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Snow in March, International Women’s Day and new government legislation, it’s another week for the history books! This week’s round-up tackles some of the highs and lows of the week, starting with the latest update in bad rail news relating to High Speed 2 (HS2); Rishi Sunak’s latest policy to tackle illegal immigration has seemingly left people with more questions than answers [TW: discussion of sex trafficking]; plastic pollution and nursery fees are both revealed to be at an all-time high; and EY’s latest split deal has been paused due to internal disputes. Let’s crack on.
- Britain’s largescale railway project, HS2 has been delayed due to funding costs. The delay will, in theory, largely affect sections from Manchester to Crewe and Birmingham to Crewe. The project was initially set to cost around £33 billion but it’s since been revealed that it’s cost at least £71 billion to date. MP for Middlesbrough Simon Clarke, former chief secretary to the Treasury, tweeted: "Having observed HS2's progress as chief secretary, I have serious doubts as to value for money and cost control." The first HS2 trains aren’t scheduled to carry the first passengers until approximately 2029. To find out more about the commercial impact of HS2, read our Wrestle with PESTLE article, which uses the PESTLE technique to examine the political, economic, sociological, technological, legal and environmental impact of HS2.
- Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing yet more backlash from the EU after announcing his new contentious ‘illegal migration’ bill, also known as the Stop the Boats Bill. According to gov.uk the bill “will mean anyone who enters the UK illegally and has passed through a safe country will be legally required to be removed and the home secretary will have the power to enforce it”. The bill itself outlines that migrants may be detained for 28 days with no recourse for bail or judicial review, and could be held “for as long as there is a reasonable prospect of removal”. Home Secretary Suella Braverman has claimed the new law is within human rights legislation. However, the Guardian states that Ylva Johansson, the EU commissioner for home affairs, said she personally told Braverman that she believes her asylum plans breach international law. Among others, one of the main concerns of MPs is that the new legislation will deny victims of sex trafficking the help they need from modern slavery laws.
- Scientists have uncovered an unparalleled rise in plastic pollution in the ocean, calculating that more than 170 tonnes of plastic particles are afloat in our oceans. They’ve called for a reduction in the production of plastic, stating: “It’s time to address the plastic problem at the source.” The research was conducted by the 5 Gyres Institute and assessed the trends in ocean plastic over 40 years from 1979 to 2019. The findings concluded that the plastics industry hasn’t taken enough care in designing plastic to be recycled or indeed recycling it themselves. Dr Marcus Eriksen, the co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, commented: “The exponential increase in microplastics across the world’s oceans is a stark warning that we must act now at a global scale, stop focusing on clean-up and recycling, and usher in an age of corporate responsibility for the entire life of the things they make.”
- Big four accountancy firm EY has been forced to put plans to separate its audit and consulting businesses on hold due to a dispute over how much of its business should remain on the audit side of the firm. The Financial Times reported that Julie Boland, the head of EY’s US business, told partners on a call on Wednesday that the deal needed to be reworked. The partners, who’d been expecting to vote on the matter next month, will now reconvene in a few weeks to see whether a solution has been found. The Times also reported on the matter, stating that one UK partner said there remains a “clear intent from all to do the deal”, while another said: “Something has to happen, but am I as confident of a split as I was a year ago? Probably not.” One thing’s for sure, the current economic climate ensures that whichever decision is made next will remain complicated.
- The average cost of a full-time nursery place for a child under two in the UK has risen to £14,836. When this is broken down into weekly fees, the cost is on average £285 a week, the equivalent of 44% of the average pay for full-time workers. The Coram Childcare Survey 2023 revealed that this figure is a 5.9% increase in fees since 2021, yet another addition to the cost-of-living crisis in the UK. Another survey, conducted by the National Day Nurseries Association showed that the number of nurseries closing in 2022 had increased by 87% compared to the previous year. Charities such as the YMCA, which owns 89 nurseries, have said that they’re having to make "difficult decisions". In contrast, The Department for Education says the number of childcare places available to families in England has remained stable since 2015, and that "standards remain high".
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