Publications: Economy and Industry
In June George Osborne outlined his plans for a new 'budget surplus’ law. This paper argues that this is ill-defined and essentially unenforceable. The proposal appeared without any economic rationale as to why a budget surplus would be either desirable or indeed achievable in a sustainable manner. Instead, this paper sets out how the central purpose of government fiscal policy should be provision of high quality public services and a progressive tax system with the balance between public expenditure and tax revenues designed to secure high levels of employment.
In May 2015 a new progressive government could take office. Following one of the most unpredictable elections in decades, it will be a huge task to set down clear priorities that can begin to restore fairness and challenge inequalities in wealth and power. The first 100 days of the next government will determine not just the immediate changes that can be achieved, but the path of future progressive reforms.
This paper examines the effects of three decades of privatisation on public services. It argues that the privatisation and marketization policies of successive governments have delivered the economy into the hands of a narrow set of vested corporate and financial interests. The consequences are that decision-making is geared towards short-term profit and rent-seeking, at the expense of more longer-term thinking and in particular strategic concerns for the common good. In response, this report argues that the UK needs to rethink its approach to ownership and control of the economy, developing more democratic institutions and structures that re-distribute economic decision-making power beyond its capture by financial, corporate and foreign interests. In particular we need to create new forms of public and collective ownership that are better able to develop an economy to serve social needs and environmental concerns over private gain. Such forms of ownership should combine higher level strategic coordination with more localised forms of public ownership.
This factsheet focuses upon the announcements in the 2015 Queen’s Speech, including the plans for an EU referendum, an extension of Right to Buy and attacks on the rights of workers, and what this means for ordinary people, trade unionists and the labour movement.
The Conservatives have pledged to introduce a “tax lock,” an unusual move which would legally prohibit them from increasing income tax, National Insurance, or VAT for five years. The party retains its earlier promises to take everyone on the minimum wage out of income tax, by raising the personal allowance to £12,500 by 2020; increasing the threshold for paying the 40p rate of tax to £50,000; and lifting the threshold for inheritance tax to £1 million in line with inflation. So what does this mean in practice?
Today the Conservatives announced a pledge to enact a real-term freeze affecting about half of all rail fares if they win the election. Prime Minister David Cameron said the move - extending a freeze currently in place - would save an average rail commuter £400 between now and 2020. Labour's shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said rail fares overall had risen by 20% on average since 2010, while services had worsened for “hard-pressed commuters.”
There has been increasing media coverage about the UK’s growing ‘productivity gap’ in the last few weeks, but why is it important? This briefing sets out what productivity is, why everyone is talking about it and what actions are needed from the next government.
This guide outlines how the tax system is regressive, benefitting the rich and penalising the poor. Proportionally, tax from working people is not matched by the contributions of the rich. Widespread tax avoidance allows companies and wealthy individuals to shirk their responsibilities to public services. This guide sets out how progressive policies on taxation can rebalance contributions in a way that is fair.
This guide outlines the scale of the fall in living standards since 2008, the explosion of low-wage, insecure work and how working people and their unions have seen their rights attacked. By explaining the link between strong trade unions, widespread collective bargaining and lower inequality the pamphlet suggests short and long term policy interventions that would improve the living standards of working people and begin to steer the economy in a more equitable direction with collective bargaining at its core.
This accessible pamphlet by leading academics Lydia Hayes and Tonia Novitz looks in depth at the role of trade unions in the economy and the link between strong trade unionism and more equal societies.
Over the last year, Class, Unionstogether and the Trade Union Group of MPs have collaborated on a series of regional events to discuss the living standards crisis and the steps that you think should be taken to address it. This publication is the culmination of the issues identified and the solutions proposed by those attending these regional events and interacting through social media with our #GBripoff campaign.
This think piece argues for employee representatives on company boards. It is based upon interviews conducted in Sweden where successful legislation regarding employee representatives is already in place. In Sweden, companies with 25 or more employees have two representatives on the company board; companies with 1000 employees or more have three. The interviews highlight the popularity of the scheme amongst company directors and employees, as a result of the reduction in strike days, the improvement in industrial relations and the positive effects upon employee careers.
This paper demonstrates that over last 3 decades, real wages have grown slower than productivity, which has led to an accumulation of profits at the top as opposed to increases in wages for ordinary workers. Between 1976 – 2007, the income of the top 1% increased by 3.7% in real terms while the income of the bottom 99% grew by a mere 0.6%. The paper finds that the UK is a wage-led economy. In a wage-led economy a fall in the share of wages in national income leads to lower growth rates because of the negative impact upon demand. A number of policies are put forward to increase wages and spur sustainable growth. These includes strengthening the bargaining power of labour, increasing statutory minimum wage to the level of a living wage, introducing and enforcing pay ratios to moderate salaries and others.
This Think Piece examines the overarching themes that run through our series, 'In the public interest: the role of the modern state.' It critically examines the evolving functions of the state in the UK, EU and USA. The piece emphasises that it is urgent that the prevailing neoliberal mould is broken, a new social contract is urgently forged, and a positive narrative developed as to the function, capabilities and extraordinary resources that a proactive state can command.
All countries have a state sector whatever the political nature of their governments and their economic and social systems. Enduring questions remain as to the limit of the state, and for what purposes it should be used. Answers have varied across times and regions with fierce debates over policy programmes for more privatisation or greater public ownership. This paper argues that while there is a definite need to engage public service users and staff in the provision of services, accountable politicians have to be the guardians of those services as they are the only ones with the power and authority to control the senior managers who run them. Local councils should have enhanced, rather than diminished roles, but MPs and ministers are the final decision-makers and should neither hide behind fake protocols nor wash their hands and run for cover. State ownership remains a necessary condition but notes that public ownership alone will not be sufficient to achieve efficiency and justice. For that to happen more has to be done. Sensible economic planning, integrated systems thinking, and the application of the best science and technology in the interests of citizens will be the future of public service delivery.
Drawing on a range of evidence, this short Think Piece looks at the role of the labour movement in achieving a more equal society. The weakening of the labour movement during the last quarter of the 20th Century has had a significant impact on the ability of working people to influence their standard of living and quality of life. This paper argues that we must now recreate a movement with the political and social influence that enabled the former labour movement to achieve the major reductions in inequality during the middle decades of the 20th Century.
This paper from renowned economist Prof Costas Lapavitsas explains that the structural problems within the UK and other mature economies that were brought to the surface during the crisis of 2007-9, are inherent to contemporary mature capitalism. He argues that the problems have to do, primarily, with financialisation - a process that would not have been possible without the active and enabling role of the state - and that if financialisation is to be tackled reversing privatisation and re-establishing public ownership must become priorities.
This essay examines the concept of a Social Europe, a concept which put the values of collectivism, equality and solidarity, firmly at the heart of the EU. This paper was asks whether a left agenda for Europe could promote a renewed focus on securing a Social Europe and with it a ‘Social Britain’.
Addressing the argument that migrants are a drain on British resources, this Class pamphlet exposes common myths around immigration . This pamphlet addresses the fact that migrants have been used as scapegoats for a fall in living standards and shows that migrants make a positive contribution to the economy.
This paper argues that there has been virtually no structural reforms to the financial sector since the financial crisis of 2008. Despite the organised gambling and anti-social practices by the banks which undermined the stability of the entire economy, it remains business as usual for the financial elite. The corrosive effects of neoliberalist values have been most evident in the financial sector, where profits have been made from selling abusive financial products, money laundering, tax avoidance, sanction busting, speculation on commodities and land, takeovers and insider trading. There are no constraints on speculative activities and financiers routinely gamble ordinary people’s savings and pensions on an unprecedented scale. This reckless gambling produces little, if any, real additional wealth, but its destructive effects have had serious consequences for the average household and the wider economy. The financial sector has colonised the state in such a way that political power has been subordinated to corporate interests. Through their capture of the state, neoliberals have diluted, if not eliminated, the risk of business bankruptcy in the financial sector. There is an urgent need for reforms that check the worst excesses of neoliberalism by strengthening democratic control and accountability in the banking sector.
Our factsheets feature the best articles, the most relevant statistics, and the most up-to-date information to get you clued up on the issues everybody is debating. This factsheet focuses on bankers' bonuses - set to be big news in the coming weeks as RBS gears up to award its staff massive payouts.
The authors of this Class and Institute of Employment Rights joint report set out a timely argument for the introduction of a statutory framework for collective bargaining. Keith Ewing and John Hendy trace the historical background to the current economic crisis – including the dismantling of trade union rights by successive governments since 1980 – and set out a viable alternative for economic growth based on international law and best European practices. The end result is a considered and fully evidence-based policy recommendation summed up in a succinct ten point manifesto for collective bargaining.
Exposing the myths that austerity has 'saved the economy', 'reduced debt', 'brought down borrowing' and 'kick-started recovery' - this Class briefing gives the facts and realities behind the lies. This pamphlet has been produced to expose the Coalition Government’s lies and prove that there are alternative routes back to jobs, higher living standards and economic recovery. Austerity hasn’t worked and it won’t work.
Self-regulated payday lenders have exploded on the consumer credit scene since the recession and financially vulnerable individuals are now starting to feel the impact of this new type of lender on the high street. This paper shows that over a million people took out payday loans in 2012. Much of this borrowing is to pay for food and other essentials or bills – not the outcome of financial imprudence that some would have you believe.
This paper argues that our current land economy does not serve us well. In response, it proposes a Land Value Tax for the UK. A Land Value Tax, targeted at unproductive wealth and speculation, could help deliver the house-building revolution – and the economic revival – our country desperately needs. In the end though, the proposition is simple. The few who own this land of ours should not get off tax-free while too many people cannot afford a decent home.
This paper seeks to show that the policy of austerity that has increased idleness and has now given rise to the additional problem of disguised underemployment, makes no economic sense. Focusing on fiscal and taxation policies, Richard Murphy and Howard Reed argue that, as in Beveridge's time, the global recession now provides another revolutionary moment in which new thinking is required.
For more than thirty years the politics of the UK and most other western democracies has been dominated by a notable and consistent adherence to a single consensus on tax issues. But as this paper makes clear, there are clear economic and social arguments for progressive taxation. The counter-arguments are weak. However, the gains for society that progressive taxation can deliver are dependent upon creating a new social consensus. Tax could be the means for building that 21st century economic consensus and this paper sets out a research and policy programme that could create that agenda.
In his paper for Class Prof Malcolm Sawyer explains why the austerity programme is economically irrational, socially irresponsible, and fundamentally lacks credibility in its central goal of reducing the budget deficit. He argues instead that the reduction of the budget deficit can only come from a revival of private demand which is harmed by an austerity programme.
This Think Piece argues that if the UK is to achieve a sustainable recovery from the current financial crisis, the wage share needs to be restored to post-war levels and the great concentrations of income and wealth broken up.