Broadcasting by consent

Fit for growth: investing in a stronger skills base to 2020Jacquie Hughes
February 2015

'Broadcasting by consent' identifies the need for a fresh and clear statement of public service broadcasting for the modern era. It argues that BBC Charter renewal in 2017 should provide to the corporation a clear instruction to transform itself over the next decade towards an operating base that is more closely aligned with a pluralistic, competitive, digitalised broadcast industry.

The paper supports greater contested funding for wider elements of the licence fee over the period of the next Charter. While retained, the licence fee should be reconfigured to embrace consumption of all media regardless of equipment used. Its reach should be extended to apply to every UK household.

The paper also urges a shake up of the corporation’s senior appointments process to ensure greater transparency. The chair of the BBC Trust should continue to be appointed by the relevant secretary of state, but made on the recommendation of the civil service commission through independent and open recruitment. The same arrangement should be put in place for the appointment of all non-executive directors to the BBC Trust Board.

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Access the media release

Read CentreForum's response to the DCMS Select Committee report on the future of the BBC (26 February 2015)

Select media coverage: The Sun, The Times

Bold, liberal tax reforms

Bold, liberal tax reformsAdam Corlett
February 2015

We hear a lot about how government should spend (or not spend) our money, but far less about how that revenue could best be raised. Yet the design of the tax system – which collects over a third of GDP – shapes our economy and society. The UK’s taxes are in need of reform over the next decade and liberals – through our philosophy, policies and political influence – are best placed to deliver them.

This paper examines six of the most important challenges: simplifying income taxes; taxing investment returns intelligently; fixing corporate tax biases; reforming inheritance tax; taxing real estate; and making consumption taxes fair.

The essay is the third in a series of papers addressing contemporary issues in public policy from a liberal perspective. A selection of these papers will be published collectively in a forthcoming special edition publication, 'The Challenges Facing Contemporary Liberalism: 2015-2025'.

The first, by Maajid Nawaz, can be viewed here and the second paper, by Tim Farron, Neil Stockley and Duncan Brack, here.

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Fit for growth

Fit for growth: investing in a stronger skills base to 2020Tom Frostick
February 2015

'Fit for growth: investing in a stronger skills base to 2020' looks at how policymakers can build a skills system that promotes choice and flexibility for individuals and is more responsive to employer demand.

As well as proposing a revamped version of the professional and career development loan to widen access to lifelong learning and training, the report calls for new universities legislation that would better protect the student interest, and an intensive focus across schools and colleges on boosting literacy and numeracy; building pupils' character and entrepreneurial qualities; and raising the standard of teaching and careers guidance.

Other recommendations include making better use of professional bodies to support workplace training, and a call for greater clarity around the funding and expected outcomes of apprenticeships. The report's authors come from a number of fields and include representatives from academia and business, a professional body and a trade association.

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Select media coverage: TESTimes Higher

Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP: "This is a welcome initiative from CentreForum and the Chartered Insurance Institute bringing together some thoughtful ideas on the future direction of skills policy."

Dr Sandy Scott, CEO, Chartered Insurance Institute: "The CII welcomes this report and the light it shines on the building blocks required to boost the UK's skills base, both in the short and longer term."

Retiring Trident

Migration: a liberal challengeToby Fenwick
February 2015

This report recommends that the UK should replace its Trident submarines with an air dropped nuclear deterrent and save up to £13 billion for priority defence equipment spending.

It finds that the Trident programme – which is due to be renewed after the general election in May –  is an “expensive and excessive” solution to the nation’s nuclear deterrence requirements, even by extraordinary standards set during the Cold War.

Since the UK government’s Trident Alternatives Review in July 2013, the US has proceeded with a new air-dropped nuclear weapon for NATO - the ‘B61 Mod 12’ - which CentreForum considers a credible design for UK to copy. This option was not considered by the official review.

The report argues that Britain’s forthcoming F-35 Joint Strike Fighters – a stealth aircraft bought for conventional missions – should be adapted to deliver a minimum nuclear deterrent based upon a stockpile of 100 British built B61-12 nuclear bombs. 

It contains illustrative scenarios to show how this model could be successfully employed against unlikely but potential nuclear threats and ensure that deterrence is achieved.

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Select media coverage: The Herald, The ScotsmanSunday Times

SMEs and Health & Safety

Migration: a liberal challengeTom Papworth
February 2015

This report supported by St John Ambulance finds that a vast majority of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) believe health and safety regulations are necessary and easy to comply with.

The findings cast doubt on much repeated claims that SMEs see health and safety regulations as overly burdensome. The research suggests rather that the balance of UK health and safety legislation is broadly right and that the chief concern for policymakers should be making compliance easier and more effective. CentreForum also found:

• Around three quarters of respondents said that complying with health and safety is "the right thing to do" and four fifths acknowledged that it is a legal obligation

• Two thirds felt that health and safety is important  for avoiding staff injuries and absences

• Four fifths were confident that their company complied with all relevant regulations

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Access the media release

Select media coverage: Health and Safety at Work

Economic liberalism, climate change and green growth

Economic liberalismTim Farron, Neil Stockley and Duncan Brack
February 2015

The authors of this essay express disappointment at economic liberalism's lack of engagement with environmental concerns and especially with climate change – the greatest crisis that humankind has ever faced.

They argue that a small-state, anti-interventionist, deregulatory approach cannot produce an adequate response to this challenge. 

The essay is the second in a series of papers addressing contemporary issues in public policy from a liberal perspective. A selection of these papers will be published collectively in a forthcoming special edition publication, 'The Challenges Facing Contemporary Liberalism: 2015-2025'.

The first, by Maajid Nawaz, can be viewed here.

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Advocacy on ageing

Migration: a liberal challengeJames Kempton and Harriet Davison
February 2015

There are now more individuals over state pension age than children and this will inevitably have consequences for public services and the nation's health and wellbeing.

With a view to addressing the challenges that an ageing population brings, this report urges the establishment of a Whitehall-based Older People's Commissioner. Such a role already exists in Northern Ireland and Wales and CentreForum judges that in both countries commissioners have had demonstrable success in championing and protecting the rights of older people.

To support the Older People's Commissioner for England, the report calls for the creation of a Cabinet-level Minister for Ageing and Older People combined with the role of Health Secretary. CentreForum believes this would lead to a stronger and more joined up focus across government on older generations' needs.

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Select media coverage: Sunday Express

Common ground?

Migration: a liberal challengeFabian Society and CentreForum
February 2015

Andrew Harrop and Stephen Lee

The final months of the coalition government have seen an upsurge in interest in the future possibilities offered by the outcome of the next general election.

The prospects for various alternate political alliances in May 2015 dominate our media and the minds of leading politicians across all parties; not least because the outcome of the 2015 general election remains impossible to call.

There are considerations of electoral strategy and personal chemistry. But this report looks at policy. It asks what shape a Labour/Liberal Democrat deal might take, based upon known policy positions as of January 2015.

The report indicates that there is significant common ground between the two parties. And if the political will exists amongst their leaders and members, there is the prospect of assembling a broad package of agreed policies that could form a realistic and comprehensive agenda for government.

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Select media coverage: Daily MailBBC NewsNewStatesman

Investing in children's mental health

Migration: a liberal challengeLorraine Khan, Michael Parsonage and Jessica Stubbs
February 2015

This report examines the costs and the benefits of interventions to prevent or treat some of the most common mental health conditions that affect children and young people.

It finds that there is a wide range of interventions for conduct disorder, anxiety, depression and ADHD that not only improve children’s mental health but also lead to substantial economic benefits including future savings in public spending.

Group parenting programmes for conduct disorder in young children, for example, generate measurable benefits of at least £3 for every £1 invested, while group cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety in adolescence produces benefits of £31 per £1. 

Published by the Centre for Mental Health for the CentreForum Mental Health Commission, the report concludes that under investment in children’s mental health support is a false economy. But it also warns that to achieve the best value for money, children’s mental health services need to reach out to those who need them most and to be delivered to a high standard. It finds that there are significant gaps in evidence in one or two areas of great need and growing concern, such as self-harm and eating disorders.

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Find out more about the Centre for Mental Health

The role of finance in inclusive growth

Migration: a liberal challengeTom Papworth
January 2015

The 21st century has so far delivered seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. The first seven years were a period of easy credit and rapid but unsustainable growth. Since 2007 we have witnessed a tightening of personal and (especially) business credit and sluggish growth. Meanwhile the financial services sector remains shaken by the global financial crisis and has yet to complete the widely-demanded process of structural reform.

How the financial services sector can ensure that individuals and businesses are able to access the capital they need in a manner that fosters growth without risking another crisis is a broad topic. How the sector can promote increases in employment, productivity and wages, so that everybody in society benefits, could fill several reports. This paper, published by CentreForum for the APPG on Inclusive Growth, concentrates on what can be done to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access growth capital and so create jobs and wealth.

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Click here to view the website of the APPG on Inclusive Growth