What we learned this week: 17 January 2020

17 January 2020

As the news on the royal bombshell finally dies down, more serious topics have come to the fore. Should Big Ben bong on 31st January? Why would it cost £500k? Would they actually be allowed to ring it even if campaigners raised the money?

Dare we say it, there are some more important things which we have learned this week and might be more worthy of your attention:

Lots of talk about problem gambling, and some action

The week started off with the positive news that betting with credit cards will be banned from April, a positive step to protect problem gamblers from financial harm. Many were surprised to learn that gambling on credit cards had even been possible in the first place.

The week ended with Claire Murdoch, the head of mental health services in England, calling on the industry to do more to tackle the problem, including removing incentives problem gamblers to spend more money. It seems we still have a long way to go.

An Increasing number of low-income families are using high-interest credit

A report from the Resolution Foundation found that low-income households have seen the fastest rise in the use of consumer debt since the financial crisis. Jubair Ahmed and Kathleen Henehan find that low income households are too exposed to financial shocks.

Your views on Universal Credit in Scotland please…

Citizens Advice Scotland has come up with six proposals for a "fundamental overhaul" of Universal Credit. If implemented, would they help people break free of poverty's constraints? Let PTC Scotland know what you think.

Amazon pledges AUS$1m donation to bushfires response

Whilst it’s admirable that Amazon has pledged to donate AUS $1m to the bushfire recovery, we wondered, how much tax did they pay in Australia in 2019? Last year Amazon made $1 billion in revenue in Australia, but paid just $20 million in tax. Whilst philanthropy is an admirable thing, and it certainly makes good headlines, perhaps we should be looking at tax receipts before we start celebrating charitable giving?

A bargain tax

After Bloomberg News reported that a London mansion on sale for over $262 million is set to shatter house-price records, Karen Buck MP sent out her occasional reminder that the council tax payable on a property of this value is £1,507.70.

According to IPPR, London’s least well off pay 8.1% of household income in council tax, against 1.3% for top earners, prompting some to argue that council tax is the new poll tax.

And finally, we used to be told that consumerism would solve all our problems. We’ve come such a long way.

A great blog by historian Dr Fred Cooper for The Wellcome Collection reported that advertisers in the 1950’s and 1960’s wanted women to believe ‘consumerist culture will save you from being lonely’. Or at least, a bit of soap might help.

Thanks to the following for their contributions this week: @KarenPBuckMP, @business, @businessinsider, @NassimKhadem, @PTCScotland, @ExploreWellcome, @drfredcooper, @resfoundation, @kateferguson4, @ClaireCNWL and @kathleenhenehan.