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Why Keeping the Clocks Forward Will Benefit the UK Economy

Written by: Keith Tully

Reviewed: Monday 30th March, 2015

In the world of business, the phrase 'going forward' is an overused and somewhat irksome management-speak cliché – but the one time of the year this expression can be excused is to proclaim the start of British Summer Time (BST).

The clocks going forward rob us disdainfully of an hour's sleep but, on the flipside, provide us with lighter evenings and align the UK with clocks on the continent. But what does it mean for the economy?

Here are FIVE compelling reasons why we should never put the clocks back... going forward.

1)      ENVIRONMENT

The reason our clocks go forward to this day is due to Britain implementing Daylight Savings Time during World War II to help save electricity and boost working hours... and conserving energy is just as critical in the modern day. Evidence shows that advancing the clocks leads to a reduction in electricity consumption due to a fall in the need for artificial light in the evenings. In fact, researchers at Cambridge University discovered that an extra hour of daily sunlight in winter could save £485 million each year, as people would use less electricity and heating. That has the same effect as eliminating the carbon emissions of 70,000 people. Speaking of which, the knock-on effect of less artificial lighting would lead to a reduction in greenhouse gases from power stations. This reduction in CO2 emissions is estimated to be around 450,000 tonnes across the UK each year.

2)      TRADE

Applying BST all year round would allow for complete business harmony  between the UK and key trading partners in the EU – including major cities such as Paris, Brussels, Geneva, Milan and Frankfurt - by joining our continental comrades on Central European Time. Whether you're a fan of the EU or a Euro-sceptic, it's clear that our current system – where we lose two trading hours with the EU per day - is disparaging. That equates to 25% of a 40-hour working week. By aligning ourselves with fellow EU members, it would allow for more efficient international trade and could cut down staff overtime costs. UK markets would also be better-aligned with those in the Far East.

3)      TOURISM

According to government statistics and data provided by the Tourism Alliance, putting the clocks forward is estimated to boost tourism revenues to the tune of £3.5 billion and generate around 80,000 jobs. This is the upshot of lighter and longer evenings which would see businesses open for longer and tourists – and locals – more inclined to spend money on outdoor recreation and leisure. A report from 2010 claimed people would gain 235 hours of post-work daylight each year. “The tourism industry has been crying out for extra daylight saving for years,” said Conservative MP Rebecca Harris.

4)      THE GREAT OUTDOORS

When it's bright outside, we're far less likely to stay inside. This has a knock-on effect on the economy and our overall health in a number of ways. Surveys indicate that the majority of people prefer to participate in outdoor leisure activities, including sports, during daylight hours. An additional hour of daylight in the evenings will result in more people taking advantage of existing sports and recreation facilities. It also means less time spent in front of the box at home and more time invested in recreational facilities such as golf, garden centres and parks. Nielsen TV ratings show that during the first week of DST, viewing figures are down as much as 15%, even for popular shows.

"If the sun sets at 7:00, then more people are inside at 7:00. If it sets at 8:00, more people are inside at 8:00," said David Prerau, author of the book Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time. "They are still going to watch some TV, they are just going to watch it later."

5)      CRIME

If British Summer Time was implemented 365 days a year, there'd be opposition from one group of people – criminals. Burglars thrive under the cover of darkness but an extra hour of evening glow would 'shed light' on these thieves in more ways than one. A 2012 study examined crime rates during the three weeks preceding and following the spring move onto DST. During the extra hour of evening daylight, robberies reduced by 40% according to data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System. Research documented how evening crime rates rose again when Daylight Savings Time ended.

Fear of crime also increases at nightfall resulting in self-imposed restrictions on outdoor activity especially for the elderly and parental curfews on children. Moving the clocks forward all year round would help allay fears that people may have about feeling safe on the streets.

What is being said about Daylight Savings Time and the economy?

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said there had been a “groundswell of support” from business groups keen to see the clocks changed. “The Government is prepared to back it,” he said. “But it will be a lengthy process to change things and it’s still early days.”

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Colin Stanbridge said that the business benefits to changing the clocks permanently to join central European time, meaning evenings would be lighter for longer, would be “numerous”.

Keith Tully

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Keith has been involved in Business Rescue since 1992, during which time he’s worked for both independent and national firms. His specialties include company restructuring matters and negotiating with HMRC on his clients behalf.

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