Monday briefing: All eyes on BoE, a costly radio silence and Gove the payday lender?

29 Jan 24

Crucial interest rates decision, another procurement fiasco and MPs debate council tax: our week ahead briefing


Image © Shutterstock

The Bank of England’s interest rate-setting committee meets this week and the outcome will be crucial for the chancellor – and his party’s general election hopes.

The crux decision, to be announced on Thursday, is to hold or cut.

The BoE said following the last meeting that “the committee continues to judge that monetary policy is likely to need to be restrictive for an extended period of time”. 

Ahead of the meeting, a note from S&P Global to investors explained: “PMI data showed surprising strength in growth, the survey also pointed to worryingly stubborn price pressures, hinting at reduced scope for any near-term loosening of policy. Rhetoric coming through from the BoE will therefore be keenly watched, especially with the Red Sea disruptions amounting to considerable risks for inflation.”

Another Post Office delivery

The inquiry into the Post Office scandal continues with two key witnesses set to give evidence this week.

The latest phase covers “policy making, audits and investigations, civil and criminal proceedings, knowledge of and responsibility for failures in investigation and disclosure”.

Among those in the witness stand will be Frederick Leslie Thorpe, a former Post Office investigator involved in the criminal investigations and Kevin Shiels, a lawyer involved in the prosecution.

Friday will hear closing statements from core participants.

Procurement scrutiny hits the Airwaves

Can’t get enough of rows over public sector procurement deals going badly?

Peers in the House of Lords are starting the week by delivering fresh scrutiny of the plans to replace the emergency services Airwave system.

The idea was to create one system for the three Blue Light services. It’s a critical issue since the Grenfell Tower disaster but it hasn’t gone well.

Labour peer Lord Harris of Haringey will lead the debate on the cost estimate and full operational launch of Emergency Services Network critical communications system. The back story: it’s eight years late and has cost £11bn so far. The supplier of the current system is also being paid to keep it going.

DLUHC of the draw

Could it be third time lucky for council budgets? The first settlement just before Christmas resulted in fury from former cabinet ministers and county councils. Then came an additional £500m last week with a £100m giveaway added on top.

The reaction was that all it had done was shorten the gap for most authorities. Michael Gove briefed that he’d asked the Treasury for £1bn.

Will more councils turn to Gove and ask him to become the equivalent of local government’s payday lender?

Reaction and explanation will be heard in the Commons today. The main business will start with an Opposition day debate on council tax.

In case you missed it

The NHS is holding its own during this winter – but just about, according to the official data.

The Estates Return Investment Collection (ERIC) data for 2023 has now been released by the NHS.

Analysis by Grant Thornton has found an increase in both NHS backlog maintenance and high-risk backlog maintenance. 

It said: “This is consistent with last year’s trend, which presents concerning implications for patient care and efficiency.”

Did you enjoy this article?