Making predictions may be a fool’s game but I did pretty well in my 2012 predictions. Short of a visit by Ed Miliband to Plymouth and a rise in interest rates most of my predictions came true or were at least on track. What does 2013 have in store? Overall, more of the same. Don’t be expecting any silver bullets to solve our economic troubles but there are reasons to be cheerful amidst the continuing gloom. Here’s my starter for 10:
1. Connectivity becomes a real political issue. With flooding, especially at Cowley Bridge in Exeter, and along the Dawlish coast having highlighted the vulnerability of our rail connections and with roads not faring too much better 2013 will be the year when connectivity to the south west becomes a bigger political issue – and rightly so. It can only be solved by new funding, challenging existing thinking and by the region working together to ensure that Government listens to us.
2. Plymouth gets more restaurants. 2012 saw some pretty exciting new eateries open in our city and 2013 is on course to see more open their doors as the city rightly gets the recognition for the range of places to eat out. Look out for new openings at Royal William Yard in particular.
3. Under-employment not just unemployment gets some attention. The scandal of one million young people out of work is something to shame this Government but they can, and they do, point to falling overall unemployment. This is good news if you only look at the headlines. But 2013 will see more people look into the figures to see the rising levels of under-employment – people working part-time jobs but not the full-time jobs they want or need to balance the household finances. Flexible working is good but under-employment constrains our economy and puts families under pressure. It’s time this scandal was exposed.
4. Interest rates will rise. Expect the era of historic low rates to come to an end. Good news perhaps for those with savings but further pain for those with mortgages and debts.
5. Pay by mobile phone. Forget your credit card, 2013 will be the year when ‘Near Field Technology’ really takes off. Some mobiles already have it – and enables quick payment by tapping your phone on a reader. It’s quicker than using chip and pin and could well be coming to a high street near you soon. Simply encode your mobile with your bank details and swipe your phone. Quicker, simpler than a plastic card. But watch out if you’re someone who always loses their phone!
6. Utility prices continue to bite. 2012 saw gas and electricity prices rise and rise. The occasional good PR trick did little to deflect from confusing tariffs, higher prices and no end in sight. 2013 will see more rises and further squeezes on household budgets. Higher prices will encourage communities to think of ways of collaborating together for cheaper power and what could be the start of really exciting co-operative schemes.
7. UKIP eats into the Tory vote. Watch for the rise and rise of UKIP as traditional Tory voters begin to look elsewhere for their natural voting home. Will the Tories do anything ahead of the May county elections to stem the loss of their core support?
8. Lib Dems finally wake up and smell the coffee. It almost feels like wasting a prediction talking about the Lib Dems but this year they have got to finally realize they’re on course for electoral oblivion and change course, haven’t they? The county elections across Devon and Cornwall (no council elections in Plymouth in 2013) in May will hit the Lib Dems hard with the Tories and UKIP probably doing alright and Labour making gains in what would normally be a blue/yellow fight. That was before, this is now and Labour candidates will be winning more votes than ever before across Devon and Cornwall.
9. Police numbers will be cut further in Devon & Cornwall. Since the General Election Devon and Cornwall Police has lost over 300 Police officers due to Government cuts. We will continue to lose officers over the course of the year with a possible knock on effect on crime, police visibility and community safety.
10. The right wing asserts itself. Having spectacularly failed to instill real change in his party David Cameron will come increasingly under pressure from the right of his party. Gay marriage, fox hunting, abortion, equal rights, workers rights and deficit reduction will all be issues where his MPs decide to make a stand. Gay marriage may be an early battle for Mr Cameron to fight on – and an issue I wish him well on – but this will be the starter for the main course battle: Europe. Calls for an in/out referendum will become deafening but the PM has shown himself to be deaf to calls in the past. Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne need to be careful as their Conservative castle is built on sandy foundations and those sands are shifting rightwards in their party.