Chartist contributors set out some manifesto must-haves for the Labour Party’s last National Policy Forum meeting ahead of the 2015 General Election
Labour recognises a need for a change of political culture. This will reflect the new ways we communicate, the lack of deference, the importance of listening and problem solving, rather than having ‘answers’. We need diversity in every decision-making body which reflects today’s society, an equality which is not sameness, respect for difference, a new collectivism whereby people join together to take on structures which are insensitive or irresponsive to their needs. Subsidiary is the best arrangement without the hierarchy that often exists with it. Bottom up is better than top down. So linking outcome in people’s lives with democratic change will include votes at sixteen, citizenship education, devolution to England, unitary authorities perhaps linked to parish councils, with a strategic layer at regional or subregional level which reflects that already existing in London, Labour will reform the second chamber to help keep the union together, and extend electoral reform to make sense of our voting.
Labour will present a growth budget as soon as possible after the 2015 General Election. We want local government and other public bodies to know we will quickly lift restrictions on borrowing for capital investment. So they can plan to help rebuild one nation Britain for the benefit of all. We accept that we will be stuck with Tory austerity plans for current spending in 2015/16 for our first year in office. Every effort will be made to encourage increases in disposable income for those on the lowest incomes by promoting a living wage. With regard to payment of taxes, we will work with progressive governments around the world to promote fair taxes and close down tax havens. In the meantime targets will be set for HMRC to collect taxes that are due. Business and entrepreneurship, whether private, public or social, will continue to be encouraged alongside the promotion of tax fairness to re-establish full employment.
Labour will implement a programme of new social rented housing with low rents and secure tenancies. Subsidy will be provided to those local authorities who cannot fund from their own resources. The programme will be concentrated in the South-East and other areas where need is greatest and market homes are least affordable. Local authorities will be given the freedom to borrow to fund new homes. Rent increases for existing council and housing association tenants will be no greater than the average increase in earnings and benefits. Labour will improve standards and hold down rents in the private rented sector and where necessary local authorities will be funded to take properties over from under-performing landlords. Councils will be able to acquire land for new homes at pre-existing use value. Where developments are undertaken on privately owned land, part of the profit of landowners and developers will be used to support essential infrastructure and other community benefits. Stamp duty on home purchase will be replaced by a tax on the increase in the value of private property with the tax receipts to be used to fund the new programme of secure and affordable rented homes.
Labour acknowledges that today the majority of Thatcher’s labour law reforms are still place. During 13 years of Labour rule a national minimum wage was enacted, but enforcement was lacking and young people were not offered adequate protection. Labour now understands that workers rights and economic democracy, have to be actively promoted. We propose to reassert the principle of economic democracy and workers’ rights in the next Parliament by legislating for workers on company boards and reconstructing sectoral collective bargaining in the UK labour market. This will include legal reforms targeting new individual and collective labour law rights as well as government intervention to incentivise collective bargaining as part of our commitment to granting people power.
Labour will promote health equality as the central purpose of the NHS. It will address the funding gap between the current NHS spend and the impact of an ageing population, and higher public expectations of healthcare as result of clinical developments. To these ends Labour will repeal the current Health and Social Care Act, reverse privatisation of NHS services, and halt the letting of NHS contracts to commercial providers of healthcare where accountability is to shareholders, not the public. The health needs of those with mental illness currently costing the British economy £70 billion/year will be addressed by identifying and supporting sufferers still in work. Public health initiatives on obesity, substance misuse and sexual health will be introduced to reduce health inequality.