OPINION - The Standard View: Governing is about choices, never more so than in tough times

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

The grim economic news keeps coming. Yesterday the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.75 percentage points, its highest single hike in more than three decades. And that was just the start.

The Bank went on to forecast a two-year recession, which would be the longest (albeit not the deepest) continuous contraction in history. Little wonder that with hundreds of pounds being added to monthly mortgage repayments while inflation stays in double-digits, demand for London housing has fallen by nearly half since the disastrous mini-budget according to online housing portal Zoopla.

The Government has made clear it intends to raise taxes and cut spending at the upcoming Autumn Statement. But how it does this is just as crucial. For instance, George Osborne when he was Chancellor had a spending-cuts-to-tax-rises ratio of 80:20. Fast forward 12 years and there is less fat to cut from the public sector.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt also faces decisions about who and what to tax. New figures show the Treasury has so far earned £2.8bn from the energy windfall tax. An extension of the scheme, at a time of eye-watering profits from that sector, could not only bring in more revenue, but negate any need for higher taxes on low earners.

Governing is about choices, never more so than in tough times. The PM must ensure those with the broadest shoulders bear the greatest burden.

Don’t level down arts

For years, ministers have insisted that levelling up the north of England did not mean levelling down London. But actions speak louder than words.

As we report in today’s newspaper, two dozen arts organisations are leaving the capital in order to keep their government funding. This includes Waterloo-based Headlong Theatre, which brought stars such as Jenna Coleman and David Harewood to the stage.

It comes as the Government has ordered Arts Council England (ACE) to funnel at least £24m from London to the regions, with an additional £8m being raised from the capital to facilitate relocations.

ACE chair Sir Nicholas Serota acknowledges there had been “tough decisions about how much funding London receives and where in the capital that money is spent”.

Raiding London’s arts funding does not equate to levelling up. Everyone should enjoy access to the arts, right across the country. The solution is not to proactively inflict damage on the capital.

COP must deliver

Activity ahead of COP27 in Egypt is ramping up. The Prince of Wales has unveiled the finalists for the second annual Earthshot prize, a global competition to help fix the challenges facing our planet. Finalists include a London project to make packaging from seaweed and plants.

Meanwhile, the King is hosting a reception at Buckingham Palace to build support ahead of the summit. And of course, the PM will soon be in Sharm El-Sheikh to meet other world leaders like presidents Biden and Macron.

We need concrete action, deliverable goals and hard cash so future generations can look back on COP27 as a vital step on the path to averting climate disaster.