14 February 2020

Love is in the air. Or so the retailers would have us believe. Call me a cynic but Valentine’s Day seems to have been invented by retailers to make couples feel bad that their partner is not making a fuss (spending money). I’m not just saying that because I didn’t get anything this morning.

Anyway, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here’s what we learned this week:

Thinking of settling down? It’s going to cost you more up north

On Tuesday Andrew Ellson asked:
“Which property do you think pays the most council tax?
A 3-bed semi in Hartlepool on sale for £107k
or
A 10-bed townhouse on Berkeley Sq, Westminster worth £82.5m
Against all logic, the answer is the Hartlepool semi at £1,565.81 vs £1,507.70”

He reports in the Times that homeowners in the north pay up to 30 times more than those in the south relative to the value of their property. Many reviews have found that council tax is no longer fit for purpose, including IPPR, who found that it was particularly unfair in London.

Is it all about the money?

Next week we are holding an event with High Pay Centre and NatCen on the pay gap. New disclosures on quartile pay, brought in by the Conservative government, will appear in companies’ annual reports from 2020 and will provide vital data on pay gaps in companies. There are more low-paid workers in the UK than in any other advanced economy. Could closing pay gaps be part of the answer to reducing in-work poverty?

Join us as we discuss this with employers and trade unions on 19 March in London.

There’s also a great Reasons to be Cheerful podcast on the pay gap.

Picture perfect

A new exhibition, Picture Britain: Our People, Our Poverty, showcases people trying to help their struggling neighbours in Britain today. Coordinated by the brilliant Stephen Armstrong and Jill Edelstein for Joseph Rowntree Foundation it is available to view on BBC online or at London’s Borough Market from 20 February.

All those new mattresses

I can’t be the only one who wonders about all these new internet mattress companies. Their ‘try it for free for 100 days’ offers seem too good to be true. And when it comes to the environment they probably are. It turns out that 20% of mattresses are sent back and although some go to care homes and the like, many end up being chucked out; it’s causing a massive waste problem. In 2017 we dumped over 7m mattresses.

Thanks to the following for their tweets this week: @andrewellson,  @thedalstonyears, @JillEdelstein, @SArmstrong1984 and @CheerfulPodcast. Also @hurrahforgin - you can buy her Valentines cards here.

Copyright Standard Life Foundation 2020.

The views shared by contributors to this newsletter are not representative of the Foundation but cover issues of interest to the Foundation. More about our funding priorities can be found here.