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Free nursery places for 3 year olds appears to have no impact - an example of Government Failure?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reports out over the last couple of days suggest that government spending on free nursery places for 3 year olds since 1998 has not produced any valuable educational or economic outcome. The policy was introduced as part of a series of reforms introduced by Tony Blair when he came to power in 1997. The Blair Government saw it as a method of reducing the differentials between educational attainment of poorer and wealthier sections of society and promoting a speedier return to work for some mothers.

Researchers studying the impact of the policy during the 2002 to 2007 time period, where spending on the policy amounted to more than £7bn found that the education received at age 3 had some impact on attainment at age 5 but any improvements were lost by age 11. The research suggested that the policy had only a minor impact on enabling more women to return to work earlier. Also, there is evidence that 5 out of 6 users of the free place would have gone to a paid-for equivalent at age 3 anyway.

So, does this offer us a good example of government failure in economic and social policy?

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Trick or Treat Economics Challenge

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A seasonal quiz challenge for your economics students fresh out of the tutor2u Learning Lab.

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Student video on elasticity of demand

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Year 12 students were covering elasticity of demand last week and were given an assignment encouraging them to create a resource on the topic. Some chose a (challenging) snakes and ladders quiz, another group produced a news video. And a third group produced this fine video-scribe production covering the various elasticities of demand. 

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Example of price fall caused by slump in demand - the Chinese Mink market

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Have a read of this fascinating article from the Guardian about the fall in prices for mink fur in China.  It struck me that, not only does the article give you several traditional causes of a slump in demand (let's all draw the diagram!) but comes up with a brand new cause of a shift that I've not seen before!

The article suggests that the shift in demand is caused by a warmer than expected winter (tick, weather conditions) and that an increase in the number of educated Chinese people are choosing not to use mink for ethical reasons (tick, change in tastes).  It also says that demand has dropped as the Chinese government are clamping down on corporate corruption preventing Chinese directors from accepting luxury goods in return for favourable business decisions - which of our Economics Teacher categories does that fit in?

PS.  Look out for the fantastic activity 'Demand Street', which challenges students to work out what change in demand factor is being demonstrated, showcased at this year's Wow Economics Teacher CPD event fro Tutor2u.

‘Wordsnake’ Activity on Elasticity

Here's a fun resource that's trickier then it sounds.  'Wordsnake' is a resource developed by our very own Graham Prior.  At first glance it appears to be a wordsearch as you see a grid of what appears to be 100 random letters.  However, the key phrase being tested 'snakes' around the grid rather than being up, down or diagonal as in a normal wordsearch.

Students are given a question on screen with the answer hidden in the grid.  Who can be the first to spot the answer and call out its location?

If the answer is not obvious at first, the teacher can press the space bar and the letters reveal themselves one at a time. This version contains 5 questions relating to elasticity and demand.

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Local Schools policy drives inequality in the UK

I love a story that really can resonate with students and get them 'irked'.  It struck me yesterday that reading about a recent Bristol University research paper that claims that school admission policies lead to greater inequality might strike a chord with some young people.

The study suggests that the common policy in the UK of prioritizing admission places in primary and secondary schools based upon how close a student lives to that school continues a cycle of inequality.  The argument is that, wealthier people are more able to afford to move to areas with higher performing schools and so are more inclined to do so.  People without that facility have less choice in where to send their children and may have to stick with local schools despite their relative poor performance.  So the cycle continues ..... poorer people receive a poorer quality education and are therefore less equipped to get the necessary qualifications to earn higher wages.

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‘Four Words’ - an interactive, lively test of some key phrases from the start of the AS Curriculum

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

We've got another fantastic interactive quiz format for you.  This one will help test how much your students have taken in over these first few weeks of the AS course.  This activity called 'Four Words' shows students the first four words of a definition of a key phrase.  Students must decide if they think they know what the key phrase is (and earn maximum points) or wait to see the rest of the definition and earn lower points.  Of course, if they get the answer wrong they get zero points!  15 key phrases are tested.

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Want a ‘fix’ to illustrate economies of scale?  Here’s a numerical question

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You may have seen my post giving you an example of introducing the concept of diseconomies of scale on Sunday where you ask a large team of students to draw an image of Steve Jobs.  This next one is nothing like that!

Instead, here's another example of a future-proofed activity that uses a bit of number work to make its point.  I'm not saying that you'll get a question like this in the new specification (but who knows?) but this does illustrate the concept of economies of scale using numbers.

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Diseconomies of Scale - activity to introduce the concept

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Here's a 10 to 15 minute activity to introduce the concept of diseconomies of scale.  The activity asks groups to re-draw an image (in this case, the face of Steve Jobs) onto a grid.  The image is held on screen (as part of a Powerpoint slideshow) whilst the groups re-draw the image.  The trick is to separate the class into teams of different sizes.  So, for example, if you had a class of 16 you could separate it into teams of 6, 4, 3 and 3.  All team members must participate and the teams are only given 3 minutes to re-draw the image.

Generally, the larger teams will be less successful as they will get in each other's way.  Also, the smaller teams may feel more motivated as they want to beat the bigger teams.  A fun way to start talking about diseconomies of scale.  You can use the re-drawn images afterwards as a class room poster (with some annotation) to illustrate the point and remind your students of their artistic prowess!

Click here to download the resource 'Diseconomies of Scale'

Saving in Poor Countries

In Economics, saving offers something of a puzzle. From some viewpoints, savings are a leakage from the circular flow of income, reducing multiplier effects. And if we all saved - in a determined effort to repay our debts (which sounds like a great idea) – the level of aggregate demand (AD) and economic activity would take a serious hit. This is the famous paradox of thrift.

Yet economies do need saving as a fund for business investment. The Harrod-Domar model is used in development economics to explain an economy's growth rate in terms of the level of saving and productivity of capital (see above).  But many economies have a savings gap.

Yet I’ve been reading that adults in developing countries are half as likely to have an account at a formal financial institution as those in the rich world. Only 18% of people in the Middle East and north Africa do, compared with 89% in high-income countries.  This makes saving even harder. So economists would like the world’s poorest to save more. That would help them to pay for big or unexpected expenses, such as school fees or medical treatment. It could also boost investment and thus accelerate economic growth.

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Make your students happy! Test their ‘demand and supply’ knowledge with this 5 minute test

Friday, September 26, 2014

Have you reached that point in the term where you've covered shifting demand and supply curves yet?

Here's a short starter or plenary to test your students knowledge and understanding on the theories of demand and supply.  The resource has a single demand and supply diagram with shifted curves and labelled equilibrium points.  The test lasts for 3 minutes as a series of changes to the market conditions for Product A are flashed up on the screen.  Students need to pay attention, they only have 20 seconds to read the question and work out the new equilibrium point.

All this whilst an Oscar-winning song plays along in the background. Clap along if you know what the song is!

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10 Minute Crossword Activity to set either for AS or A2 students

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Here's a couple of quick Crossword activities that you can set in class or as homework from the tutor2u team.  They are:

  1. AS Introductory Economics
  2. A2 Theory of the Firm

Both come with 15 questions and you can even download the answers if you think you might need some help!

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Edexcel A2 Economics: Worked Answers for May 2014

AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER NOW: ESTIMATED PUBLICATION DATE: EARLY DECEMBER 2014

Edexcel UNIT 3 & UNIT 4 Worked Answers is a new printed resource from the tutor2u Economics team which we expect to be available for dispatch from early December 2014.

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AQA A2 Economics: Worked Answers for May 2014

AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER NOW: ESTIMATED PUBLICATION DATE: EARLY DECEMBER 2014

AQA ECON3 & ECON4 Worked Answersis a new printed resource from the tutor2u Economics team which we expect to be available for dispatch from early December 2014.

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AQA AS Economics: Worked Answers for May 2014

AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER NOW: ESTIMATED PUBLICATION DATE: EARLY DECEMBER 2014

AQA ECON1 & ECON2 Worked Answers is a new printed resource from the tutor2u Economics team which we expect to be available for dispatch from early December 2014.

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Loom Bands - A demand and supply example (and activity)

Friday, September 19, 2014

If, like me, you spent much of the spring and summer of this year being 'gently persuaded' to purchase loom bands and their paraphernalia, you may find this short presentation and task on demand and supply of the product useful.

For many weeks, it seemed almost impossible to undertake a shopping trip with my youngest son without him pointing out the huge selection of available bands and their construction tools.  He built up quite a selection or different colours and styles as my vacuum cleaner can happily testify.  Then I noticed a tailing off of his requests and noted that this week, when I pointed out a shop selling the rubber bands at half price, he declared that he was no longer interested - even at the reduced rate compared to just 4 weeks ago.  

He seemed less than impressed when I pointed out how this was a fine example of how demand and supply impacts upon price.  However, many of you may be at the stage where you are going through demand, supply and equilibrium with your AS students.

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Short presentation on ‘Perfect Competition’

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Here's a pleasant and short Powerpoint presentation on Perfect Competition that you may wish to include as part of any lesson on the subject.  The presentation shows how price, supply and average and marginal revenue shifts as more firms enter the market and the impact that has on profits.

Click here to download the resource 'Perfect Competition'

Look out for more diagram testing resources as part of our upcoming Wow Economics CPD events.  Regular blog contributor Virang Dal has created a Powerpoint resource called 'Diagram Dissection' that asks students to identify the 'body parts' of a series of 28 economic diagrams.

Costing/Revenue activity to set in class or for homework

Friday, September 12, 2014

Here's a short activity in testing student understanding at working out fixed, variable, average and marginal costs and then total, average and marginal revenue.  Using a 'Smartwatch' case study as the backdrop the activity asks students to calculate costs and revenues and then work out the profit maximisation and sales maximisation points.  Oh yes, and students have to plot a chart as well!

Click here to download the Smartwatch activity

Contrasting approaches to managing road traffic

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The transport economists amongst you will be giving considerable thought to the question of tackling road traffic congestion. I’ve picked up on two stories here because they take contrasting approaches. The first is to use technology and regulation to tackle the problem – the so-called command and control approach. The other relies on price signals, so might be described as a market led approach.

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Wow Economics Returns for 2014-2015

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Wow! Economics is back for the 2014-2015 academic year with 40 brand new resources.  If you've not been to a previous version of this Economics Teacher CPD event then come along and enjoy a fantastic day of engaging resources aimed at inspiring students and improving their potential grades.  If you've been before then don't miss out on a whole new set of activities to add to your catalogue.  We guarantee that you'll have colleagues looking over at your desk and wondering where they can get something similar to spice up their teaching.

For dates and venues click here.

To find out about what we've got in store, read on....

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Welcome Back! A quick fire resource for your returning A2 students - ‘Whilst you were away’

Friday, September 05, 2014

Following a similar format to last week's AS 'World of Economics', this free resource available from the download link below is a rapid 10 minute starter for the first class with your returning A2 students.

Entitled 'Whilst you were away', the resource shows a montage of images.  Each image also has a question and all relate to news stories from around the world during the months of July and August 2014.  The montage remains on screen with a 3 minute timer fading away at the bottom of the screen - ask your students (individually or in small teams) to answer all 9 questions in the 3 minutes available.

Then go through the answers one at a time - there is an individual slide showing the answer to each question plus a supplementary question for each image to stimulate discussion about how the news stories impact on economics.  This is a Powerpoint resource so feel free to edit the questions as you see fit.

Click here to download the resource

International Competitiveness - a new ‘Higher or Lower’ game!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Download this engaging teaching resource to test student awareness of the international competitiveness rankings!

You may have already seen Geoff's blog on the newly released International Competitiveness Index.  The World Economic Forum annually release its table of competitiveness using a variety of data measures including economic performance, quality of education and labour efficiency.  The UK has moved up to 9th in the World.

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Doubts about Fair Trade

Sunday, August 31, 2014

According to The Economist there is a long history of efforts to distinguish products that have been made more ethically than others. In the late 18th century, anti-slavery campaigners urged British consumers to boycott sugar from the West Indies in favour of supplies from India. Today’s fair-trade movement took off in the 1960s, mostly in religious organisations that wanted to help the poor, whom they saw as losers in the global trading system. Fair Trade is a really important issue for discussion.

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Business Economics: Amazon buys Twitch

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Here is some background on Amazon's all-cash purchase of live gaming site Twitch. Read through it and consider some of the likely business synergies from the acquisition. 

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Olive oil prices set to rise after drought hits supply

Here is an excellent example of how adverse weather conditions can impact on the market price of a staple item in millions of people's supermarket trolleys. 

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New A Level Economics Specification Briefing

Monday, August 25, 2014

The tutor2u briefing document on the new A Level Economics specifications (first teaching Sept 2015) is now available

You can now download the Economics Specification Briefing here

 If you have requested a printed copy, the tutor2u office will be sending this out later this week.

The briefing document aims to highlight the key changes for teaching colleagues and also compares and contrasts the different approaches adopted by the three main exam boards. I have also shared my views on the relative merits of the specifications that I hope will become just a small part of a vigorous and healthy debate among colleagues in the coming weeks and months!

The tutor2u team is preparing a series of new teaching & learning resources to support the extended use of quantitative methods in all the new specifications. This course is running in December to give colleagues plenty of time to integrate these resources and approaches into their planning for Sept 2015.

Developing Country Case Studies e-book

Friday, August 22, 2014

At the end of last term all our year 12's were set the task of writing a short article about a different developing country. They were tasked with covering:

  • Key information- e.g. GDP, HDI, Gini coefficient, indicators of level of poverty/development
  • What factors are limiting growth & development in this country
  • How is the government and other stakeholders trying to promote growth & development in this country
  • How successful have they been so far?

I have collated all these articles together into an e-book which teachers and students studying development economics should find very useful to make use of as part of the course.

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New Infographic on Human Capital

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A hat tip to Hannah Thomas who has spotted a new info graphic on human capital produced by the Office for National Statistics.  You can find it here http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/wellbeing/human-capi... with more supporting detail and explanation here http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_374868.pdf

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BHP Billiton announces plans for a demerger

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

De-mergers often figure in EdExcel Unit 3 questions e.g. on the structured multiple choice - so this one from mining giant BHP Billiton is a good example to be aware of and to understand the key drivers behind the decision. BHP Billiton plan to sell (divest) non-core assets such as their aluminium, manganese and nickel mines.

As always - focusing on core competencies, streamlining operations to avoid diseconomies of scale lie at the heart of the de-merger process

BHP Billiton is hugely profitable! BHP achieved full-year profits last year of $US13.8bn helped by a 15th straight year of record iron ore production.

More here on the planned demerger from Reuters Business News

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Externalities: Health Benefits of Low Emissions Zones

Friday, August 15, 2014

A new study finds that incentives to switch to green vehicles produce big health benefits

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Price Discrimination in the the EU Vehicle Hire Market

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An almost perfect example of price discrimination is evident in this market revealed on the BBC online news site - read this section carefully!

"Charges vary for some motorists, even if they are picking up the same vehicle from the same location and from the same hire company."

Then read through the article to find clues as to how some vehicle hire businesses have been able to segment the market and discriminate between drivers from different countries inside the EU.

The regulators are onto the issue - expect some action unless vehicle hire businesses adjust their pricing tactics!

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Catastrophe Bonds

Friday, August 01, 2014

Catastrophe Bonds (or cat bonds) are essentially a bet against natural disaster - insurance companies issue the bonds and investors get paid their interest in the event of natural disasters such as earthquakes not happening. 

According to the Financial Times, "catastrophe bonds are typically issued for three years and, if no disaster occurs in that period, bond investors receive a good payout; otherwise, they have to pay out themselves."

Do the investors such as pension funds and insurance companies truly understand the risks that they are taking with (our) money? 

Duncan Weldon investigates in this BBC Newsnight report. Ultra low interest rates in advanced economies appear to have encourage pension funds to search for riskier assets (a search for yield) to improve their return on their assets. A major natural disaster could trigger huge losses for those who have piled huge sums of money into them.

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Small businesses - a bakery in the desert

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This video report from BBC Global Business looks at the success of a very small scale bakery located in an isolated mountain our region of Spain. 

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IMF 2014 Review of the UK Economy

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Here is a link to a video report produced by the IMF as part of their annual assessment of the UK economy. Overall, the IMF is considerably more optimistic than it was in 2013 about prospects for near term recovery of output and continued reductions in unemployment.

Risks to macro stability are also considered, namely weak productivity growth and high housing prices

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Measuring a minimum income standard

How much money do you need for an 'adequate' standard of living? This short video from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation considers the levels of income needed to sustain a modest but adequate life-style in the UK in 2014.

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Should there be a maximum wage?

In this blog, Professor Simon Wren-Lewis from Oxford University bemoans the absence of debate over the notion of a maximum wage - with specific reference to the pay of senior executives. 

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Paths to development - Adding value to natural resources

Monday, July 28, 2014

This is an absolutely outstanding article to use when introducing development economics to a level students. The work of Hausmann and Hidalgo on complexity and economic development is becoming more widely recognised and used in schools. Hausmann's article here in Project Syndicate emphasises the importance of building capabilities within an economy to promote the growth of higher value added industries. Here is the link to the article: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/ricar...

Russia increases policy interest rates to 8%

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Russian central bank has raised their main policy interest rate by 0.5% to a new level of 8% in a bid to control inflationary pressures in the Russian economy. 

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Greece - Nudging towards Macro Stability?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Three years on from the riots and deep economic, financial and political crisis, is the reforming Greek economy turning a corner and improving outcomes for the key macroeconomic indicators. Professor Paul Collier labelled Greece as a "sub-merging economy" a little while ago but there are now some positive signs reflected in this highly relevant news report from the Financial Times. I have added some key macro data on Greece and other troubled Euro Area countries using data from the IMF World Economic Outlook.

Further reading:

Guardian: Greece forges template for economic recovery as tourists pour in: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/03/greec...

BBC video: Pain in paradise for struggling Greeks: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28012089

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July 2014 - UK Economy back to Pre Crisis Level

An important landmark for the UK economy? Britain’s economy is finally larger than it was before the financial crisis six years ago. FT economics editor Chris Giles analyses the data and warns that continuing weak productivity means output growth will be slower than before the crisis - an excellent analysis of the key macro indicators suitable for all A level economics students. 

I have added some charts on the UK drawn from the latest IMF world economic outlook.

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Reduction in UK consumption of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes by young people - numerical example

Friday, July 25, 2014

A report out yesterday from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows a dramatic fall in the consumption by young people (aged 11 to 15) of our favourite demerit goods – alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. The report suggests that over the last decade regular smoking fell from 9% to 3% of 11- to 15-year-olds. Regular alcohol drinking dropped from 25% to 9%. Drug use has halved from 12% to 6% over this 10 year period.

This, of course, is very good news with regards to the relative health of our youth. As an economics teacher the first question I would ask my students is how this downturn has been achieved? What has happened either within the market or with government intervention to shift consumption in this way? It could be argued that this represents the most successful example of government intervention into markets to change behaviour and can be attributed to regulation, restriction of use and good old education! Information failure does not appear to have had an impact and the political will to succeed has been fairly uniform among the major parties in power.

For me, of course, it also offers the opportunity to do the next in my series of numerical activities in preparation for the arrival of the new specifications in 2015!

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Externalities of Waste - Do we throw too much stuff away?

This is a super report from BBC Newsnight on the issue of our throwaway society and the externalities of waste. How can the link between consumption and the discarding of unwanted and broken products be weakened? What role can innovation play - for example the rise of modular phones where parts can be replaced when broken. The fundamental problem is that traditional manufacturing business models are based on mass production and sales. How are increasing world commodity prices affecting this model?

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Lindau Nobel Economics Talks - The Labour Market

Thursday, July 24, 2014

This Mini Lecture discusses issues of labour productivity, low-wage work and economic growth of emerging markets.

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2014 HDI Report focuses on Vulnerability

Each year the Human Development Report published by the United Nations gives a special focus on a particular issue related to development. In 2014 that issue is vulnerability.

To quote from the opening of the report:

"Real progress on human development, then, is not only a matter of enlarging people’s critical choices and their ability to be educated, be healthy, have a reasonable standard of living and feel safe. It is also a matter of how secure these achievements are and whether conditions are sufficient for sustained human development. An account of progress in human development is incomplete without exploring and assessing vulnerability."

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United Queendom Scottish Independence as a Romantic Comedy

A new online comedy series launches on Thursday 24th July! 

The series tells the story of Scott and Adrian, two lovers on the verge of break up. Scott runs an oil company – bath oils that is – and Adrian spends their money as if it’s his own. Will they work things out or will Scott go it alone? All will be revealed when the series launches this August in time for the Scottish independence referendum.

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The Economics of Pay What You Want

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

People do care about fairness, social norms and not just about a cold calculation of marginal cost and marginal benefit. In this excellent short interview on BBC World, Joe Gladstone, Behavioural Scientist at the University of Cambridge, discusses the new form of "Pay What You Want" pricing. This means consumers can decide themselves how much they want to pay for a good or service. The catalyst is that several French hotels are experimenting with a pay what you like approach for their guests.

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More ideas like HS3 are needed to solve our regional problems

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In London and much of the South East, the recovery has been well under way for a considerable time. House prices boom and restaurants are packed. The economic data for the UK as a whole looks just as encouraging, with employment being at its highest ever level.

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MTR wins London CrossRail Operating Franchise

Monday, July 21, 2014

An important part of the CrossRail project has been decided with the news that the £1.4bn contract to run the new Crossrail service through London from 2018 has been awarded to Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation.

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Siemens Boss on possible redindustrialisation of the UK economy

Sunday, July 20, 2014

This interview with Jurgen Maier of Siemens is well worth reading on several different levels. It challenges the conventional wisdom that UK will always lag behind Germany in terms of high value added manufacturing; it refers to the economics risks of Brexit (Britain leaving the EU) and it also stresses the importance to the UK of foreign investment from German businesses many of which have been in the Uk since well before the first World War - Siemens and Bosch are two well-known examples.

read more...»

Shareholder activism at the Royal Mail

Shareholder activism regarding executive pay is covered in this article from the Guardian. Note too the emergence of TNT Post as a competitor in the cities for final mile delivery of business and household mail - the mail market is becoming more contestable.

The Royal Mail's latest market report is an interesting read for those who want to study market dynamics in more details - for example the continued growth (but high contestability) in parcels contrasted with a trend decline in the volume of letters sent through the post - click here for the 2014 market overview: http://ar2013-14.royalmailgroup.com/overview/marke...

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