Railway renationalisation

Rail privatisation has failed to deliver better value services, capital investment, and reductions in public subsidies. Despite this, successive rail reforms have been unable or unwilling to renationalise the railway network and address the underlying problem of financing rail infrastructure even with broad public support for policy change./

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Jeff Tan
A Sustainable Economy

Economic growth remains the predominant policy goal in the UK. However, the pursuit of economic growth stands at odds with environmental sustainability, and it is not needed to achieve social objectives such as full employment and improved quality of life.

A fundamentally different approach to managing the economy is required that puts people and the planet ahead of growth in GDP.

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Tackling Britain’s private debt crisis

As of July 2017, the Bank of England measured the stock of private debt held by individuals at £1.548 trillion; making household sector indebtedness one of the biggest problems facing the United Kingdom’s economy and society. 

Is this level of private household debt a problem requiring action by an incoming Labour government?  And can public policy address the unprecedented levels of household debt?

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Johnna Montgomerie
National Investment Bank and small & medium businesses

The 2017 Labour Manifesto calls for a National Investment Bank (NIB) and a network of regional development banks. A ₤250 billion “National Transformation Fund” would be focused on infrastructure and housing, and NIB would provide ₤25 billion/year lending to small businesses, including coops, and to contribute to “transforming our financial system”. 

But how best to ensure that access to affordable credit is provided to the small and medium enterprises most in need of it?

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Procurement & the Third Sector

For public sector workers, outsourcing to third sector organisations of local government and NHS delivery represents as big a threat as the private sector.

A Labour government should consider returning cooperatives, mutuals, social enterprises and third sector organisations to their original function of employment provision and generation, community support and self defence. 

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Universal Basic Income

A universal basic income (UBI), tax-free weekly income to every individual, provides an administratively simple method to resolve a range of social problems. A modified scheme that provided a universal and unconditional income at a moderate starting level, leaving much of the existing system intact, would be feasible, affordable and beneficial.

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Control of the Energy Sector

In its 2017 manifesto the Labour Party promised to bring energy sector back under public control through a phased approach, which is most sensible. The transition phase is likely to be challenging and will need effective management.

Public policy in the energy sector should target new capacity creation rather than taking over existing and potentially overvalued capacities. 

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Changing Occupational Pension Funds

British employees have traditionally relied on occupational pension funds in addition to Pay-As-You-Go State pensions to provide retirement income. These workplace funds are becoming less able to provide income security for all, let alone promote economic growth and financial stability. A change in state benefits must form the core of any retirement income provision system. If occupational pensions are to form a meaningful part of the change, a number of problems need to be addressed.

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Successful Macroeconomic Stimulus

Modern economies can be stimulated by macroeconomic policies that increase purchasing power. If the stimulus is deficit-financed, the resulting increase in national debt can be accommodated within broad limits. 

This policy brief looks at the conditions that allow for successful implementation of macroeconomic stimulus programmes appropriate for a progressive government.

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Replacing Universal Credit

The Conservative Government elected in 2015 declared an objective of reducing expenditure on working age claimants by £12 billion a year – that is £12 billion from the unemployed, the chronic sick and the low-paid (and their children). The then Labour leadership decided to abstain on the issue. There could be no better example of the bankruptcy of mainstream politics in Britain.

It is doubtful whether existing policies could in fact secure such a reduction in the near future. 

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Citizens’ wealth funds

Since 2008, the question of inequality has moved up the political agenda. This rising concern has yet to translate into policy action. The UK continues to sit towards the top of the global inequality league, while leading forecasters predict a deepening economic divide until 2020.

Citizens' wealth funds offer a positive opportunity to tackle the twin problems of rising inequality and under-investment.

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Price Stability

For four decades British governments have placed priority on maintaining low inflation. Under Conservative governments this functioned as the central macroeconomic policy goal. A Labour government will come under strong pressure to maintain this priority, though it is frequently in conflict with other objectives such as economic growth and full employment.  

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Monetary PolicyJohn Weeks
Innovation, Jobs & Productivity: Supporting Business R&D

Direct and indirect public support (subsidies and tax relief) for business R&D in the UK is higher than most other OECD countries, excluding the US, Korea, Canada and France. Also, the UK support regime relies on both direct grants and indirect support via tax credits with equal measures.

Nevertheless, total R&D expenditure as percentage of GDP in the UK (1.7%) is relatively low compared to OECD countries (2.43%). 

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Public InvestmentMehmet Ugur
Hurricane Irma & Tax Havens

As the National Audit Office confirmed in their last report on the British Overseas Territories, the UK has the backstop financial responsibility for ensuring that these quasi-autonomous and self-governing locations are financially solvent:

"The UK bears the ultimate risk of potential liabilities from its overseas territories.

It is important …. that the UK should reinforce its close working with Territories to manage risks in government finances, disaster and crisis management."

This has particular significance in the context of the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma.

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Publicly Funded Drug Research

It is government policy, not market processes, which cause high drug prices. Patent monopolies have the negative effects that free market oriented economists typically ascribe to government interference in the market. Altering government policy would make drugs cheaper for the NHS and thus increase provision. 

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Social PolicyDean Baker