UK

Europe delivers its verdict on Britain

  • 21 June 2012
  • From the section UK
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There may be some European leaders who resent being lectured by the British, but how do British leaders like it when Europe starts picking apart their policies?

The UK government is poring over its report card from the EU Council, and a number of ministers won't be happy.

Member states agreed two years ago to launch a new EU-wide strategy for jobs and growth called Europe 2020.

As part of that initiative, all countries are assessed on whether they are doing their bit to boost Europe's potential for sustainable growth and competitiveness.

The council has now delivered its verdict on the UK:

Welfare reform

"Considerable risks remain that the positive impact of new policies on employment and incomes will be more than offset by declining amounts available for benefits, so poverty, particularly for families with children, risks increasing."

Childcare

"Insufficient access to childcare, in particular for low earners, still causes significant problems and the government has not yet come up with adequate plans to tackle this challenge. Cuts to support for childcare also risk exacerbating the problem."

Employment

"The UK has an oversupply of low-skilled workers, for whom demand is falling, and a shortage of workers with high-quality vocational and technical skills."

Housing

"Significant uncertainty remains about the net impact of the new (Housing Strategy) on housing development."

Energy

"The UK needs substantial investment to upgrade its electricity generation capacity."

Transport

"The UK's transport sector faces shortcomings in the capacity and quality of its networks, which could work against the government's aim of rebalancing the UK economy towards investment and exports."

The Council has put some suggestions at the bottom of the report as to how Britain might do better.

1. Prioritise growth-enhancing expenditure.

2. A comprehensive housing reform programme to increase housing supply and alleviate problems of affordability.

3. Reduce the high proportion of young people leaving school with very poor basic skills.

4. Ensure that planned welfare reforms do not translate into increased child poverty. Fully implement measures aiming at facilitating access to childcare services.

5. Pursue a long-term strategy for improving the capacity and quality of the UK's network infrastructure.

There might be a temptation among ministers to scrawl across the report words to the effect "mind your own business!" For others, the Council's opinions are a useful insight into how others see the UK's key challenges over the next five years.