About Simon Perks

Writer, trail runner, hill walker, astronomer, kayaker, paddleboarder, photographer, nerd, tea drinker, lover of the sea, labrador wrangler

What university did for me

There’s a lot of talk going on about the value of universities and the value for money that a degree course represents for students, taxpayers and society as a whole. Indeed, I’ve been doing a fair bit of the talking. But I’d also like to take a moment to reflect on what my own time at university did for me. Because there’s all too much focus at the moment on graduate jobs and salaries, which are – in my view – only a very small part of the story. Continue reading

Budget 2018: All talk, little to inspire

There are budgets that go down in history as a turning point in the nation’s fortunes. That set a clear and resolute course to steer for the betterment of the British polity, economy and society. The budget presented to Parliament yesterday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not one of these. Instead, it was  – at best – a placeholder. The political equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders. An admission that, quite frankly, what will happen in the next twelve months is anyone’s guess. Continue reading

The great funding challenge

The Government is very good at telling us how much funding it is allocating to different services. But it is less good at focusing on how well these services are doing. The Performance Tracker, published by the Institute for Government and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) bridges this gap. And its findings are far from reassuring. Continue reading

Local government in crisis

With each week that passes, it seems that another local authority joins the list of those whose finances have reached crisis point. First it was Northamptonshire County Council that hit the headlines, but top-tier councils in Sussex, Lancashire, Suffolk, Surrey, Torbay and Oxfordshire also seem to be feeling the heat. And Somerset County Council, down the road from me, has just voted through £28 million of cuts over the next two years, leading opposition councillors to describe the council as on the ‘brink of bankruptcy’. Continue reading

Someone to watch over me

It was my mother’s birthday at the weekend and a formal family gathering had been declared. So Molly (my older Labrador) and I headed down to her house on Saturday afternoon, to join my mother and siblings for the celebrations that evening and the next day. Natalie and Ozzy (our five-month-old puppy) stayed at home, the latter not yet ready to face the full force of my family. Continue reading

Enter the Doughnut

Doughnut Economics.jpgI’m not an economist. But I do know that economics is broken. The economic models of the past have created a world in which human well-being and our planet’s natural resources are being sacrificed on the altar of economic growth.

These models have failed to predict, to prevent or to respond to the financial crises that have shaken our society. They have allowed inequality to flourish. And yet they are still taught in classrooms and lecture theatres across the world.

We need a new way of thinking about economics. And we need it now. Continue reading

A more radical National Trust? Let’s do it.

The new Director General of the National Trust, Hilary McGrady, has told the BBC that the charity needs to be more radical, taking a different approach to conserving the buildings and land that it owns. So here’s an idea. Let’s turn the National Trust into one of the country’s largest providers of affordable housing for hard-working families. Continue reading

Our greater challenge… and why I’m not entirely optimistic about our chances

A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I were out campaigning for the country to be given a say on whatever Brexit deal our Government manages to negotiate with the European Union. As I was blowing up some balloons (never let it be said that I do things half-heartedly), a chap in his early sixties marched past, newspaper in hand.

“Less than a year to go until we get our country back,” he grinned.

“Er, yes. Good luck with that,” I replied.

Needless to say, I didn’t offer him a balloon. Continue reading

We must protect our universities’ freedom

It is rare that governments get to do exactly what they want. Opposition parties, the judiciary and others have traditionally also wielded significant influence, tempering the more extreme ideas of those in power and highlighting the pitfalls of proposed policies.

This era of moderation is, however, coming to a close. Those who once held our governments to account are being systematically declawed. Continue reading