LEP take note: productivity is going to be measured very differently from now on

Our LEP has an open meeting on its “productivity strategy” tomorrow at 11 am at

Regency Suite, Devon Hotel
Exeter EX2 8XU


However, it may find itself in some difficulty as the way productivity is measured will change drastically next month when, instead of measuring productivity only in large firms, for the first time 600,000 businesses employing less than 100 people will be included. Our LEP has not based its strategy on these new measurements.

The Office for National Statistics is overhauling the way in which it measures the UK economy by including vast amounts of VAT data from small firms for the first time.

Previously, GDP estimates have been generated from a survey of the turnover at 45,000 companies – including all of the country’s largest businesses.

From December, information from a third of the UK’s 1.8m VAT returns will also be added to turnover data and included in official GDP figures.

This will dramatically change how the country’s economic growth is measured, providing far more insight into specific industries and locations. The greater proportion of VAT returns will also encompass more small companies, which make up 98pc of UK businesses.

For instance, in past GDP estimates, sectors such as restaurants and pubs were reported on, but only at a high level of “food and beverage service activities” based on 172 monthly surveys and 28,000 tax returns.

Having access to much more data will allow for a detailed view on the performance of pubs, takeaways and restaurants in different parts of the country, the ONS said.

For this first new estimate, only VAT returns from small and medium firms with headcounts of 100 or fewer will be included. Surveys of large firms will continue to be part of the ONS’s data gathering and reporting.

While smaller firms account for most of UK businesses, they only constitute 20pc of the economy. That means the data gathered and analysed by the ONS will be more detailed, but the impact on the GDP headline figure might not be altered by its inclusion, as larger company responses have greater sway.

Economist John Hawksworth of PwC said that it would be good if the ONS published “GDP estimates with and without use of the new VAT data”, so users could clearly see the difference made by its inclusion.

“It should also allow a more timely and detailed breakdown of economic activity by industry sub-sector and region to be produced than is possible at present,” Mr Hawksworth said.

Nick Vaughan, chief economist for the ONS, said the process of incorporating the additional data would be gradual.

“We are phasing these data in gradually and will ramp up the number of VAT returns we use over the coming years,” he said. He added that the new approach should lessen the administrative burden on small firms of completing surveys and help cut costs at the ONS.”


Save Our Hospital Services (SOHS) ‘Care Closer to Home’ survey now online

The survey has been designed with input from a large number of people, including several healthcare professionals. Our aim is to gather as much data on the Care Closer to Home model as possible. We want to know how the model is working based on the real-life experiences of the people of Devon.

The survey can be completed as the patient or as the spouse/partner/relative/friend of the patient.”


“One in seven councillors in English rental hotspots are landlords” – including Torbay

Freedom of Information request to EDDC anyone? To include councillors spouses and children, of course!

“In Torbay, 39% of councillors own multiple properties, including one who has received more than £63,000 in housing benefit payments for tenants in the last two years.

Three Conservative councillors in the south coast authority, including the mayor, own a combined 68 residential properties. In Bournemouth, 15 of the 37 councillors hold multiple property interests; in Labour-controlled Leeds, 26 of the 99 councillors own more than one property in the city.

Councils have the power to regulate private landlords with licensing schemes that enforce minimum levels of safety and habitability, particularly in the poorest areas with large numbers of rental homes. None of these three authorities, which have the largest proportions of landlord councillors, have introduced such schemes.

“It is worrying that towns and cities with high numbers of private renters are governed by a disproportionately high number of landlords, especially if it makes councils less inclined to regulate the local rental market properly,” said Dan Wilson Craw, director of the pressure group Generation Rent.

He said landlord licensing could make a significant difference. For example, the London borough of Newham’s licensing scheme accounts for 70% of all housing prosecutions in the capital.

Landlord councillors insist there is no conflict of interest and say a lack of resources and a belief that the schemes are not the most effective form of regulation influence the decisions. Others have said licensing is under consideration. …

… Torbay council has admitted that the age and quality of the housing stock “means that it is poorly insulated, generally inefficient, which leads to poor living conditions and fuel poverty”. It has also said it may consider licensing landlords in certain areas to increase control over the quality of private sector homes, but has yet to do so.

Six of its councillors rent out 19 properties in two of the most deprived wards. James O’Dwyer, who sits on several council committees, is also a property manager and landlord, and eight of the 44 houses and flats in which he and his family have an interest are located in two wards – Tormohun and Roundham with Hyde – that are ranked in the bottom 10% of living environments in England, according to the government’s indices of deprivation.

Since 2015, O’Dwyer has received more than £63,000 in housing benefit payments for his tenants, according to figures released to the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act.

O’Dwyer said budget cuts rather than the influence of councillor landlords was more likely to be the reason for the failure to introduce licensing schemes in his area.

“This lack of resources and the burden of bureaucracy is far more likely to be the cause of any stagnation of a licensing scheme than the Machiavellian cabal of landlords targeting Torbay,” he said.

O’Dwyer said he would support the right kind of scheme in Torbay and stressed that any conflicts of interest were dealt with under council rules.

His fellow councillor Ray Hill rents out five homes in Tormohun as part of a portfolio of 19 residential properties that he owns or leases. Hill said he and his wife were “responsible and attentive landlords”.

“All of the 19 flats owned by my wife and myself in Torquay and elsewhere are of a high standard, some furnished and some unfurnished,” he said.

A Torbay council spoke4sperson said the authority had invested in an enforcement team rather than licensing, which had resulted in prosecutions changing the behaviour of bad landlords.

“This has had an impact bay-wide rather than in a specific identified area,” they said.”


“Electoral Commission launches inquiry into leave campaign funding”

”Watchdog has ‘reasonable grounds to suspect offence was committed’ by Vote Leave, a student campaigner and another Eurosceptic group.

The watchdog will investigate whether Vote Leave, which was the officially designated Brexit campaign during the referendum, broke campaign finance rules.

Bob Posner, the commission’s director of political finance and regulation, said there were legitimate questions over the funding of campaigners which “risks causing harm to voters’ confidence in the referendum”.

The campaign, run by political strategist Matthew Elliott and former special adviser Dominic Cummings, will be investigated alongside Veterans for Britain and student activist Darren Grimes, now the deputy editor of the Brexit Central website, where Elliott is now editor-at-large.

The investigation has been opened after a review of previous assessments that the Electoral Commission conducted in February and March 2017, where it initially decided no further action was needed.

The commission said new information had since come to light which meant it had “reasonable grounds to suspect an offence may have been committed”.

Grimes and Veterans for Britain will be investigated as to whether he delivered an incorrect spending return in relation to a donation they received from Vote Leave and related campaign spending.

Vote Leave’s spending return will also be investigated, as well as whether the campaign breached its spending limit.

“There is significant public interest in being satisfied that the facts are known about Vote Leave’s spending on the campaign, particularly as it was a lead campaigner with a greater spending limit than any other campaigners on the ‘leave’ side,” Posner said.”


Housing: Hammond blames … well, it’s not clear

“… Hammond stated: “It is not acceptable to us [government] that so many fewer young Britons are able to own a home now than just 10 or 15 years ago. It is not acceptable to us that there are not enough properties to rent and that rents are sky high, and the answer is that we have to build more homes.” …”


Conservatives have been in control of housebuilding since 2010 – seven of those “10-15 years” Hammond talks about.

One of the first acts of the coalition was to put the major housebuilders in charge of re-writing planning policies. Their wishes became law in the National Planning Policy Framework – which people dubbed a “Developers’ Charter’ – and that continues to be the policy.

They also created “Help to Buy” for houses up to £600,000 – effectively handing subsidies to those same developers.