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updated on 16 March 2023
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Jeremy Hunt announced the UK’s 2023 budget and we’ve broken down what’s in it for you. Plus, the UK saw its largest strike in decades this week; the BBC has been accused of bowing to government pressures over headlines; Gary Lineker caused quite the stir with a controversial Tweet; and there’s some exciting news for anyone planning a holiday. We’ve got some great stories for you in this week’s commercial round-up so grab a pen and start applying the PESTLE technique.
On Wednesday 15 March, Jeremy Hunt announced the government’s 2023 budget, which evoked a mixture of reactions from the British public. However, concern seems to lie not in what was said, but what was left out. Plans for the NHS, public sector workers, children living in poverty and the fall of household income were all left unaddressed. But let’s talk about what the chancellor did include: Hunt is introducing a pension tax break for high earners; additional free childcare for working parents; and further government assistance with the cost of energy bills. The pension tax break will see the £1.073 million tax-free lifetime allowance on pensions scrapped in an attempt to dissuade workers from taking an early retirement and being “pushed out of the workforce for tax reasons”, Hunt claims.
Free childcare is being extended. Under the current government scheme working parents can receive up to 30 hours of free childcare for three and four-year-olds a week. New plans will extend this care to include one and two-year-olds too. These changes will be implemented in stages by September 2025. The government is also increasing its funding of nurseries to help cover care costs, and schools will extend their out-of-hours care from 8:00am to 6:00pm from September 2026. Energy bill assistance is also being extended. The government's energy price guarantee, which capped typical household energy bills at £2,500, is set to be extended until June – this should save an average household £160. As part of the budget:
the chancellor’s relief plan for pubs will see taxes on draught beer cut;
fuel duty will be frozen for another year; and
there will be a crackdown on tax avoidance by freelancers, temporary workers and contractors.
While the UK’s budget was being announced, more than 400,000 doctors, civil servants, university staff, Tube staff, some BBC staff and Coventry Amazon workers went on strike on Wednesday, marking the biggest strike in decades. Thousands marched across London, gathering in Trafalgar Square and Downing Street to express their discontent over pay and industry funding. One junior doctor told the BBC that she doesn’t want to strike saying she’s “sorry it’s come to this”, she just “wants the government to listen”. As the budget was announced, unions expressed their discontent at Hunt’s failure to tackle pay disputes, labelled as “a historic betrayal” to NHS workers by Unite’s General Secretary Sharon Graham. The Fire Brigade’s Union General Secretary Matt Wrack called Hunt’s budget the “[b]udget of cuts”, stating that the government has “learned nothing from nearly a year of industrial disputes”. Civil Servants, a number of who gathered outside Number 10 as Hunt gave his budgetary speech, came to protest the fact that 47,000 of them are on minimum wage despite dealing with complex issues such as taxes and asylum claims. “What do we want?” they chanted, “10%”, “when do we want it?” – now!” Joining in on the strikes yesterday were London Underground staff, demanding action on pensions, job losses and contractual agreements. One train driver remarked he was “amazed” by the solidarity of the public.
From strikes to secret dealings, a BBC whistleblower has come forward accusing the broadcasting service of bowing to government pressure on its news stories. The whistleblower claims that BBC “headlines have been determined by calls from Downing Street on a very regular basis”. They add that the BBC bows to pressures out of fear that it’ll lose the inside scoop if it doesn’t comply. Numerous emails and leaked WhatsApp messages were obtained by the Guardian revealing that Downing Street pressured the BBC to alter its political coverage. In one instance a senior editor told journalists, “D St complaining that we’re not reflecting Labour’s mess of plan b online. Can we turn up the scepticism a bit on this?” After this a line criticising Labour was added to its online news story. In another instance, BBC editors told their journalists to avoid the word ‘lockdown’ when Boris Johnson first announced people should stay at home on 23 March 2020. Reporters argued unsuccessfully against this suggestion, resulting in that day’s broadcasts using words such as ‘curbs’ and ‘restrictions’. At this time a number of publications such as Sky News, The Daily Mail and the Metro all splashed the word ‘lockdown’ across their front pages. An anonymous insider from the BBC claimed that these messages offered just a small glimpse into the pressure the BBC faces from downing street as most pressure was applied verbally rather than written. This isn’t the first time the BBC has been accused of impartiality, with several top journalists leaving the BBC last year including Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel who joined the BBC’s rival LBC.
From one BBC scandal to another, last week esteemed Match of the Day (MOTD) presenter Gary Lineker was suspended from the BBC after he posted a Tweet criticising the government’s migrant bill and comparing the language used to that of 1930s Germany. Last Friday, the BBC announced Lineker would be stepping back from presenting MOTD until they reached an agreement over his use of social media. Ian Wright and Alan Shearer both pulled out of their MOTD presenting duties in solidarity with Lineker, causing a wave of disruption across BBC sporting programmes. Football Focus, Final Score and football coverage from 5 Live were all pulled off air, while MOTD was only 20 minutes long with no commentary. Lineker’s suspension was met with an uproar of criticism from fans and colleagues with several critics taking to social media to highlight the fact that the BBC chairperson is a Conservative party donor, and the BBC director general once stood as a Conservative candidate which doesn’t highlight impartiality.
However, earlier this week Lineker was allowed to return to his post and the BBC issued a public apology to both viewers and presenters, announcing a review by an independent expert of its social media policy. Director general of the BBC Tim Davie claimed that “impartiality is important to the BBC”, adding that it’s “a difficult balancing act to get right”. Lineker took to Twitter once again but this time to express his gratitude to fans and colleagues stating: “After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this. I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity.” Before signing off he left us with: “A final thought: however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away.”
Our final story is an announcement offering some exciting news to anyone planning a holiday. In December last year, LCN reported on a shake-up in airport security rules that would allow UK passengers to take liquids of more than 100 millilitre on flights. The government set a deadline of June 2024 for all UK airports to install new technology that would allow passengers to take bottles of water, shampoo or any other larger liquids through security, as well as removing the requirement for passengers to remove electricals from carry-on bags. London City Airport will be the first mainstream UK airport to adopt this new approach with the advanced CT scanners set to be installed and ready for use by the end of March. London City Airport Chief Executive Robert Sinclair said: “The new lanes will not only cut hassle but also queuing times, which I know passengers will love.” Further roll outs of these advanced scanners can be expected at other major UK airports in the coming months.
Check the News every Thursday for this weekly commercial news round-up.