SPERI British Political Economy Briefs

This series was launched in 2014 and the 20 briefs published to date have secured prominent media coverage in the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Independent and across the BBC.

Brief 24No. 24:UK regions and European structural and investment funds

May 2016

This brief analyses EU structural funds, which support regional economic development in EU member states, and shows how they are unevenly distributed across the UK’s regions. The UK’s poorest regions, particularly the North of England, Wales and the South West, tend to receive a higher level of funding than more prosperous regions in the south and east of England.

Download Brief No. 24: UK regions and European structural and investment funds

 

Brief 23SPERI Brief No. 23: UK regions, the European Union and manufacturing exports

May 2016

This Brief analyses manufacturing exports from the UK’s regions to the EU and shows how different areas have significantly different ‘trade in goods’ relationships with the EU. It also suggests that poorer regions (Northern Ireland, the North East and the South West) are most dependent on the UK’s current ability to export manufactured goods and trade with the EU with relatively few restrictions.

Download Brief No. 23: UK regions, the European Union and manufacturing exports

No. 22: Welfare recipients, public opinion and ‘deservingness’

April 2016

Brief-22-150This Brief analyses the results of a survey which explored who the public thinks should be considered as a ‘welfare recipient’, and which types of state support are understood as ‘welfare’. The results highlight a link between the perceived ‘deservingness’ of a group and the extent to which they are considered welfare recipients. The results demonstrate that although many different groups of people receive state-funded help, members of the public instead focus on certain groups in society: the less stereotypically ‘deserving’ a group is considered, the more likely they are to be deemed as welfare recipients.

The authors suggest that a shift has taken place in the meaning of welfare: whereas welfare used to have positive connotations (think of the rise of the NHS, the post-war period, and so on) it is increasingly seen in a negative light as a way of supporting those who do not deserve to be helped. The political implications of this shift can be seen in both rhetoric and policy-making related to welfare.

Download Brief No. 22: Welfare recipients, public opinion and ‘deservingness’

No. 21: Reforming the Treasury, reorienting British capitalism

March 2016
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This Brief by Craig Berry, Andrew Gamble, Colin Hay, Tom Hunt and Tony Payne, contributes to perennial debates about the role and responsibilities of the Treasury, and its dual role within Government as both the ‘economics ministry’ and the ‘finance ministry’, which have been given fresh impetus by the review of the Treasury currently being conducted by Lord Kerslake. The authors looked at previous attempts to challenge the Treasury’s pre-eminence within government over economic policy, and suggest that the Treasury should be accepted as the dominant economics ministry with political capital and effort spent instead on reforming its role, responsibilities and mandate.

Download Brief No. 21: Reforming the Treasury, reorienting British capitalism

No. 20: The UK banking sector and the corporation tax surcharge

March 2016
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This Brief considers the impact of the changes to taxes on banks made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget in July 2015, specifically the introduction of an 8 per cent corporation tax surcharge on bank profits and a reduction in the Bank Levy.The Brief, by SPERI Doctoral Researcher Adam Barber and Tom Hunt, assesses the impact of the new surcharge on three categories of banking institutions: the big global banks headquartered in the UK; building societies; and challenger banks. It looks at the rationale used to make the bank tax changes and in doing so raises questions about the purpose and proportionality of taxes levied upon banks in the UK.

Download Brief No. 20: The UK banking sector and the corporation tax surcharge

No. 19: ‘Eating or Heating’ and the impact of austerity

February 2016

SPERI-Brief-19-120This Brief reveals the difficulty of low income households in the UK to afford sufficient food and fuel.  Research confirms that the ‘heating or eating’ dilemma exists, but the reality is more complex and severe than is often reported in the media and political debates. Interviews with food bank users revealed that their decision is not choosing to heat or eat, but how to spend less on their food and fuel. The Brief also presents new findings on the specific challenges faced by rural communities which drive rural food and fuel poverty.

Download Brief No. 19: ‘Eating or Heating’ and the impact of austerity

No. 18: Neoliberalism, austerity and the UK media

December 2015

brief18-120This Brief shows that a neoliberal narrative has permeated much of the newspaper coverage of hard economic times in the UK since 2007. Quotes and claims from political, market and civil society actors are shown to all draw from a similar framework of reference: treating people primarily as ‘market citizens’, arguably stripping them of their social and political traits. The Brief considers whether this affect how we respond to the current economic situation.

Download Brief No.18: Neoliberalism, austerity and the UK media

No. 17: Comparing the post-crisis performance of the Sheffield, Brighton and Oxford city-region economies

November 2015

SPERI-Brief-17-120This Brief considers the post-financial crisis structure and performance of three city-region economies, centred around Sheffield, Brighton and Oxford. It explores a range of economic indicators for each city-region economy over the last decade and assesses the impact of the crisis and recovery in each area.

Download Brief No. 17: Comparing the post-crisis performance of the Sheffield, Brighton and Oxford city-region economies

No. 16: The UK’s ‘annual tax summaries’

November 2015

brief15_120This brief presents the results from a new study by Dr Liam Stanley and Dr Todd Hartman that tested how annual tax summaries might impact upon public support for welfare and taxation. The results show that the Government’s presentation of public spending data in their annual tax summaries – with welfare listed as the top category – may lead to lower support for state spending, and could contribute to anti-welfare sentiments.

Download Brief No. 16: The UK’s ‘annual tax summaries’

No. 15: Public infrastructure investment & business activity in the English regions

September 2015

brief15_120This brief examines public spending on infrastructure investment in England and assesses its relationship with private sector business activity on a regional basis. Infrastructure investment forms a key part of the Government’s ‘long term economic plan’ and the Treasury’s recent Productivity Plan identified it as a key component for raising productivity.

The Brief analyses the Government’s National Infrastructure Pipeline and shows that London is set to receive more infrastructure investment than every other English region combined. The findings call into question one of the key arguments used by the Government to underpin their austerity agenda which is that public investment ‘crowds out’ private sector activity.

Download Brief No. 15: Public infrastructure investment & business activity in the English regions

No. 14: Has the UK economy been ‘rebalanced’?

July 2015

Brief No. 14This brief considers the available evidence on whether the UK economy has experienced any significant degree of ‘rebalancing’ since 2010. The need to correct a range of structural imbalances in the British economy has become associated in particular with the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, but has emerged as a rare shared objective in economic policy for all the major political parties.

Brief No. 14: Has the UK economy been ‘rebalanced’?

No. 13: Conservative support in Northern England at the 2015 general election

June 2015

Brief13_120This brief considers the evolving basis of UKIP’s electoral support with reference in particular to whether more deprived communities are likely to support the party. The argument that the Green Party and Scottish National Party will take votes from Labour, whilst UKIP will grow at the Conservatives’ expense, is too simplistic. The evidence examined here challenges this notion in relation to UKIP’s support. The Brief demonstrates that prospective UKIP supporters typically reside in areas with high levels of deprivation, and that the party may pose as great a threat to Labour as it does to the Conservatives.

Brief No. 13: Conservative support in Northern England at the 2015 general election

No. 12: The relationship between deprivation and UKIP’s electoral support

April 2015
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This brief considers the evolving basis of UKIP’s electoral support with reference in particular to whether more deprived communities are likely to support the party. The argument that the Green Party and Scottish National Party will take votes from Labour, whilst UKIP will grow at the Conservatives’ expense, is too simplistic. The evidence examined here challenges this notion in relation to UKIP’s support. The Brief demonstrates that prospective UKIP supporters typically reside in areas with high levels of deprivation, and that the party may pose as great a threat to Labour as it does to the Conservatives.

Brief No. 12: The relationship between deprivation and UKIP’s electoral support

No. 11: The UK housing market and stamp duty reform

March 2015

Brief11_120In this Brief, the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute assesses evidence on trends within the UK housing market since the financial crisis. It concentrates in this regard on regional differences within the apparent housing market recovery, and considers what these differences indicate about the nature of the UK’s post-crisis growth model and the purpose of schemes such as ‘Help to Buy’. The Brief also assesses the regional impact of the coalition government’s recent changes to stamp duty on housing transactions – announced in December 2014 – and considers what this measure tells us about the government’s economic stewardship. It finds that regional housing inequalities have widened, and that the coalition government’s decision to significantly reduce stamp duty indicates that it is relatively unconcerned by this trend, and the economy’s dependence on the housing market more generally.

Brief No. 11: The UK housing market and stamp duty reform.

No. 10: Public and private sector employment across the UK since the financial crisis

February 2015

Brief No. 10In this brief, the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute shows that since the 2008 financial crisis, London has been relatively protected from public sector job losses compared to other regions in the UK.

This means that whilst London and the South East have increased their share of public sector jobs from 23.7% to 25.1% of the UK total, the North of England has seen its share drop from 25.2% to 24.2%.

Whilst one of the main justifications for austerity has been that the public sector ‘crowds out’ private sector employment, the brief shows that the region with the fastest private sector employment growth – London – has also seen the smallest reduction in its proportion of public sector employment.

This suggests that public sector jobs can be complementary to rather than in conflict with the goal of building an equitable and sustainable economy for the UK.

Brief No. 10Public and private sector employment across the UK since the financial crisis

No. 9: Income tax revenue and economic change in the UK

December 2014

Income tax revenue and economic change in the UKIn this Brief, the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) responds to the coalition government’s 2014 Autumn Statement by considering the optimism and accuracy of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s income tax revenue forecasts, and related forecasts, since 2010.
The Autumn Statement confirms the comprehensive failure of the coalition’s deficit reduction agenda, in part due to lower than expected tax revenue forecasts, but the consistent mismatch between economic forecasts and economic reality reveals a failure to acknowledge the profound changes in the UK economy which have accelerated since the financial crisis.

Brief No.9: Income tax revenue and economic change in the UK

No. 8: Inequality and class prejudice in an age of austerity

October 2014

Brief8_120This brief shows that British society is becoming increasingly intolerant of unemployed people and other disadvantaged groups, with a growing sense that unemployment is caused by individuals’ personal failings, rather than by structural problems in the economy. The evidence presented in this brief is based on 90 interviews which were conducted in Leeds with participants from a variety of different social classes and ethnic backgrounds. The research also highlighted an alarming intolerance towards disabled people, with participants questioning the legitimacy of benefits for disabled people deemed incapable of working. We appear to be witnessing therefore the re-emergence of traditional distinctions between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor, associated with the Victorian era. There is a danger that misplaced fears and prejudices relating to welfare claimants will present a threat to social cohesion, potentially legitimising policies which might exacerbate, rather than alleviate, social inequality.

The brief has been authored by Professor Gill Valentine, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield.

Brief No. 8: Inequality and class prejudice in an age of austerity

No. 7. The relationship between economic growth and population growth

September 2014

Brief7_120In this brief, the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) considers the relationship between population growth and economic growth in the UK. The fact that populations and economic output tend to grow in tandem, albeit at different rates, has been well-documented. However, the link between population growth and economic growth in the UK appears to have weakened. The implications of this shift are not clear. Certainly, productivity improvements are not driving the present recovery in economic output, and it may be that rapid population growth, in the context of the increasing dependence on labour-intense industries, offers the only viable path to growth for the UK under the present economic model. In advance of the Scottish independence referendum, the Brief also includes specific analysis of the relationship between population growth and economic growth in Scotland.

Brief No.7: The relationships between economic growth and population growth

No.6. Local authority spending cuts and the 2014 English local elections

July 2014

Brief6_120In this brief, the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) considers the variable impact of local authority spending cuts across England, with reference to differences based on regional location, levels of deprivation and the political composition of councils. It also considers evidence on the cuts experienced by the specific councils affected by the 2014 English local elections, that is, those won by Labour, lost by the Conservatives, or where the UK Independence Party (UKIP) made significant gains. It shows there is a clear pattern to the cuts experienced by local authorities in England: councils in the North, in more deprived areas, and/or controlled by Labour have, generally speaking, been most affected by reductions in spending power at the local level. The extent to which the 2014 local elections were influenced by this differential impact is less clear, although some interesting trends are apparent.

No.6. Local authority spending cuts and the 2014 English local elections

No.5. The evolution of the UK tax base

June 2014

brief5_120Taxation takes many different forms, encompassing progressive taxes such as income tax, regressive taxes such as Value Added Tax, and taxes targeted on private enterprises such as corporation tax. The economic downturn significantly affected tax revenues, and the Coalition Government since 2010 has sought to cut some taxes, to boost economic recovery, but at the same time raise others, in support of deficit reduction. It is important to consider, therefore, what impact these changes have had on the nature of the UK tax base as a whole. The evidence shows that regressive taxes now make up a higher proportion of tax revenues, and both progressive individual taxes and taxation targeted on private enterprises make up a lower proportion. Furthermore, revenue from business taxes is set to contract even further, even as economic growth returns, as proposed cuts are fully implemented.

SPERI Political Economy brief No. 5: The evolution of the UK tax base

No.4. Food bank provision and welfare reform in the UK

April 2014

Brief4-120This brief is focused on the impact of recent welfare reform in the UK on driving need for food bank provision. It is based on research conducted as part of a three-year study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), into the growth of nationally co-ordinated or facilitated emergency food provision in the UK. This analysis is relevant to developing an understanding of the evolving boundaries of responsibility for welfare provision between state and civil society. The brief suggests that the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into hunger and food poverty should examine this issue closely, with a key emphasis on the fairness and adequacy of social protection. Welfare reform and the role it will leave for food banks should be examined by the Inquiry in terms of responsibility and be guided by the question of whose responsibility it is to protect people from hunger.

The brief has been authored by Hannah Lambie-Mumford in the University of Sheffield’s Department of Geography. You can contact Hannah at hlambie-mumford@sheffield.ac.uk.

SPERI British Political Economy Brief No4 – Food bank provision & welfare reform in the UK [PDF 331KB]

No.3. The regional impact of increasing the personal tax allowance

March 2014

Brief3-120In this brief the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) considers the differential regional impact in England of raising the income tax personal allowance – a measure announced by George Osborne at the Budget on 19th March 2014. The measure has been championed by both coalition partners as a form of support for the low paid workers. However, the extent to which individuals benefit depends on the extent of their income that is ‘taxable’, and the proximity of their income to other tax thresholds. The evidence presented in this brief shows that those who do not benefit at all – as a result of earning less than the current allowance – are more likely to live in Northern regions (particularly Yorkshire and the Humber) and the South-West. The measure therefore neither benefits the lowest paid, nor alleviates regional inequality.

SPERI British Political Economy Brief No.3 – The regional impact of increasing the personal tax allowance (PDF 368KB)

No.2. Sterling depreciation and the UK trade balance

February 2014

Brief2-120In this brief the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) considers the relationship between the relative value of sterling and the UK trade balance. When a country’s currency depreciates in value relative to its major competitors, its exports become cheaper (and imports become more expensive); the depreciation of sterling experienced in the wake of the financial crisis should therefore have boosted policy-makers’ efforts to rebalance the economy towards exports and away from the domestic consumption of imported goods – as occurred following depreciation in the 1970s and early 1990s. However, there is no evidence of an improved trade balance following the recent depreciation of sterling, suggesting significant imbalances in the UK economy.

SPERI British Political Economy Brief No.2 – Sterling depreciation & the UK trade balance (PDF 346KB)

No.1. Pay in manufacturing and finance

January 2014

Brief1-120In this brief the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) considers what levels of pay across different sectors tells us about the experience of economic rebalancing since the financial crisis. In an economy rebalanced towards manufacturing, and away from financial services, we would expect to see the pay gap between these two sectors beginning to close. However, the gap has increased rather than decreased. Furthermore, pay in real estate activities is catching up to pay in manufacturing, further undermining the role of manufacturing in boosting exports and technological dispersion.

SPERI British Political Economy Brief No.1 – Pay in Manufacturing and Finance (PDF 384KB)