours to cool down again. Make sure you shut the door when you get your milk out to make a cuppa.
Keep a fridge thermometer inside your fridge so you can keep an eye on the temperature.
Cool cooked food at room temperature and place in the fridge within one to two hours.
Some parts of the fridge are less cool than others – for example, the door. You can check out WRAP’s video for advice on where best to store different items.
Use a cool bag to keep chilled food cool on the way home from the shops.
A possible Cabinet revolt over Theresa May’s Brexit plans has been underlined after a third of her senior ministers met in private to discuss ways to stop a ‘soft’ exit from the EU.
The ominous gathering of the so-called ‘Pizza Club’, a group convened by Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, came just hours before the full Cabinet was due to meet ahead of a crunch EU summit this week.
The private dinner in Leadsom’s office also followed growing unease among Brexiteer backbenchers at the PM’s failure to give them a guaranteed end-date for any plan to keep Britain tied to EU customs rules.
Among those present were Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox and Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss also turned up for the session in the Commons.
A further five ministers sent apologies to the meeting: International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Lords leader Baroness Evans, Secretary Matt Hancock and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey.
Earlier, asked whether May regarded the so-called ‘pizza summit’ as helpful, her official spokesman played down the issue: “Cabinet ministers are free to eat whatever they choose. Cabinet colleagues have discussions with each other all the time.”
A ministerial aide tried to dispel claims that the meeting was a ‘plot’ against the PM, joking: “When did sharing a slice of pizza with colleagues become evidence of sedition?”
But with EU chief Donald Tusk also warning that a no-deal Brexit was now “more likely than ever before”, the PM is facing pressure from all sides as she tries to stick to her ‘Chequers’ compromise proposals for leaving the EU.
Amid continued rumours that Tory MPs are set to hand in more letters demanding a vote of confidence in May’s leadership, one source told HuffPost: “We never wanted to go down the letters route, but things are spiralling out of control.”
One Brexiteer added that the Cabinet Leavers’ stance would be “crucial”. “We are telling them ’you have to sort this out, Chuck Chequers this week, or you’re liable to be chucked out along with everything else.”
Some ministers plan to demand a specific end-date or further guarantees when the full Cabinet meets on Tuesday morning. Several fear that they will discover the details only after May’s plans have been floated with Brussels.
Former government aide Andrea Jenkyns became the latest backbencher to publicly call for May to step aside.
With May depending on the DUP’s 10 MPs to prop up her government, the Northern Ireland party again warned her on Monday not to do anything that tied the province indefinitely to the EU and that treated it differently from the rest of the UK.
Deputy leader Nigel Dodds told BBC’s Newsnight that May’s answers in the Commons were “not clear” on the so-called ‘backstop’ aimed at preventing a hard border in Ireland.
Dodds added that “of course we wouldn’t push for a general election”, but hinted the DUP could pull out of its pact with the Tories and force the PM to try to govern with a Commons minority on a day-to-day basis.
Lead backbench Brexiteer Steve Baker also said: “The Cabinet need to change the Prime Minister’s mind.”
He added that “there are not Eurosceptic numbers to change Prime Minister” and “there really isn’t time for a long leadership contest”.
However, it is understood that some non-Brexiteer MPs are ready to join forces with their Leaver colleagues in order to oust May in a short, sharp contest.
The PM sparked suspicions in the Commons when she refused to give guarantees to either Boris Johnson or former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith that there would be a specific end date after which the UK would not take part in a “temporary” customs arrangement with the EU.
Brexiteer Simon Clarke said that she had “failed to reassure” her backbenchers that the UK would definitely leave such a union with the 27-nation bloc by December 2021. May only said that it was her “expectation” that the UK would cease the arrangement by then.
“She continues to argue for a common [EU] rulebook that many of us on these benches will not be able to support. Will she not pivot to a super-Canada policy [a trade deal without EU regulations]? I urge her to do so. Please before it is too late.”
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has died at 65.
He had been suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and passed away on Monday, his investment firm said.
“Today we mourn our boss, mentor and friend whose 65 years were too short – and acknowledge the honor it has been to work alongside someone whose life transformed the world,” Allen’s investment firm Vulcan said in a statement.
Allen was also the owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers.
“My brother was a remarkable individual on every level,” Allen’s sister, Jody, said in a statement.
“While most knew Paul Allen as a technologist and philanthropist, for us he was a much loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend.”
Researchers reported a high-performance and transparent nanoforce touch sensor by developing a thin, flexible, and transparent hierarchical nanocomposite (HNC) film. The research team says their sensor simultaneously features all the necessary characters for industrial-grade application: high sensitivity, transparency, bending insensitivity, and manufacturability.
Source: science daily
Ryan Murrihy admits that when he described symptoms he had read in a medical journal to persuade a doctor to prescribe him pregabalin, he was “playing him”.
Now in a residential treatment centre for addiction, he wants to raise awareness about the risks of this little-known prescription drug, which was last year sited on the death certificates of 136 people – a startling rise on previous years.
The drug, which is predominately used to treat epileptic seizures, but is also used for anxiety and nerve pain relief, has been described as the “new valium”. But experts believe those who use it recreationally aren’t aware of the risks when choosing to mix it with other drugs.
While the figure pales in comparison to drugs like heroin, the rate at which deaths related to pregabalin have risen has caused serious concern for experts. In 2008, there were zero deaths related to the drug, according to official ONS figures. A year later four deaths were recorded. The figure has rocketed since then.
Dr Mateen Durrani, group adult psychiatrist for addiction treatment service, UKAT, says many of those who have died in relation to pregabalin had not actually been prescribed the drug themselves. On the illicit drug market, each capsule is worth around £2.
“There is now a huge black market for the drug,” he says. “Some people may sell their prescription, but people also buy it on the internet and from dealers.”
Murrihy, 36, from Birmingham, was one of those who began using pregabalin recreationally alongside illicit drugs bought from dealers, but later persuaded his GP to prescribe it to him.
He describes its affect as an “intense drunk” feeling. “You feel happy and drunk but you know what you’re doing at the same time. Loads of us took it together but soon I isolated myself to take more of it,” he said.
He then went to his GP asking for something to help with nerve pain from an old injury. “At first they gave me gabapentin, but I knew if I came up with the symptoms that it wasn’t working, the only other drug they could then give me was pregabalin. I knew that and I played the doctor to my advantage.
“I had looked it up in a medical journal. I was able to persuade them quite easily and they would keep on upping the dose. They seemed quite enthusiastic at that time to prescribe it.”
He realised he was addicted when he used up his 7-day prescription in two or three days, and began to have “horrendous withdrawal” when it ran out.
Pregabalin, which was first launched in the UK in 2004, is part of the gabapentinoids family, along with gabapentin, which was launched in 1997. The prescription of them has rocketed in recent years, which Graham Parsons, chief pharmacist for the drug charity Turning Point, says correlates with the sharp rise in deaths related to the substance.
The prescribing of pregabalin increased by 350% in the five years to 2012, while gabapentin increased by 150% during the same period, according to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
Over 12 million prescription items were dispensed for gabapentinoids as a group in England alone during 2016.
Such is the concern about the drug now being abused, the government classified it as a class C controlled substance last year, but both prescribing of the drug and abuse of it continue to be prevalent.
Parsons says there are different ways people can become dependent on pregabalin. “There will be some people who are prescribed it and develop a therapeutic dependence where they use it more and more and their dose has to be increased and they will feel withdrawal symptoms if they stop.
“Then there will be people who are prescribed it and perhaps understand the misuse potential of it and start using it in ways that has a psychotropic effect.
“Then there will be those who are prescribed it and then divert it onto the illicit market. That’s when illicit users who like the effects of ‘pregabs’ as its called and will buy them and start using them.”
Those who tend to misuse pregabalin are also likely to be misusing opioids such as heroin or morphine as the drug enhances the effects of other substances.
Parsons says this means it’s a complex problem to solve. “Politicians are always looking for simple solutions to manage the problem of over the counter or prescription drug misuse but there is no easy answers for it.”
It’s also a difficult issue for doctors to tackle. “GPs are not necessarily trained in addiction issues and has to assess someone in an eight minute period and they might be presenting with multiple issues. It’s difficult.”
Studies show that people who misuse prescription medicines tend to have quite complex mental health issues and often have a past history of trauma, he says.
Dr Martyn Hull, who as well as being the clinical director for Turning Point, is a GP, agrees and says that part of the problem is the pressure on GPs. He says there has been “a massive change” in the prescribing for pain in recent years.
“It’s driven by a combination of things. I don’t think it’s necessarily more pain. In deprived areas you are seeing probably double the amount of prescribing for pain than in less deprived ones. There’s a strong correlation with mood disorders.
“Anecdotally, there is definitely a change in patient expectations so people will say they need medication for the pain. And I think GPs find it hard when there other options are limited.”
The problem with dependence on prescription drugs is not quite as big as it is in the US, “but we are moving in that direction,” Hull says.
“Until very recently, a lot of pain specialists would say there was no misuse potential for pregabalin, but we’ve known for a long time that our clients really like taking them and so there definitely is.”
Another issue is the increasing demand for prescriptions in prisons, Hull says.
Murrihy spent time in prison for shoplifting, which he says he did to fund his addiction, but had no problems getting prescribed pregablin by the prison doctor.
He says: “When I got out of prison, my GP said it was now a controlled drug and refused to prescribe it. The local drugs service couldn’t help either. I was stuck in a withdrawal. It felt like really bad flu symptoms, not being able to switch your hand off, not being able to sleep or get comfortable.
“It was the same or worse as an opiate withdrawal. It’s terrible to come off. It’s not just physical, it’s mental torture.”
He is now receiving addiction treatment at a residential centre and although he is still taking pregabalin on a managed dose, he is working to get completely clean.
Now that he is stable, he is trying to educate others and is now involved with a research project with Change Grow Live (CGL), a charity that specialises in substance misuse and criminal justice intervention projects.
“I don’t think it’s that people don’t realise the effects, it’s that people don’t care at the time but then they end up getting stuck in the cycle. I’d like to help people and want to help set up a system with CGL for people who do want to get off it.
“We want people to recognise it’s a major problem and try and get more sympathy from GPs, especially for those who are coming out of prison,” he says.
Dr Prun Bijral, medical director of Change Grow Live, admitted that current clinical treatment options “are limited” as is research into treatments specifically for it.
The charity is working with the University of Manchester to research solutions after a group of around ten service users in the West Midlands, including Murrihy, came forward with concerns about the treatment of pregabalin misuse.
Bijral said: “Our service users, who were presenting to us predominantly for management and support around heroin use or illicit opiate use, came to us to say they saw it as an issue.
“They wanted to find out the scale of the problem so did a survey and found it was a fairly significant problem and so put it to our governance teams to see what we were doing about it. It’s never happened before that we have had service users come to us in this way but it’s been great.”
Dr Andrew Green, GP committee clinical and prescribing lead of the British Medical Association (BMA), says the organisation called for pregabalin to be made a controlled substance and wants the government to invest in the treatment of prescription drug dependence.
“While an important drug for treating several conditions, there has been an increase in the prescribing of pregabalin in the past five years,” he says. “Our members working in prisons are particularly concerned about problems of pregabalin addiction, overdose and violence towards staff who won’t prescribe the drug.
“Granting pregabalin controlled status will help tackle this problem but the government must also invest in specialised support services for prescription drug dependence so people with dependence issues can receive the help they need.”
However Dr Hull says to really solve the problem, there needs to be an overhaul in how pain is treated so less drugs are prescribed in the first place.
“There are non pharmacological interventions such as hydrotherapy that may help, as well as psychological interventions to help people come to terms with pain.
“I spoke to a pain specialist who said pain is a natural human phenomenon and it always has been and it is only in recent years, we feel we need to have a tablet for it.”
The Home Office has been approached by HuffPost UK for a comment.
As the BBC’s latest thriller ‘The Cry’ continued on Sunday night, there was finally an answer to the series’ biggest question - who took baby Noah?
A dark twist in the tale (which will probably come of little surprise to people who had read the book of the same name by Helen FitzGerald) revealed that Joanna had seemingly accidentally killed her son with couple staging his kidnap as a way of covering up his death.
But if viewers thought that was the end of the story - they could not have been more wrong.
As we got more insight into the couple’s attempts to hide their tracks, there were even more questions presented, followed by a bombshell revelation in the final moments of the episode.
After a rollercoaster 60 minutes, here’s what we now want answers to...
We obviously understand Joanna and Alistair were trying to cover up their apparent involvement once they realised about the muddled up medicines, but they had plenty of time to call the help before this. And we also know Alistair had a mobile phone on him, so it seems a bit of a stretch to believe they would not have called ambulance.
While Joanna’s horror at realising she’d poisoned her son after giving him the wrong medicine seemed pretty genuine, the flashback to her pouring them in the bottom appeared sinister. As she was seemingly not of sound mind leading up to their flight, could she have killed her son on purpose? Or perhaps she could have been trying to sedate him with some heavier medication to stop him from crying?
With no post mortem to go off, we only have Joanna and Alistair’s conclusion that their son died from an overdose. But could a cruel twist of fate in store be that Noah actually died from something unrelated, and Jo and Alistair have wrongly assumed their own role in his death? Perhaps a stretch, but something to consider.
Cast your mind back to episode one, and you may remember a lingering shot on a bag and some gloves in Alexandra’s car, which bore more than a striking resemblance to the one Alistair had put Noah’s body in. If it is the same one, how did he come to have them?
Yes, they had a massive row, but did something else happen between the former couple later on in the evening? After all, we never saw Alistair actually leave. And then we heard Joanna talk about “being betrayed”...
During the final seconds of the episode, we discovered Joanna was actually on trial for the murder of her husband. And while we know she was upset with him, could she have actually had it in her to kill him?
While we’d always assumed she was in court just in relation to Noah’s disappearance, the revelation about Alistair’s murder threw this off, and we’re yet to discover if this is a trial where she faces multiple charges, or if she has already been tried for killing her son.
‘The Cry’ concludes next Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.
The family of a man who died after being found unconscious on a beach have said they are “devastated beyond belief” at their loss.
Scott Dunn Calder, 23, was found by a member of the public on the beach near a car park at Longniddry Bents in East Lothian.
Emergency services were summoned following the discovery at 7.45am on Sunday, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The 23-year-old had been at the Oktoberfest event at Gosford House the previous evening.
Police said that inquiries are continuing to establish the full circumstances surrounding his death, however there are no suspicious circumstances.
In a statement issued through police, his family said: “The shock and profound loss that we are feeling at this time cannot be put into words.
“Scott was a beloved son, a loving boyfriend and a wonderful friend to all who knew him.
“He had just achieved his masters degree from Edinburgh Napier University and had his whole life ahead of him.
“Every day he made us proud and we are devastated beyond belief that he is gone.
“As a family we will try to support one another through this most difficult of times and ask that our privacy be respected while we grieve.”
The 23-year-old was originally from Glasgow.
Detective Inspector Paul Batten said: “Our deepest sympathies are with Scott’s family and we will provide them with all the necessary support and assistance they may require.
“Our inquiries continue to confirm all of Scott’s movements after leaving the Oktoberfest event and anyone with any relevant information is asked to come forward. “
Jeremy Hunt has attempted to maintain a sense of humour during strained Brexit talks - by posting an image of himself and other foreign ministers waving from the heart of a maze.
The Foreign Secretary was meeting with eight of his foreign counterparts at his country residence in Kent over the weekend, when he tweeted: “Challenged a few of my fellow foreign ministers to navigate the Chevening maze in the rain… by comparison to which Brexit discussions seem more straightforward.”
Hunt added that during his meeting on Sunday he found that “whether or not we are inside the EU, they see Britain as an incredibly important friend of Europe”.
His comments came as Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab was taking part in “last-minute talks” in Brussels with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, which ended on no deal being struck despite a flurry of speculation.
Later, a joint Brexit department and Number 10 statement said a number of “unresolved issues” remained following talks between Raab and Barnier but the UK is “still committed to making progress” at Wednesday’s crunch EU summit.
With the talks on a knife-edge, many on social media seized on what quickly became a meme ...