Social Security and the Labour Market

All countries beyond a certain level of development have social security systems whose principal task is to manage risks of interruption to income from employment. The UK’s system, however, is both dysfunctional and unjust, not to mention coercive and harsh, in its mode of operation. How can we reform the social security system to make it both more efficient and fairer?

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The Common Ground Trust: a route out of the housing crisis

Rising house prices and rent prices systematically undermine the progressive vision of a society with equal opportunities for all. They also make our economy highly vulnerable to debt crises and other macroeconomic shocks. An end to house price inflation can be more quickly achieved than many people assume, through better macroprudential supervision of bank lending, tax reform, restrictions on the ownership of UK property by non-UK residents, and – crucially - a strengthening of tenants’ rights.

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Mental Health in the Social Security System

As the number of unemployed social security claimants has declined, the government’s drive for reductions in the benefits bill has focussed increasingly on the chronic sick and the disabled. The government’s aim is not to improve the well-being of these claimants but rather to classify as many of them as possible as fit for work and to push them into whatever jobs are available.

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Social PolicyJohn Grahl
When is austerity an appropriate economic policy?

The results of the consistent application of austerity policies – cuts in public expenditure and/or increased taxation – since the Conservative-led coalition government came to power in 2010, do not make for encouraging reading. Although politicians have claimed that austerity means “living within our means”, the reality for the vast majority of British citizens is very different.

Austerity has also failed to deliver its stated objectives. But the fundamental question isn’t whether austerity is a “good” or “bad” policy. Rather, it is whether austerity is an appropriate policy, given a particular economic situation.  

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Labour’s National Investment Bank - a valuable initiative

The private financial system on its own cannot perform well to support the real economy or implement a new industrial strategy. It does not fund sufficient long-term investment in risky innovation, neglects key sectors, including both physical and social infrastructure, and fails adequately to support small and medium sized enterprises. Therefore  the National Investment Bank (NIB) will be a valuable instrument for a Labour (and other future) governments to help achieve increased investment for making the UK economy more dynamic, greener and fairer.

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Public Sector Borrowing

It has long been assumed that government spending is financed by taxation. This should be challenged, because it is not true. A clear understanding of the mechanisms for funding public expenditure is essential to implementing a sound fiscal policy. The question to be asked is this:

What is the appropriate and effective mechanism for funding public expenditure?

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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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