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2015 was full of surprises, from a Conservative majority that confounded the pollsters to a rank outsider in Jeremy Corbyn going on to win the Labour Leadership with a massive mandate. Bright Blue’s Executive team have come forward with their predictions of what 2016 has in store politically.

Our director Ryan Shorthouse, decided to focus on the area he thought would dominate the Conservative government’s policy agenda over the next year.

“The PM wants the EU referendum out of the way as soon as possible so he can focus on his original passion: social reform. Expect many more speeches this year on education, welfare and now prisons. When he departs in 2020, Cameron wants conservatism to be associated with both economic and social responsibility.

But warm words are not enough to ensure this legacy is secured. Lasting institutions have to be built. For example, the New Labour Government is remembered and applauded for the creation of Sure Start Children’s Centres. This year, will see the building of universal public services with a Tory stamp. Specifically, National Citizen Service and parenting classes.

In his speech on ‘life chances’ this week, Cameron indicated that he is building these two services into universal institutions. All parents are to receive vouchers to attend parenting classes. An extra injection of over a billion pounds will ensure that 60% of all teenagers can access National Citizen Service by 2021.

For a policymaker, this is exciting territory. It provides an opportunity to devise ideas to shape and mature these public services over time – on how money is raised and distributed for these services, and how you can increase contestability and accountability of these services to improve outcomes.”

Senior Research Fellow David Kirkby looked at two policies he thinks the Government will introduce in 2016.

Pension tax reform

“I expect the Government to reform the current system of tax relief for private pension contributions. Currently, individuals receive tax relief on their pension contributions at their marginal rate of income tax. The primary beneficiaries of this system are higher earners – over two thirds of pension tax relief is directed at higher and additional rate taxpayers  The cost to Government is nearly £50 billion. Moving towards a flat rate of tax relief may save the state money and be more equitable.”

Regional Living Wages

“The Government will consider implementing Regional Living Wages, varying the legal wage floor in different parts of the UK. With the National Living Wage (NLW) set to rise at £7.20 per hour next April, attention will turn to the different effects this will have on different parts of the UK. Research from the Resolution Foundation has found that by 2020, the NLW will be 47% of median wages in London, compared to 71% in the Sheffield and Nottingham city regions. There is a risk that this will further draw investment and economic activity towards London and away from less competitive parts of the UK.

This policy feels like a bit of a long shot, but it has obvious merits. At the very least, I expect it to grow more prominent in policy debates!”

Bright Blue Researcher James Dobson had predictions for two policies that Bright Blue have a lot to say on.

International students to be removed from the net migration target

“Back in June 2014 Bright Blue launched a petition that urged the Government to remove international students from the net migration target. In 2015, the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor and the Business Secretary all echoed these calls. It therefore seems likely that in 2016 students will be stripped from the target. However, the Government may choose to balance these changes by introducing stricter visa refusal rates for Universities.”


The new British Bill of Rights will not come into law in 2016

“In October, the Government briefed ambitious plans to introduce the new British Bill of Rights by the summer of 2016. Two months later the Lord Chancellor, Michael Gove delayed the launch of the consultation until the New Year. It therefore seems extremely unlikely that the legislation will reach the statue book by the summer. Indeed, it seems likely that the new Bill will be delayed until at least 2017. The Bill is likely to run into significant opposition in the Lords which has already flexed its muscles in this Parliament on tax credits.”