UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Imagine and If Only... Budget 2013: The Speech Ed Balls should be giving

“Mr Speaker, Members of the House. As you know, the economy that Labour inherited when the Tories, sorry con Dem coalition were lately booted out of the Government was one that was stagnant, indeed toxic, failing the needs of our country and our people. On every indicator, from our failing international credit rating even if it is from rather disreputable agencies, to the falling pound in every pocket, from our pitiful levels of public investment to the appalling levels of inequality in our society, we were a country that had substituted ideology for economic policy. No more. This is a government committed to enhancing the lives of the working people of this country.

In opposition, it is true that I suggested that in office the Labour Party could not shy away from the cuts agenda. Having now examined the mess that was left to us I reiterate that some cuts are necessary. I therefore announce that Her Majesty’s Labour Government will immediately scrap the programme of Trident renewal, ensuring that £100 million will be released for more socially productive activity in the economy.

I have been appalled by the amount of government money spent on the use of outside consultants, particularly multi-national companies.
Private companies are making huge profits from their public service contracts:
  • taxpayers will pay £217 billion in “user charges” for PFI facilities between now and 2033, but direct public ownership would be £3bn a year cheaper
  • outsourcing specialists have seen their share price soar on the back of government commitments to award them more contracts
  • private equity companies are speculating on the back of socially necessary facilities –such as care homes for the elderly: Allianz Capital, for example made 90% profit buying and selling care homes.
I therefore announce that this waste of taxpayers’ money will stop forthwith and that in future investment will be in public infrastructure and public service facilities should be publicly funded to provide better value-for-money and accountability. As we move forward privatised public services should be brought back in house to be delivered by directly employed public service workers.

In addition there is both a moral and economic case that all those who wish to live in the UK or to conduct business here should be expected to pay a fair rate of tax in this country. It defies any sense of justice that the marginal rate of tax on the poorest in this society should be several times greater than the marginal rate of tax on the wealthiest.

I therefore propose a return to the principle of progressive taxation, reversing the policies currently in place. Extreme wealth for a small minority has a price to be paid, in the millions in the UK unable to afford the basic necessities of life forced into homelessness or the use of food banks.

This Government believes that there needs to be transparency in the tax affairs of all our citizens and will legislate to ensure that the standard that applies to the ordinary PAYE payer should apply across the board - all tax payers will require to reveal all sources of income and there will be immediate legislation to encourage tax compliance. Internationally we will work to ensure that tax avoidance and tax evasion – anti social evils that have blighted our society - are outlawed. In addition this government will support internationally a financial transaction tax - or as my trade union colleagues have called it the Robin Hood tax.

All of this will be impossible without an adequately staffed Customs and Revenue and I want to see the department reinforced with well trained staff.

We today reinstate the top rate of 50p in the pound for top earners, with the lowest rate moving to 10p in the pound. What applies for individuals should apply to companies and the days where large companies struck deals to minimise their tax liabilities are over, with the rate of corporation tax returning to the level that it was under the last Labour Government.

In addition I advise this house that Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice network will head a commission to recommend to this government measures to ensure that our tax system becomes more transparent and fairer to all.
It has not escaped the attention of this Government it costs almost as much to leave someone on the dole as to keep them working, paying taxes and delivering public services. However schemes that force those receiving benefit to work for large profit making concerns or lose benefits are a form of modern slavery, and schemes where companies receive public funding for apprenticeships and re-designate low pay jobs as such have no place in a modern economy.

This government will legislate to ensure that all training schemes are professionally run through industry/trade union partnerships and offer quality training based on a combination of workplace experience and further education.

In addition this government supports the idea that being in work should pay. I therefore announce that the level of the national minimum wage should rise to become a Living Wage at the rate of £10 per hour, and that future rises will be based on RPI. This rate will also apply to all pensions and benefits increases.

In addition, in recognising the effects of the public sector pay freeze on the economy, this government will set up a comparability exercise to recognise the losses suffered by those affected and will strengthen the machinery for public sector bargaining to allow for meaningful negotiation across the public sector to rectify the anomalies.

Similarly we recognise that the vindictive pursuit of those forced to rely on state benefits has resulted in cutting the incomes of those at the sharp end of poverty. We will assess the levels of resources necessary to ensure a reasonable standard of living and uprate levels accordingly.

This Government recognises that if our economy is to grow, then it is vital that our people have money to spend on goods and services.

At the macro-economic level, this Government believes in the need for fiscal stimuli, in which we are in accordance with the vast majority of literate economists. For those who believe that democracy must be for the many not the few, as we do, then the need is demonstrated for investment in publicly owned goods and services.

Our health service, our education service our local government have been ravaged by the penny pinching budgets of the last few years. We intend to reverse those cuts, and further, to begin the vitally necessary investment public housing that this country so desperately needs.

This will be accompanied by a review of housing benefit to ensure that rent levels are controlled and that the exchequer contributes to investment in bricks and mortar rather than subsidising the private sector.

In addition we intend to reinvigorate regional investment throughout the UK, not just in South East England. We will begin a programme of investment in green technologies and in a proactive industrial strategy.

As a government we recognise that our policies represent a significant change of direction in this country but we were elected to ensure that that the economic malaise affecting us was resolved in a direction that advantages those who work for a living, and those who want to work, and for those who need our assistance because of an inability to participate in paid employment.

We remain one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It is inconceivable and intolerable that we should condemn millions to a life of poverty and destitution, and our budget is the start of a change in favour of the millions that constitute the majority in Britain today.”