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Mark Easton, Home editor

Mark Easton Home editor

This is where I discuss the way we live in the UK and the many ways in which that is constantly changing

Whitehall v town hall

  • 18 December 2014
  • From the section UK
Leeds town hall

The swirling wind of anti-politics that has swept across the Westminster parliament in recent times stems from a conviction that the politicians sitting on warm green leather in the House of Commons are oblivious to the harsh realities of ordinary life.

It is that sense of a London elite, out of touch with the real world, that has encouraged politicians of all stripes to talk of the importance of localism.

David Cameron came to power promising to give local councils much more power. "Over the last century Britain has become one of the most centralised countries in the developed world," he said. "I am convinced that if we have more local discretion - more decisions made and money spent at the local level - we'll get better outcomes."

But in the spring of 2011, something counter-intuitive happened. For the first time probably in living memory, central government was bigger than local government. The number of people in the UK employed by Whitehall overtook the number employed by the town hall.

Back in 1963, the earliest year for which I have found figures, local councils employed about two million people, 200,000 more than Whitehall. Ten years later, and the local authority workforce was close to three million and almost 900,000 greater than central government.

Read full article Whitehall v town hall

What is an English law?

  • 16 December 2014
  • From the section UK
An image of the English flag with the words 'Home Rule' was projected onto the Houses of Parliament by democracy group POWER2010 as part of a St George's Day protest to demand an end to non-English MPs voting on English laws at Westminster.
April 2014 protest to demand an end to non-English MPs voting on English laws

It all sounds so straightforward - only English MPs should vote on matters that affect only England.

But defining an English law is far from easy. For a start, any law that involves government departments spending extra money in England, or which reduces the amount of money spent in England, will have a knock-on impact on how much money other parts of the United Kingdom receive under the Barnett formula - the system for allocating Treasury funds to devolved administrations.

Read full article What is an English law?

Learning the facts about learning

  • 26 November 2014
  • From the section UK
Pupil holding pencil

School uniforms instil discipline and improve performance. Streaming pupils gets better results. Teaching assistants take the strain off hard-working teachers and help children learn. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

New government-commissioned research into "what works" suggests many of the approaches we think make a difference are either a waste of money or may make matters worse.

Uniform policy? NO.

Read full article Learning the facts about learning

Don't have nightmares - crime is down

  • 18 November 2014
  • From the section UK
Police officer in dark with back turned

Recorded crime has always been an unsatisfactory way to measure crime trends and it is a mistake to think that improving recording practices will make it a more accurate indicator of whether particular crimes are rising or falling.

Despite the assertion today from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) that police force crime data is an important factor in providing "as clear as possible a picture of the levels of crime", it does no such thing.

Read full article Don't have nightmares - crime is down

The awkward jigsaw of England's boundaries

  • 7 November 2014
  • From the section Magazine
Map of UK jigsaw

Calls for English devolution raise a thorny but age-old question - how might England be broken up into regions?

Bubbling beneath the surface of England's green and pleasant land is a thick soup of confusion, foaming with indignation and threatening at moments to erupt in volcanic anger. It is a quiet fury born of an ancient conflict between personal identity and public administration.

Read full article The awkward jigsaw of England's boundaries

UK - what next?

  • 3 November 2014
  • From the section UK

Moments after the result of the Scottish referendum, David Cameron stepped in front of the cameras and microphones gathered in Downing Street to announce a "new and fair" constitutional settlement for the whole of the United Kingdom.

The prime minister promised that "just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare, so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues".

Read full article UK - what next?

What is extreme?

  • 30 September 2014
  • From the section UK
Theresa May

Home Secretary Theresa May has proposed a significant shift in government policy, expanding the counter-terrorism strategy to include fighting what she describes as "the full spectrum of extremism".

The Conservatives have long-argued that they have sought to tackle both violent and non-violent extremism, but existing legislation and the courts have always limited restrictions to those organisations or individuals who it can be demonstrated are concerned in terrorism.

Read full article What is extreme?

Welfare Freeze: Who Would Be Hit?

  • 29 September 2014
  • From the section UK
George Osborne talks to party members

Cutting welfare goes down well with voters. But it is notoriously difficult to achieve meaningful savings without hurting the very people you are looking to support and encourage.

So it is with George Osborne's announcement today. The proposed freeze on working-age benefits, if the Conservatives are elected in 2015, looks eye-catching. But its effect may cause some to reflect.

Read full article Welfare Freeze: Who Would Be Hit?

We need Miss Marple

  • 4 September 2014
  • From the section UK
Joan Hickson as Miss Marple

Fighting crime is, surely, a job for us all.

Amid press and, apparently, popular outrage at the idea of the police "forcing the public to act as DIY detectives", it is, perhaps, worth asking whether that is really such a bad thing.

Read full article We need Miss Marple

When we look, we find

  • 27 August 2014
  • From the section UK
Prof Alexis Jay
Prof Alexis Jay delivered the damning report about sexual abuse in Rotherham

The sexual abuse of children was, until relatively recently in Britain, a subject rarely discussed in public. Now, hardly a day goes by without some new horror hitting the headlines.

We are witnessing an important and significant shift in awareness and response. The latest revelations about the crimes committed in Rotherham are shocking to us in their violence and their scale. But they should be seen in a wider context, of a society belatedly confronting a deeply disturbing aspect of its character.

Read full article When we look, we find

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About Mark

Mark joined his local paper after leaving school, inspired to become a journalist by playing Waddington's Scoop aged 13.

He has won numerous awards for his reporting. Most recently, his writing won a Royal Statistical Society award for excellence and was a finalist in the online journalism awards in San Francisco.

His ambition is to try to chronicle the story of changing Britain, and for Arsenal to win some silverware.

Before becoming BBC News home editor in 2004, Mark was home and social affairs editor at Channel Four News and political editor at Five News.

He is married with four children.

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