Wednesday News Review

GDP figures due today

George Osborne hopes to claim the economy is on the right track when official figures are expected to show the economy has returned to modest growth in the first quarter of this year after suffering a surprise severe contraction in the last quarter of 2010. Economists have struggled to reach a consensus on the likely growth figure after the shock decline of 0.5% at the end of last year, blamed on the severely cold December weather. City economists are more pessimistic than the government’s fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, which predicted a recovery of 0.8% to leave the economy in positive territory over the last six months. The investment bank JP Morgan expects growth of only 0.2% for the first quarter of 2011, while Citi predicts 0.5% and Goldman Sachs 0.6%. Angela Eagle, the shadow Treasury secretary, said: “Our economy should not just be making up all the lost ground from the end of last year but growing strongly on top of that. We will need to compare growth over the last six months with growth of 1.8% over the previous six months.” – the Guardian

Balls: Salmond’s plans “totally crackers”

Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, has stepped up Labour’s attacks on Alex Salmond’s economic arguments for independence by arguing they show the SNP leader is unfit for power. Mr Balls said it was “baffling” that someone who has made such inaccurate pronouncements about the economy over the last four years could be trusted to be in charge of Scotland. Reeling off a list of examples during a Holyrood election campaign stop, he called the notion of fiscal autonomy for Scotland “barmy” and Mr Salmond’s support for adopting the euro “totally crackers”. The SNP’s plans for Scotland to have its own financial regulation, interest rates and exchange rate would have been a “total and utter catastrophe” during the recent recession, he concluded. Mr Balls’ intervention will be seen as an attempt by Labour in London to salvage Iain Gray’s faltering campaign. Party leader Ed Miliband is also expected to join Mr Gray later this week. – the Telegraph

Plan for failure, MPs tell health department

MPs are demanding that the government urgently put in place plans to ensure vital health services continue if a hospital or other provider goes bust under its NHS reforms. In a report published on Wednesday, the public accounts committee says the proposals for the NHS do not include details of what will happen if providers fail in the new market model of healthcare provision. Members of the committee dismissed claims by the most senior civil servant in the Department of Health, Una O’Brien, that the government was “not planning for failure”, and condemned the lack of contingency planning, suggesting that the proposals now pose an intolerable risk to value for money and quality of services. Richard Bacon, the Conservative MP for South Norfolk, said: “In any organisation as large and complex as the NHS, things can and do go wrong, and the Department of Health has yet to establish a robust framework for dealing with failure in the system. The department must not only understand the danger of either a provider or a commissioner going ‘belly up’, but also toughen up its contingency plans, drawing upon strong, effective and clear chains of governance and accountability throughout the new NHS model.” – the Guardian

Committee chairman Margaret Hodge said: “The Department of Health acknowledged the risks associated with this radical shake-up of the NHS. “Whilst the reforms could complement the imperative of achieving £20bn efficiency gains by 2014/15, the reorganisation might also distract those responsible for making the savings while safeguarding standards of patient care.” She added: “We were also concerned that the Department has not yet developed a high quality risk management protocol for either the commissioning or providing bodies. “The Department acknowledged that some health trusts and some GP practices had some way to go to achieve foundation trust status or become commissioning consortia. “The Department must have effective systems in place to deal with failure so that whatever happens, the interests of both patients and taxpayers are protected.” Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the British Medical Association, said: “The Public Accounts Committee is right to highlight the risks posed by such a massive restructuring at a time of financial crisis. “However, it is not just the timing, but also the direction of travel of these reforms that will cause problems. – BBC

One Response to “Wednesday News Review”

  1. Robert says:

    I just saw Balls on TV moaning about the growth, but the fact is his lot caused this down turn, like it or not you have Brown saying sorry, you now have other saying well look Thatcher caused it, the principles of Labour were those of Thatcher, sod them. I do not see any difference between labour and the Tories except the silly political rhetoric. In my area under New labour and what ever brown was companies left in droves I have never seen so many companies move out.

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