Cost of living submissions summary

The first CPF discussion paper of 2017 explored the cost of living and responses were submitted by CPF groups representing 136 constituencies and at least 1,123 members across the country. A summary was sent to the Chairman of the PM’s Policy Board but then the General Election was announced. His response will now be published after the summer recess. Thank you to everyone who was involved - and thank you for your understanding over the unanticipated delay in being able to secure a formal response to submissions!

For our latest national policy discussions, see our paper on Conservative values and our post-election update.

Ideas and themes that were consistently raised by groups in response to the cost of living questions are highlighted below:

Question 1

  • Almost one-in-four groups called for more educational emphasis on STEM subjects, ICT and computer coding.

  • More than two-in-five groups called for greater promotion of serious apprenticeships and closer partnership between government, industry and schools, such as the schemes in the Midlands/North West involving JCB, Bentley and Airbus.

  • Around one-in-eight groups explicitly called for more lifelong learning and many others for a focus on reskilling for older people.

  • A national adult skills and education programme that supports a multi-decade snapshot, say, every five years of people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s to establish the new skill and training needs demanded by new technology.

  • Reintroduce careers advice services in all schools, perhaps as part of the curriculum, working with local employers in key industries such as sciences and engineering to provide meaningful and expansive work experience to all young people.

Question 2

  • Many groups that discussed this question repeated ideas that were reported in the 2016 CPF discussion on housing, e.g. one-in-six groups suggested making greater use of pre-fabricated accommodation.

  • Several groups suggested new ways to fund house-building.

  • Several thought more should be done to make more affordable housing available.

  • More than one-in-five called for measures to prevent land-banking by developers.

  • Instead of local planning committees having the power to determine planning consent, perhaps this power should be in the hands of a wider more strategic planning committee making such decisions, as with the local plan.

Question 3

  • An equal number of CPF Groups expressed both support for and opposition to assisted places. Yet, even those in favour observed that the scheme is a “sideshow” and preferred all available funding to be devoted to raising the quality of education in state-funded schools.

  • Over one-in-five CPF Groups explicitly suggested that selection and streaming in all schools would enable all students to receive education and training more appropriate to their skills and abilities.

  • A common call was for a holistic review of our future educational needs and for a clear strategy to address the link between schooling and work.

  • Raise the level of the Department for Education ‘Teachers Standards July 2011.

  • Many ideas concerned improving the focus of school instruction, for instance on discipline, sport and language-learning.

  • Final points included a range of broader, strategic concerns, such as reviewing the current minimum school-leaving age and looking at childcare models within Europe.

Question 4

  • One-in-three CPF Groups advocated reintroducing food-tech/home economics classes in all schools for students of all ages to learn how to cook a healthy meal for less money. Many others urged improved education for all by Public Health England.

  • Several groups noted that food is historically cheap and value for money is ensured through competition, not government intervention. More than twice as many (almost one-in-three) opposed a sugar tax and other market interventions.

  • Support was widespread for encouraging greater personal responsibility for health through educational support and disincentives similar to the approach taken with smoking. E.g. One-in-six groups advocated clearer labelling and standardising “traffic light” codes; over one-in-ten called for a review of “use by” dates to reduce needless waste, e.g. replacing them with a “produced on” date; and many urged an end or limit to buy one get one free (BOGOF) deals on unhealthy food.

  • CPF support included making more NHS medical treatment conditional on patients giving up smoking or losing weight.

Question 5

  • Around one-in-four CPF Groups expressed scepticism or outright opposition to smart meters, which were regularly described as a farce and a waste of money.

  • Above all, the message was to simplify the market. Many groups called for Ofgem to have more powers to regulate energy companies more effectively, to control excessive price increases, and to ensure that proper price comparisons are possible.

  • Several suggestions were made to help communities with costs of energy.

  • Several groups called for help centres to assist less technically-able families and community energy-buying co-operatives to offer participants cost savings through the bulk purchase of energy.

  • Smart technology depends on high level broadband and mobile reception. Their development across the UK, particularly in rural and semi-rural locations, is key to balanced regional growth. The future of Openreach and its poor performance as monopoly provider of the IT infrastructure must be examined as a priority.

  • Several groups criticised Government for artificially increasing energy prices through “uneconomic green energy subsidies” and said we should instead “spend money on innovative technology that looks at ways of reducing emissions.”

Question 6

  • Two-in-five CPF Groups called for financial education in schools.

  • More than one-in-five groups wanted tougher regulation of credit cards and unsecured lending.

  • Many groups observed that the concept of saving to buy something later, rather than buying it now on credit and paying for it in the future, seems to have largely disappeared from our culture. Almost one-in-five looked for interest rates to be raised to encourage saving, although even these groups accepted that this would have undesired results, e.g. lower GDP, with its dependence on consumer spending.

  • Various other savings instruments and encouragements were suggested to help people get the most from their money.

Question 7

  • Among calls for greater emphasis on the Northern powerhouse and on regional infrastructure improvements, there were a range of other specifically rural concerns.

  • Several groups raised points concerning business.

  • Several suggestions concerned management of the economy.

  • Concerns were expressed about the costs of the daily commute, the lack of competition in rail franchises and the issue of business rates.

  • Various suggestions called for research into providing an integrated public transport system linking bus and train timetables in the rural areas.

Other comments

  • Groups noted that while the cost of living is part of the quality of life, “for a good life people need to be able to walk among green trees near where they live, to meet their neighbours in the local shops without needing to drive many miles to find a parking spot and to get to their work every day in one hour.”

  • Other comments consistently mentioned Government spending, suggesting, “the greatest contribution the Government could make to reducing the cost of living for ordinary people would be to reduce its own debt and expenditure.”

Image: CC BY-SA 3.0 NY