OPINION - The Standard View: A shorter and shallower recession, while an improvement, still makes Britain an international outlier

 (Andy Davey)
(Andy Davey)

Barely more than a year ago, interest rates were just 0.1 per cent. Following yesterday’s 50 basis points rise — the 10th hike in succession — they stand at four per cent. Still low by historical standards, but little comfort for homeowners preparing for skyrocketing repayments.

Londoners face an average rise of £5,000 a year on their mortgage payments, new figures reveal — as more than 200,000 homeowners are set to come off their fixed rate deals at what must feel like the worst possible time.

It wasn’t all bad news in the Bank of England’s report. Inflation is expected to fall to below two per cent over the medium term, going as low as one per cent by 2025. Furthermore, the Bank now predicts a shorter and shallower recession compared with its November forecast, with the UK economy shrinking by 0.5 per cent in 2023, as opposed to 1.5 per cent.

If accurate, this would be one of the mildest recessions on record. But it would still leave Britain as an international outlier, as our peer nations maintain economic growth and surpass their pre-pandemic levels. The UK economy is not set to do so until 2026.

There is plenty of pain to go around in the near term. The even more troubling question must be: where is the plan for a long-term, sustainable recovery?

Lesson in chemistry

Necessity is the mother of invention. To that end, a leading London independent school and a top state secondary have combined forces to recruit a joint chemistry teacher, due to difficulties in finding specialist teachers.

The £21,000-a-year South Hampstead High School and next door UCL Academy are advertising for a shared teacher, in what is thought to be the first arrangement of its kind. The move came when both were unable to find a suitable candidate. It is hoped that the combined role will grab the attention of a teacher attracted by forward-thinking schools.

This arrangement speaks to the shortage of teachers in London, which is especially acute in certain specialist subjects. There are, of course, political elements too. Private schools face pressure to demonstrate they are worth their charitable status.

We need to recruit and retain more teachers. That is about competitive pay, working hours and ensuring schools have the resources needed to provide the education our children deserve — and our economy badly needs.

All eyes on the Valley

Sarah Lancashire and the rest of the cast and crew of Happy Valley have proved the old adage true: if you build it, they will come.

The series has more than doubled its initial viewership from five million to 11 million. Its success is richly deserved and should remind us that Britain is capable of producing distinctive, original high-quality TV shows that are a match for anything produced elsewhere.

The biggest question now is whether Neil is Tommy Lee Royce’s father. Only time will tell.