The government this month published its plans to tackle the UK’s toxic air crisis. And it is a crisis: Brixton Road breached annual air pollution levels five days into the new year.
But the proposals are so weak the government is expected to be taken back to court. That’s right, back to court. These proposals have been redrafted after it was ruled the original plans flouted the obligation of the government to protect public health.
2. Boundary changes
The Conservatives have had their heart set on boundary reform since the coalition, when the Lib Dems blocked their plans. But now, free of their liberal shackles, the Tories have ploughed ahead with proposals to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and change parliamentary constituencies. Critics say the changes are undemocratic, will favour the Tories and will hurt Labour. As it stands, 43 Tory areas will not be altered by the boundary changes, compared to just 25 Labour seats.
3. The snooper's charter
The so-called Snooper’s Charter was passed into law last year. Under the act, the state has gained unprecedented levels of surveillance powers over citizens. It can hack, intercept, record and monitor anyone’s internet use, and store a person's online activity for 12 months.
4. Pulling the plug on lone child refugees
It was expected that 3,000 lone refugee children from camps in Europe would be brought to the UK under the Dubs amendment, which was implemented last year. But it stopped at 350 children. Home secretary Amber Rudd insisted councils didn’t have the capacity for more children, but experts argued there was space for thousands more children if funding was provided.
5. Heathrow expansion
Much to the dismay of climate change campaigners - and local communities, and Zac Goldsmith - it was decided earlier this year Heathrow will be expanded.
6. Embarrassing tax U-turn
Earlier this the year the government announced plans to increase National Insurance for the self-employed. The proposal was hit with such criticism it was dropped very shortly after. But the intention to increase tax on workers often in insecure jobs arguably sent a clear message of the government's views on who should bear the bigger financial burdens.
7. Hike in business rates
The government has orchestrated an increase in business rates, hitting independent shops hard, particularly in London, where it's feared smaller music venues, cafes and pubs won't be able to afford to stay open.
8. Cutting public health
The government pledged to cut more than £160 million from the public health budgets of already struggling councils. Not only does this add pressure to the NHS in the immediate future, but it cuts preventative work around drugs, drinking, obesity and mental health that will put pressure on health services in the long term.
9. Possible future rises in VAT
The Tories have pledged not to raise VAT, as has Labour. But chancellor Philip Hammond hinted he might go back on this promise. Last month Hammond said
It was self-evidently clear that the commitments that were made in the 2015 manifesto did and do today constrain the ability to manage the economy flexibly.
10. Mental health boosts
The government has been criticised for not doing enough for the UK’s mental health crisis, including letting mental health funding which was specifically set aside for children’s services, leak to other services.
11. Spending cuts hitting the poorest
Before the election was announced, several Tory spending cuts came into effect. The cuts, mostly to welfare, were announced years ago by then Chancellor George Osborne, but were postponed until April 2016 to come into effect. Analysis by the Resolution Foundation argued that 67 per cent of benefits cuts would hit the poorest households. Meanwhile, 80 per cent of tax cuts would benefit the better off.
80% of the tax cuts coming into force this Thursday go to better-off households. 67% of benefit cuts fall on poores… https://t.co/XfQrV0eGGi
— Resolution Foundation (@Resolution Foundation)
12. The 'rape clause' in the Child Tax Credit cuts
From this year the Child Tax Credit (CTC), will only be paid for first two children born in any family. The credit was worth up to £2,780 per child per year. Families with triplets and twins already will be exempt, and the government has been charitable enough to allow women who have a third child as a result of rape to also claim the tax credit.
But let's leave on a positive, shall we?
In a welcome U-turn, May has just announced promises for ten thousand more NHS staff to be assigned to mental health, a teacher in every school to be trained in mental health first aid, and tougher discrimination laws to strengthen the rights of workers with mental health problems.