Tuesday, December 6, 2022

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The Silicon Valley project Gove brought the “flush toilet” to life

A project Michael Gove is said to have flushed down the toilet has been given new life by last week’s autumn statement.

Proponents believe a so-called “Oxford-Cambridge Arc” could bring billions into the economy by competing with Silicon Valley. However, it was dropped as a priority when Boris Johnson’s government focused on reaching out to ‘Red Wall’ voters in the north of England.

The Arc’s vision is to create a British version of California’s innovation and technology hub between the two university cities and its neighbor Milton Keynes through investments in infrastructure, housing and laboratory space.

But he laid out his plans in his first major statement when Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced plans to help the UK challenge the home of Apple, eBay and Zoom.

A Treasury Department source insisted Mr Hunt was talking about the country as a whole when speaking of Silicon Valley, but added that the return of the Oxford-Cambridge project was “possible”.

Adam Hawksbee, interim director at think tank Onward, said it would be “great news as the OxCam Arc project gets back underway – a lack of laboratory space and housing in and around some of our most productive economic hubs is holding back growth.”

“Leveling needs to be about these types of projects as well as interventions in left behind parts of the north,” he added.

Former Labor Cabinet Secretary Andrew Adonis, former chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), said he strongly supports a revival of the Arc, which he described as a “key growth priority” for the country. “There is a massive shortage of housing and business/research facilities throughout the arc. And the transport links are deplorable. All of this needs to be sorted out in a systematic way, as the NIC suggested when I was its founding chairman.”

Earlier this year, the financial times reported that a Tory MP told a meeting of local voters in Cambridgeshire that when asked about the plan, Mr Gove had pretended to be sitting on a toilet and pulling the chain, adding: “That is what happened to the Arc.”

In the meantime, Mr Hunt has no control over some of his tax hikes, leaving them to be ‘randomly’ decided by inflation, a leading think tank has warned.

The Chancellor presents herself as a sober politician who can repair the damage caused by Liz Truss’ disastrous mini-budget.

But Tom Waters, a senior economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), said Mr Hunt’s approach in his fall statement last week was to “freeze everything he can get his hands on,” including the personal tax allowance and other thresholds .

“We are now in a world where these parameters are frozen in cash for years, and what a real tax that is depends a lot on how high inflation is going to be,” he said.

“That means the real tax hike we’re facing is kind of random because of what’s happening with inflation.”

The phenomenon, which is part of what has been dubbed “stealth taxes,” will occur because the threshold at which workers start paying taxes falls as wage packages rise thanks to the freeze.

The Ministry of Finance has been asked for comment.

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