Is pressure on English A&E departments increasing?

There is a perception that pressure on accident and emergency departments has grown to unprecedented levels. Recent events at Colchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, where patients have been asked not to attend A&E except for serious and life-threatening conditions, have brought this issue into focus. Additionally, there are reports that all three major hospitals in Cambridgeshire were recently put on ‘black alert’, representing a hospital’s highest possible level of alert. Meanwhile, the government has released £700m in funds to alleviate a potential ‘winter crisis’ in the NHS. This post examines claims about increasing pressures on A&E in England as a whole in the light of published data.

Data for individual NHS providers going back to 2010 is available in our downloadable Excel tool.

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Prerogative Powers and the Fixed-term Parliaments Act

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 is a contentious and often criticised piece of legislation, although it does have its supporters. The government and the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee have argued it has created a stable environment for longer-term government planning.

The 2011 Act made provision for the next general election to be held on the first Thursday of May 2015 (and fixed the terms of future Parliaments to five years). Accordingly, it ostensibly removed the Prime Minister’s power to pick a date of his own choice. Prior to the 2011 Act, the prerogative power to dissolve Parliament before the maximum five-year period was exercised personally by Her Majesty, conventionally at the request of the Prime Minister. Continue reading

Earnings by constituency

New earnings data published this morning by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show differences in pay across parliamentary constituencies, as illustrated in the map below. Median weekly pay of full-time employees was highest for people living in London (at £618 per week in April 2014) and lowest in Northern Ireland (£457 per week).

The map shows earnings levels for full-time employees living in each constituency. (The median is the point at which half of employees earn more, and half earn less. Northern Ireland constituency results are yet to be published.)

Constituency earnings mapClick on the map to see a larger image. Download data for all constituencies.

Earnings by region – changes since 2013

In the South West, median full-time employee pay increased by 2.2% between April 2013 and April 2014, the largest increase of any UK country or region. Median pay was up 2.0% in Scotland and 1.7% in the South East.

However, in Northern Ireland median earnings of full-time employees decreased by 1.6%. Median pay also fell slightly in the East of England (down 0.8%) and the West Midlands (down 0.5%).

Change in earnings by region

Click on the chart to see a larger image

Analysing changes at a constituency level is more difficult. These data are survey based and constituency estimates are based on relatively small numbers of respondents – thus it is hard to discern between actual changes and what is just statistical ‘noise’ (see this previous post for further information).

These median figures are affected by new entrants to employment as well as people leaving jobs. For example, if lots of people enter employment and take relatively low-paid jobs, then that will lower the median; similarly if lots of relatively high-paid workers leave employment then that will also push down the median. Such effects are not negligible. ONS estimate that for full-time employees who had been in continuous employment for at least one year, median pay increased by 4.1% between 2013 and 2014, compared to a 0.1% increase for all employees.

Feargal McGuinness

The UK’s EU surcharge

Debate over the UK’s EU budget surcharge of £1.63bn1 has raged since the end of October, culminating in an urgent question in the House on Monday (11th November). The Chancellor of the Exchequer claims to have, amongst other things, halved the surcharge – his opponents say that this is based on a rebate which was always due.

Why does the UK owe this money, what has been negotiated and what’s the rebate got to do with it? Continue reading

From cradle to grave – Civil Registration in the UK

On the 24–28 November, Ministers of Interior, Health and Home Affairs, Heads of National Statistical Offices and regional development partners from across Asia and the Pacific will be gathering in Bangkok to discuss a key emerging issue in the developing world; that of civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS). The concept of comprehensive civil registration may seem second nature to us – almost 180 years of registration of births and deaths has helped us internalize both our place in the state and the associated lifelong rights that this registration entitles us to. But where do our registration systems stand in a global sense and what are we doing to export the lessons of 180 years of CRVS in practice?
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The European Parliament’s ‘Political Groups’: Unlikely Alliances?

European Parliament rules provide for the formation of “political groups” – essentially alliances between political parties from different Member States. Belonging to a political group brings a number of advantages, chiefly access to additional funding.

The incentive to form political groups leads to the creation of a number of alliances which might initially appear surprising. One example of this is the European Conservatives and Reformists group, an alliance of Eurosceptic parties. Many of its member parties are relatively minor parties, but the group also includes the UK Conservative Party as a founder member. (The Conservatives left the Parliament’s main centre-right grouping – the European People’s Party – in 2009, seeing the grouping as too Europhile.) Another example is the Greens/European Free Alliance, a somewhat unlikely alliance of Green parties and regional secessionist parties. Three UK parties belong to this grouping: the Green Party of England and Wales, the SNP, and Plaid Cymru.

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Misconceptions about Teenage Pregnancy in England and Wales

A recent Ipsos MORI poll found that public perceptions on key issues underlying public policy – such as immigration, population structure and religion – are often wrong to a surprising degree.  One issue discussed in this poll was teenage pregnancy. The poll reported that British people think, on average, that 16% of all teenage girls aged 15-19 give birth every year, while the actual figure is only 3%. This post examines statistics on falling rates of teenage pregnancy in England and Wales*, and looks at variation between local areas.

The most recent ONS Conception Statistics show that in 2012 there were 44 conceptions for every 1,000 women aged 15-19 in England and Wales – equivalent to 4.4% of all women in this age category. This compares with a rate of 127 per 1,000 for women aged 25-29, the highest child-bearing age group. For those aged 15-17, the rate is 28 per 1,000. I will focus mostly on this latter group here – ages 15-17 – since the ONS conception data provides more detail on this category.

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Parliamentary Sovereignty and the European Convention on Human Rights

One of the issues which arises frequently when there is a dispute between the Government and the European Court of Human Rights is the effect of Parliamentary Sovereignty. This is retained in the domestic sphere, since the Human Rights Act 1998 does not grant the UK Courts the power to strike down primary legislation made by the Westminster Parliament. However, the question then arises as to whether the UK Government is obliged, under international law, to address judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. This has become a particular issue in relation to the case of prisoner voting rights; and following an announcement by the Conservative party that it wishes to make “fundamental changes to the way human rights laws work in the United Kingdom”.
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Does the ‘West Ealing Question’ exist?

Background20141105 Ealing image

The West Lothian Question draws attention to the fact that, following devolution, English MPs are unable to vote on matters devolved to Scotland, but Scottish MPs can vote on the same matters with regard to England, as they are still decided in the UK Parliament. This has led for some calls for ‘English votes for English laws’ – in other words, restricting or ending the voting rights of MPs from Scotland on matters before the House of Commons which only affect England.[1]

It has been suggested that, in view of the existence of the Greater London Authority (GLA), an analogous situation could apply with regard to MPs from London. Although certain matters have been devolved to London, London MPs are still able to vote on these same issues when they apply elsewhere in England. This idea has been described as the ‘West Ealing Question’.[2]

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HMRC’s new annual tax summary: what’s in ‘welfare’?

The Government has announced that over 24 million people will soon start receiving their first personalised Annual Tax Summary from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which will provide a breakdown of how each person’s annual direct tax bill (income tax and NI contributions) is spent.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne described the measure as a “revolution in transparency” which “will show how hardworking taxpayers have to pay for what governments spend.”

The Treasury has published some illustrative examples of the annual tax summary on its Flickr account. While the pound amounts vary from taxpayer to taxpayer depending on their taxable income for the year, the pie-chart proportions are the same for everyone, as these are based on the overall proportional breakdown of total Government spend in the tax year – these proportions are then applied to the individual’s income tax and NI bill.

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