The Treasury can't sell gilts during the Olympics because no traders are going to work

The Olympics' reverse Midas touch strikes again.

The Financial Times reports that the Government is suspending its weekly auctions of Treasury gilts for a four-week period between mid-July and mid-August over fears that "too many bond traders will be working from home – or not at all – during the Olympics."

Norma Cohen writes:

A spokesman for the DMO confirmed that the prospect of so few gilts traders being at their desks with trading screens switched on had caused it to take the unusual step of rescheduling auctions.

Such thin staffing raises the prospect of a "sloppy" auction that could force the Exchequer to pay more to borrow. "Why take operational risk when you don’t have to?" the DMO spokesman said.

The two lines which are expected to be unusable during the Games are the Central and Jubilee lines, which serve Stratford station, the main access for the Olympic stadium. They are also the main routes, respectively, to Bank and Canary Wharf stations, the two with the highest concentration of bankers. Worse, many stations used in commutes to those destinations are also expected to be affected. London Bridge station, an interchange between many commuter rail lines and the Jubilee, is expected to be "exceptionally busy" between 7 and 9:30 in the morning and 4 and 10:30 at night. Bond Street, as an interchange between the two key lines, carries warnings that it may take up to an hour to get from street level to the platforms.

Cohen adds:

The absence of new gilts auctions may have a serious knock-on effect, economists said. If, as expected, the Bank of England gives the go-ahead this week for another round of gilts purchases to help boost the economy, it may have to slow these down because of the Olympic effect.

Buying gilts in a market where no new securities are being issued could distort interest rates in unpredictable ways, economists warned.

The Olympics' reverse Midas touch continues.

The Olympic stadium and the Orbit thing. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.