In May 2014, the Fabian Society played host to four member policy groups to discuss a number of areas from the Labour party’s Agenda 2015 policy consultation document.
Ahead of the National Policy Forum on Friday, we publish the proposals advanced by members during the discussion.
Work and Business
Regional differences in the cost of living should be accounted for in new living wage settlement
Local government procurement should support small businesses, although there were questions on how Labour was defining small business and whether its SME policies were directed at helping SMEs grow to become larger companies.
Business rates should be abolished and replaced them with a tax on profits or turnover rather than on inputs.
Labour should seek to improve worker ownership by giving employees a 10% stake in companies (through a supplementary share issue that would downgrade current stock to 90% of the holding). A future government could give a rebate on corporate tax to incentivise such a share issue.
Labour needs to redress some of the damage done to employment rights, as a bare minimum restoring protection from unfair dismissal to its previous level and restoring easy access to employment tribunals.
Companies could be incentivised to make a financial contribution to reskilling manual workers by making training and retraining tax deductible (along with research and development). EMA should be restored to reduce obstacles to young people training.
Labour needs to have a clear position on the future of universities, including as an economic tool. The tuition fee system should be used to reduce costs/obstacles in subjects that are deemed of national economic importance.
A Labour Government should ask large firms to agree to pay workers a percentage extra above the living wage. Those who voluntarily agree to participate should receive a small financial submission from the government. The size of the amount above the living wage should be negotiable, as should be those workers who are eligible.
Education and Children
Labour needs to restore a sense of passion and vision to education and restore the idea of the school being at the centre of the community. Schools should have space for supporting adult education as well. Parental participation in schooling and use of technology could help close the gap between home and school.
Labour should not ignore the future of independent schools and relations with the state sector.
Proposals inlcuded full integration into the state sector, removing charitable status, encouraging/compelling independent schools to admit 25-50% of students on a means blind basis, or encouraging more independent schools to sponsor academies.
The distinction between vocational and academic is artificial and unhelpful. Labour must avoid policies which create twin tracks. Labour should not reinvent the wheel but build on the excellent work of the Tomlinson report.
Labour should revive the former role of polytechnics and prioritise technical education.
Focus on STEM subjects in pursuit of changing the economy should be balanced against meeting skills demands from existing employers.
Schools/assessed should be held to account on the number of leavers who become NEET as part of the inspection regime, as a simple way of encouraging greater employability.
Long-term employer/school partnerships should be encouraged, such as the programme HS2’s proposal to build an academy near construction sites to provide skilled workers on a long term project.
A more entrepreneurial approach to education is needed, embeding entrepreneurship in all elements of the curriculum. While some had some concerns about the ‘businessification’ of education, everyone agreed that schools should equip students with confidence and the ability to succeed in business.
Labour needs to decide whether its main priority is supporting the most vulnerable children or working parents. More focus is needed on maternity policy and balancing work and having children.
Health and Care
Repealing the Act is not enough. Labour needs to set out its vision for the NHS clearly. Saying “We love the NHS” is insufficient because any one could say this. We need to say what we love about the NHS that makes it an inherently Labour institution.
Public health must be a priority. Labour needs to examine the wider determinants of public health and ensure a ‘health in all policies’ approach to policy making.
Labour should consider a tax on sugar, salt and fat
Labour should take action to strengthen GPs including reducing financial barriers to taking partnership role. It should encourage greater cooperation between different practices and try to restore 24 hour GP care.
Labour should change the reward mechanism for funding of health care to a payment for a year of care for the over-65s. This will incentivise prevention and prevent different providers doing ‘piece work’. It will also prevent people boomeranging back and forth between services.
Payments for hospitals should not be based on footfall but outcomes. Hospital closures should be reduced by offering more specialised care. Making them speciality, rather than geography specific.
Labour needs to address the crippling burdens that PFI debts are placing on the health service.
Labour should consider a specific, hypothecated tax to pay for health and care.
Labour should place greater focus on ensuring quality care staff through better wages.
Labour should consider preventing the increased incursion of private companies into the health service, which is affecting GP provision.
Labour should consider how care can be delivered better in communities, without it fragmenting and isolating professionals.
Living standards and sustainability
It was proposed that there were four key objectives for transport policy should be:
- Generate economic growth
- Reduce social exclusion
- Improve the environment
- Improve health and safety and public health
Labour’s transport policy should focus first of all on the inter-urban with a strong role for regional authorities with local input.
Labour should reverse bus deregulation and encourage greater local control of bus services
Labour should refocus on the 2030 Decarbonisation target and be more ambitious in general
Labour could encourage a more regional approach to energy with regions encouraged to generate more through renewable energy with the possibility of a feed-in tariff style approach for individual regions. This could also be a way to encourage community energy projects.
Labour should say more on energy efficiency. A home insulation voucher could be offered in lieu of a winter fuel allowance for better off pensioners in order to improve the energy efficiency of existing housing stock.
Regional investment banks and the Green Investment Bank should offer low cost loans to encourage greater energy efficiency.