Members of the Frontline 40 – those candidates who will form Labour’s majority in 2015 – outline what they would put on the statute book, in their Alternative Queen’s Speech
A Getting Britain Building Bill
I wanted to see a bill in the Queen’s speech which would have got Britain building homes again. Removing the cap onborrowing by local authorities would enable them to fund new homes by borrowing against their current assets. It would create at least 19,200 jobs – giving a boost to the construction industry and much-needed employment to our builders, electricians, plumbers and carpenters, while helping to reduce the unemployment benefits bill at the same time. The percentage of jobs in this sector is now lower than it has ever been at 6.4 per cent, dropping since its peak in 2009.
The number of homes has been rapidly declining in the past five years. According to Shelter, there are 13,570 households accepted as homeless in the UK, a figure that has risen by 4,000 since 2010. On top of this, 80,000 fewer homes have been built since 2005, 400,000 households are living in overcrowded conditions and 1.8 million households are on council house waiting lists – often in high cost private sector accommodation with higher costs for the taxpayer forking out on housing benefit.
The average age of first-time buyers is now 37, and unless something is done to meet demand, this figure will continue to escalate. In 1990, 8 per cent of home owners were under 25, and 43 per cent between 25-34. Today only two per cent of under 25s and 27 per cent aged 25-34-year-olds own their own home. To put it another way, if other prices would have risen in accordance with the cost of housing, a jar of coffee would now be £20.22
By building over a million new homes, we could kickstart the economy, cut the housing benefit bill (much more successfully than the bedroom tax), and enable young people to aspire to own their home in the way their parents and grandparents did.
In the last 20 years, every European country apart from Britain, Luxembourg and Italy have all built more and larger housing. The austerity measures may be an easy way out for the Tories at the present time, but the further these figures decline and more and more families are left homeless, the promise of Britain will be nothing more than a failing of the future.
Find out more about Jessica’s campaign here
A Local Growth Bill
I am the leader of High Peak borough council and, since last week’s local elections, a Derbyshire county councillor too. So it is perhaps not surprising that my bill relates to local government.
For too long governments of all persuasions have claimed to listen to local government; but in practice there has been little evidence of it. However, the coalition government’s demonisation of local councils has taken it to a new level, promising residents that they can stop planning applications, while relaxing planning laws to make it easier for developers to build where they want.
It is here, in local government, that the seeds of Labour’s recovery are being nurtured, have taken root and are growing strongly. Across the country the Labour-led councils of many shapes and sizes are leading not just Labour’s recovery, but the economic recovery too.
In High Peak – and Derbyshire – the abolition of the RDAs left a massive vacuum in economic development and regeneration and which is only now starting to be filled.
Formal recognition that local councils, especially district or borough councils are leading economic regeneration in their areas is long overdue.
So my bill would give local councils greater powers to drive forward economic regeneration in their communities. Crucially those communities must be the ones that local people feel comfortable and which fit local circumstances; not ones that fit neatly on a map drawn by civil servants. For us here in High Peak that means working with neighbouring councils in and including Derbyshire and the East Midlands – but also in the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Sheffield – and, perhaps most importantly, Greater Manchester and the north-west.
Caitlin Bisknell is PPC for High Peak, number 68
on Labour’s list of 106 target seats.
Find out more about Caitlin’s campaign here
A Cooperating for Growth Bill
We might have narrowly avoided a triple-dip recession but the economic climate is still tough. The Queen’s speech should be about helping families juggling rising living costs, and providing a break for businesses struggling to get a loan or to make ends meet. The big challenge is not innovation – the ideas are out there – but a government failing to get to grips with what the new economy should look like.
David Cameron promised a cooperatives bill in January 2012, but this will only consolidate existing legislation, most of it passed under Labour governments. I would like to see an all-embracing cooperative growth bill to put mutual ideas at the centre of plans to get the economy back on track and to help tackle the cost of living crisis.
Over 12 million people in the UK are members of a cooperative, one in five of the population. I just have to look around my own city of Milton Keynes to see the thriving nature of cooperative and community ventures: cooperative stores in many neighbourhoods, housing cooperatives, and a growing credit union. Milton Keynes council has also recently acquired its land assets. We could be using these assets to develop community land trusts and community forms of social housing.
The cooperatives growth bill would make it easier for new ventures to mutualise involving workers and consumers in new forms of local business enterprise. It would establish a cooperative development unit to promote co-op housing, encourage community energy schemes to provide an alternative to the big players, and encourage cooperative schools (as a community alternative to academies). It could ensure diversity and competition in our banking system by promoting mutual institutions and credit unions. These are all ideas that could create jobs.
If we want to create sustainable growth we need to put responsibility at the heart of our plans. A renewed commitment to cooperative ideas is part of the solution.
Find out more about Andrew’s campaign here
A Quality Housing Bill
So now we have the Queen’s speech for 2013, and so far so timid. Together, the coalition brought in 15 bills and four draft measures, and very little of substance among them. The coalition is place-holding, concentrating on social tinkering as a substitute for economic policy.
As divisions between Lib Dem and Tory, Tory centre and Tory right play out, Whitehall is lapsing into lethargy. The legislative program is getting thinner, scraped away at to avoid exposing conflicts of interest, and with the coalition bickering their way to 2013 we’re paying the cost in missed growth. The only economically substantive stimulus in this year’s speech was HS2 – a project initiated by a Labour government.
And government is doing, they are generally doing wrong.
Take housing as an example. Help to Buy may have been included, but it isn’t what’s needed. We need a housing bill which stimulates construction, not the unreachable prices on existing stock; a long-term rental market supported by new rights for tenants, not deposit support to tempt banks reluctant to lend. We need three times the housing stock currently being constructed each year; new rights for local councils and public bodies to use their land banks for new models of social development; a focus on flexible design to ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s. We ought to encourage sustainable construction instead of holding back on it, helping to bring down housing costs over time.
We don’t just need the living wage, we need affordable living.
And we need to stop thinking of housing failure as purely a product of the planning system. Analysis carried out by the Local Government Association in September 2012 found that local authorities had granted planning permission on 400,000 houses and flats that developers had yet to build.
Help to Buy may provide artificial bridging for housing values – but this is still money that needs to be repaid over time and it does nothing to make good-quality affordable housing the right that it ought to be. For all of the Queen’s subjects.
Kate Godfrey is PPC for Stafford, number 79
on Labour’s list of 106 target seats.
Find out more about Kate’s campaign here
A National Community Service Bill
The majority of people receiving benefits are rightly entitled to them. The vulnerable, disabled and the working poor are all being hit by this Tory-led government’s broad-brush approach to tackling an increasing welfare bill. While it is absolutely true to say that the best method for reducing the welfare bill is to get the economy moving and to generate jobs, it is also right to recognise that a number of people across the country have entrenched reliance on benefits. Welfare is as much about responsibilities as it is rights and we need to get the balance right as a party that reflects the facts as well as the public mood.
One Nation Labour – to me – represents a team approach. It means that we achieve more together than we do alone and that, as Team GB, we all need to play our part in making the modern Britain that we need to be.
A compulsory National Community Service would require work-able receivers of benefits to enrol on a local community service programme that would involve economically productive community work. Whether it be helping out in the local library, taking part in a community centre programme or volunteering at local services, the National Community Service would put unemployed but work-able people to wider community use. Participants in the programme would also receive intensive careers and educational support with a view to returning to work.
The National Community Service will help those that need support to get back into sustainable employment while adding benefit to their local communities. It will make sure that no one is able to get away with not playing their part and it will rebalance the rights and responsibilities associated with the benefit of welfare support.
Find out more about Darren’s campaign here
An Industry Bill
There was nothing in the coalition’s Queen’s speech that will drive growth or help create jobs. Ed Miliband was right to pledge a compulsory jobs guarantee, a national insurance tax break for small firms, doubling the fines for those paying less than the minimum wage, and establishing a national bank to get growth moving again.
But we still have more to do to reconnect with working people, particularly those in industrial areas.
In Redcar there was a sense in 2010 that Labour weren’t standing up for working people – those who had supported us all their lives, and indeed, for generations. The mothballing of our steelworks, on which the town was built, in 2010 symbolised this.
It has become increasingly clear since the crash that we need to broaden the productive base of our economy. We became too dependent on the ever-inflating housing market and financial sector, and didn’t do enough to stem the tide of manufacturing decline in the UK. Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown realised this after 2008 and put an active industrial policy at the heart of the economic recovery that was getting Britain working again. However, it was strangled at birth by this coalition, and the lack of growth, the destruction of the regional development agencies, the failure of the regional growth fund, along with the recent dismissal of Michael Heseltine’s growth plan mean our industry is suffering, with foreign direct investment down by a third.
Labour needs a modern industrial strategy at the heart of its next manifesto. My bill for a Queen’s speech would be an industry bill. The purpose of this bill would be to support our vital industries and invest properly, ensure local supply chains are developed, and jobs created. It would:
• Revise procurement laws ensuring that major infrastructure projects, such as wind farms or major regeneration projects which get government contracts, or are seeking planning approval, must prioritise local business supply chains, providing a certain proportion of local jobs and apprenticeships for young people;
• Ensure the national bank has a regional dimension and the power to invest in key industries such as the automotive industry, renewables, aerospace, digital, and petrochemicals;
• Create a regional or subregional equivalent of the Future Jobs Fund to support young people into work;
• Protect rights for workers, making zero-hours contracts illegal;
• Devolve control of the skills budget to combined authorities and local enterprise partnerships to ensure our skills supply matches the needs of our industries of the future;
• Ensure our universities are linked more closely to regional industrial hubs.
An industry bill will bring growth back to Britain, restore our place as world leaders in industry, and ensure we provide the training, jobs and opportunities for the people we should be standing up for.
Anna Turley is PPC for Redcar, number 91
on Labour’s list of 106 target seats.Find out more about Anna’s campaign here
A British Investment Bank Bill
Over the past six months I’ve spent a great deal of time meeting and talking to small and medium business owners across Reading West.
One of their concerns is that, despite having successful business models, with opportunities to innovate, provide employment and grow, they simply cannot get access to funding or the services they desperately require.
One businessman said that if funding is refused by one bank, the likelihood is that every bank on the high street will also say no. Another said there was little opportunity to form good working relationships with the local branch, and lack of advice was a barrier to growth.
As a business owner I know that it’s vital that small and medium businesses have the ability to maximise on growth and are given the opportunity to realise their potential.
This is where a British Investment Bank comes in. To offer funding channelled through a new web of regional banks across Britain, rather than through the existing banking network. A British Investment Bank would also enable smaller businesses to build local relationships with bank managers who would have discretion to make local lending decisions.
A vibrant, innovative small business sector is vital; it will also be one of the major factors for future growth in the UK economy. That’s why I believe we need to do what every other G8 economy has done. Set up a state-backed investment institution to ensure credit gets to our SMEs and supports them, as they in turn contribute to the recovery.
Find out more about Victoria’s campaign here
An Industrial Strategy Bill
An industrial strategy focusing on skills, future technologies, the creative industries and retail.
Well-paid and highly skilled jobs rely on investment in research and development, and the development of new technologies. An effective industrial strategy is essential in order to avoid a low-wage economy and to achieve jobs-led growth.
First, the UK aerospace industry is vital and requires the implementation of an aerospace growth strategy. The UK has 17 per cent of the global market for aerospace manufacturing, which generated £24.2bn of income for the UK in 2011, 75 per cent of which was from exports. Much of this income is derived from investments and research and development carried out in the 1970s and 1980s. This long-term industry needs long-term commitment and support from government. The short-term problem is meeting skills challenges as the market booms, whilst conversely in military aerospace companies are facing the challenge of redeploying and retaining skilled people as defence spending falls in key markets. A talent retention solution is needed to match skills shortages with skilled people being displaced by defence cuts.
The UK defence industry needs a defence industrial strategy to support the industry to plan and invest for the future with confidence. Companies need clear direction from government about the equipment our armed forces need and the budget available so that informed decisions can be made with an expectation that sales will follow.
Second, the creative industries – Britain’s cultural life and creative industries have flourished and now account for 10 per cent of the UK economy. Excellence in the UK’s creative industries – from film, television and video games to design, fashion, music and the arts is self-evident. A creative industries strategy, with a return to adequate public funding, is much needed to ensure that Britain continues to be a thriving hub of creative talent, defined by the richness and diversity of its cultural life and heritage.
Third, a strategy is needed to support the high street – pubs and retail. Retail fuels the economy and no economy has returned to growth without a return to buoyant consumer confidence. The current dramatic downturn in Retail has been created largely by businesses having to reduce prices to compensate for the current VAT rate, leading to reduced profitability and increased failures. What is needed is a strategy to tackle the problems faced by Retail and a temporary reduction in VAT.
Find out more about Jon’s campaign here
A Small Business Bill
Winning in 2015 requires the building of coalitions in communities, and one
which is crucial is small business, not just because for every £1 spent in a local business 83p stays in the local economy, but because vibrant small businesses mean vibrant communities and jobs.
Small businesses are feeling let down. Many across the UK are frustrated with the lack of credit available from banks; the level of local business tax coupled with a seeming lack of quality services; the failure of local government to ensure locally produced products are in supply chains; and, most of all, the potholed roads and delays after delays on highspeed broadband.
Medway in Kent, like most of middle England, is reliant on small business; some of our local statistics are echoed across the UK in political constituencies in the North and South; 76 per cent of business in Medway employs fewer than five staff members with construction being the biggest sector employer with 20 per cent.
Labour can be leading the debate with a small business bill; a bill that will force banks to lend to small business, that will focus investment in broadband and the technologies of tomorrow and provide a one stop shop for advice on access to domestic and international markets. We need a bill that will give greater powers over planning and an ability to give councils the ability to give tax breaks so that local centres of business excellence can flourish. We need true localisation of small business rate relief to focus on struggling areas or successful pilots and we need greater accountability and power over planning and licensing to local government.
Find out more about Tristan’s campaign here
A Bill for Buses
What would a really good 21st century transport system look like? More reliable, affordable trains? Safe and well-maintained cycle-ways? Properly maintained roads and pathways? All of that – but most of all: reliable cheap, and high quality bus services. Most journeys, made by most people, are short and many are already taken by bus – over 4.6 billion bus journeys in England each year. But in too many places, the bus is still the transport choice of last resort – used by older people, and young people, but not by those who make the decisions and edit the newspapers. That is why bus issues are rarely reported and remain a low priority – and why it should be the top priority for Labour.
The last Labour government made big improvements, particularly in London, tackling many of the problems created by the anarchic Tory privatisations of the 1980s. But across the country, Conservative-dominated councils have refused to use the legislation on offer to regulate fares and frequency. The last Labour government put huge amounts of extra resource into the bus industry through the free bus passes for pensioners, a scheme we should protect. But did we extract enough from the bus companies in return? I’m not convinced – the next Labour government must be tougher.
I want to see our first legislative programme ensuring that bus companies move rapidly to install smart-card ticketing systems across the country, like the London Oyster Card. Huge amounts of time are wasted as bus engines idle and pollute while passengers fiddle for change. Instead of offering councils the opportunity to regulate fares and frequency it should be an obligation – and then watch how local communities hold them to account! Yes, the bus companies will grumble, but this is an environmental, social justice and economic efficiency challenge that Labour must meet.
Find out more about Daniel’s campaign here
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