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Manifesto 2024

In this election, it’s crucial that whoever forms the next government takes action on the inequality of wealth and power damaging our society. 

This core problem has caused and exacerbated crises, prevented economic growth, hurt communities, polluted our environment, warped our democracy, and affects our individual lives every day in dozens of ways. 

Therefore, fixing this needs to include action across a lot of different areas. 

We need to  reverse decades of rising income and wealth inequality, place the wellbeing of people at the heart of our economic system, reframe policies from short-term to long-term, and empower  communities to move away from ‘one size fits all’ policymaking. This is the only way to make sure that everyone can live a good life and enjoy an equitable future.

The below recommendations are based on The Equality Trust’s experience and research over the past 15 years, but we need your contributions and feedback. Any manifesto for a more equal society must come from the lived experience and values of all of us because, to paraphrase Eugene Debs, if our movement does not stand unflinchingly for all of us, it stands for none of us.  

This document is intended to help guide and start discussions; please don’t see it as the limits of what we should call for. 

Manifesto Interest

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Recommendations for a just transition

Tackle progressive wealth taxation:

  • Introduce a permanent wealth tax: Permanent and progressive wealth taxes must play a strong role in raising the tax base to fund the cost of public services, redistribute wealth, and stabilise economies through reducing inequality. In the UK, the effective tax rate of the richest 0.01% is less than half the rate paid by the bottom 10% of workers. Annual wealth taxes must start at around 2% on millionaires, and 5% on billionaires. Although governments might baulk at the suggestion, there is overwhelming support from the UK public to tax the rich, with 72% in favour. Alongside this, taxes on income derived from wealth (such as capital gains tax) must be equalised with the taxes on income derived from working. 
  • Allocate additional funding to HMRC: There is a significant gap between the taxes owed and the taxes collected, which undermines the government’s ability to deliver essential services. Better resources would enable HMRC to improve compliance rates, reducing the tax gap and ensuring a fairer tax system. It is estimated that every pound invested in HMRC’s resources would yield a return of £18.
  • Increase the inheritance tax base: Inheritances are expected to grow in the future. A new class of billionaires is now being created who have made more wealth from transfers than from business. Steeply progressive tax on wealth transfers including inheritance, gift, land and property taxes will play a strong role in reducing wealth concentration. Currently, only 0.7% of  the tax base in the UK is from inheritance. If that number was increased to 1%, the UK government could potentially generate an additional £3.1 billion to fund public services. 
  • Close global tax havens and loopholes: Offshore wealth is heavily concentrated among the richest individuals, significantly boosting their wealth share and increasing overall inequality. The shortfall in tax revenue results in higher taxes for wage-earners and small businesses, furthering inequality. International agreements to close tax havens and loopholes must be made through the establishment of a UN tax convention. This would include tightening regulations on transfer pricing, profit shifting, and the use of shell companies.

Rapidly shifting away from polluting industries:

  • Taxing Investments on Pollution: Wealthy individuals and institutions continue to hold significant investments in fossil fuel companies and other emissions-intensive sectors, perpetuating the extraction and use of polluting resources. A wealth tax rate on polluting investments should be set to create a powerful financial disincentive for such investments, compelling investors to shift their capital towards sustainable alternatives. To ensure the tax encourages equitable contributions from all citizens, it should be narrowly targeted at wealthy individuals and institutions above a high net worth threshold (e.g., $5 million or more in investable assets).
  • Immediate cessation of new fossil fuel licences, subsidies, and permits: Wealthy, industrialised nations have historically contributed the most to global greenhouse gas emissions and continue to have a significant impact on climate change. These countries are responsible for and possess the financial and technological capacity to lead the transition to a low-carbon economy. Wealthy countries must halt the issuance of new licences and permits for coal, oil, and gas exploration, extraction, and processing. This includes stopping any planned expansions of existing fossil fuel infrastructure.

Reduce excessive and carbon-intensive consumption and production:

  • Promote a circular economy business model: Governments must expand appliances and enforce stronger penalties against planned obsolescence using the 2021 Right to Repair law. Repairing products rather than replacing them reduces the demand for new products and encourages a culture of responsible consumption, in turn lowering the carbon emissions associated with manufacturing and transportation. 
  • Implement luxury advertising taxes: Although not yet tried, the merits of a consumption tax – calculated on the basis of personal income minus savings – to restrain consumption should be considered. Unlike value-added and sales taxes, such a tax could be made very progressive. Bans on advertising tobacco, alcohol, gambling and prescription drugs are common internationally, and taxes to restrict advertising for high-carbon luxury goods and services would help to reduce consumption.
  • Higher taxation on luxury carbon-intensive goods and services: Establish higher tax rates for luxury goods and services based on their carbon intensity. This includes setting specific rates for items such as SUVs. Outright bans should be considered on the most egregiously carbon-intensive activities, such as private jets, yachts, and space tourism, which have limited societal benefits and significant environmental costs.

Enable a just transition and a Wellbeing Economy:

  • Put wellbeing at the heart of our economy: Shift the national measure of success away from the pursuit of unsustainable economic growth and crude GDP metrics and focus instead on providing a high quality of life for all within ecological limits. The measure should be replaced with a broader suite of indicators that capture multidimensional wellbeing, including health, education, inequality, environmental quality, and subjective wellbeing.
  • Inclusive participatory governance: Adopt a co-production approach where communities are involved in agenda-setting, participatory budgeting, implementation, and monitoring of climate policies. Ensure the inclusion of youth, trade unions, feminist organisations, racial justice organisations, people from different classes, people with disabilities, and other marginalised groups in the development of these policies to ensure inequalities do not widen.
  • Adoption of the Socio-economic Duty (SED): The SED, as outlined in Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010, is a tool designed to reduce inequalities resulting from socioeconomic disadvantage. Despite its potential, this duty has not been enacted in England, although it has been successfully implemented in Scotland and Wales. All public bodies should be required to conduct Socioeconomic Impact Assessments as part of their decision-making processes. These assessments should evaluate how proposed policies, programmes, and projects will affect socioeconomic inequalities. To ensure compliance and effective implementation of the SED, a dedicated body such as the Equality Hub or the EHRC should oversee the process.

Recommendations for cohesive and engaged communities 

Deliver Universal Basic Services:

  • Nationalise and invest in free basic public services: Entitlement to public services must be guaranteed based on need, not ability to pay, so people are able to participate fully in society. Governments must build on current public healthcare and education systems to improve quality and access. This model should be extended to guarantee universal access to a range of other essential public services, including public transport, water, energy, education, health, connectivity, and housing.
  • Stop and reverse privatisation of the NHS: Reinforce the NHS as a publicly funded and publicly provided service, free at the point of use for all residents. This includes reversing policies and laws that have facilitated the outsourcing of services to private providers, such as Health and Social Care Act 2012, as well as introducing new laws that protect the NHS from further privatisation and ensure it remains a publicly accountable service.
  • Co-production mechanisms: Create mechanisms and closed feedback loops for communities to actively participate in identifying needs, designing services on how best to meet them, and overseeing their delivery through co-production processes.

End the corporate capture: 

  • Mandatory disclosure of lobbying: Implement a comprehensive and mandatory lobbying disclosure system that requires all lobbyists to register and report their activities, including including the entities they represent, the issues they are lobbying on, and the public officials they contact. Require policymakers to disclose all meetings and potential conflicts with representatives from sectors significantly impacted by public policy, such as the fossil fuel or real estate industry. This includes disclosing the purpose and outcomes of these meetings, and any personal investments in those industries. 
  • Invest in public governance: Invest in public services run by public servants, moving administration and delivery out of the private sector and into democratic control. Ensure that these are able to run as long-term institutions, with the resources and protections from interference needed to deliver effective services and deliver the policies called for in this manifesto without over-reliance on consultants.
  • Fairer and proportional systems of voting: Implement a proportional voting of system for the House of Commons and regional and local elections, ensuring that votes have equal weight no matter where they are cast and that political beliefs are fairly represented.
  • Restore lower donation disclosure threshold: Repeal the 2023 statutory instrument that raised the threshold for declaring donations to political parties from £7,500 to £11,180. Reinstate the previous requirement for political parties to disclose all donations above £7,500 to the Electoral Commission for public scrutiny.
  • Reduce campaign spending limits: The same statutory instrument increased the national election spending cap by 80%, from £19.5m to about £35m. The overall spending limits for political parties during election campaigns should be lowered by at least 15% to address concerns about the escalating costs of campaigning and the potential for undue influence. 
  • Empower independent regulators: Regulators like the Electoral Commission, the Competition and Markets Authority, Ofwat and others should be empowered and given more independence from political whims, allowing them to take real action against trusts, monopolies, and oligopolies, and stand up to political malpractice.

Promote Thriving Public spaces:

  • Invest in and diversify Third Spaces: Support a wide range of Third Spaces, including public libraries, community gardens, and placemaking workshops to preserve and uphold public areas, and encourage interclass mixing and social connection. Enact policies that support the development and sustainability of Third Spaces, including tax incentives for organisations that provide community-oriented spaces and funding for public Third Spaces.
  • Access to public nature: Ensure universal access to green and blue spaces, including expanding the Right to Roam, the creation of new national parks, and ensuring access to local blue and green spaces, owned and managed by the public. As well as improving quality of life, this will improve health and mental health for many, particularly those living the most deprived areas.

Access to transformative justice:

  • Move towards a rehabilitative justice system: Invest in training and capacity building for community members, social workers, and justice practitioners to effectively implement and manage restorative and transformative justice programs. Develop and expand diversion programs that provide alternatives to incarceration, such as drug treatment programs, mental health programs, and community service orders.
  • Remove barriers to justice: Create a system of legal aid that gives all people access to justice at all levels. Remove financial barriers to legal recourse, such as court and tribunal fees, and simplify the overly-complex system of tribunals. End the racial disparities in the justice system which have led to much worse outcomes for many ethnic minorities, including Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities.
  • Implement a National Oversight Mechanism: Implement a body similar to that called for by Inquest which would exist on a permanent basis to ensure that government failings can’t be swept under the rug or forgotten about. This would follow up on inquiries and inquests, such as the infected blood scandal, Grenfell, Covid, or Horizon and the Post Office. The NOM would check whether recommendations had been implemented, report on the responses from public bodies, and monitor progress.

Recommendations for healthy and safe communities

Protect our children and young people: 

  • Increase levels of spending on early years: Achieve the OECD early-years expenditure average, while ensuring that funds are distributed fairly to areas that are more disadvantaged.
  • Restore per-pupil funding: Restore secondary school funding, particularly for sixth form, at least in line with 2010 levels.
  • Abolish private and grammar schools: Selective education creates a two-tier education system that embeds inequality through social stratification. These schools should slowly phase out selective admission and be integrated into the state system over a set period. Resources currently allocated to private and grammar schools could be redirected to support the state education system.
  • Implement a School Meals Act: Introduce a School Meals Act that mandates the provision of nutritious school meals and better integrates nutrition education into the school curriculum. The program could be modelled similarly to Japan’s Shokuiku program.

Maintain a healthy standard of living:

  • Transform the social security system: Revise existing welfare policies to end poverty-increasing caps (such as the two-child limit), end conditionalities, and end punitive sanctions, particularly for vulnerable populations, people with disabilities and those with caregiving responsibilities. Universal Credit must have an Essentials Guarantee so that the basic rate covers life essentials, including food, household bills, disability aids, and travel cost. To guarantee that no one falls between the cracks, the transformation must replace one-size-fits-all methods with the proper combination of targeted population-focused programmes and universal policies.
  • Create an integrated social protection system: Coordinate and integrate various components including childcare, elderly care services and pensions, disability benefits, and affordable housing into a coherent, rights-based national social protection system. 
  • Redesign our national care system: Enact legislation that explicitly recognises and safeguards the rights of unpaid family carers, including provisions for respite care, workplace accommodations, and financial support. Governments must transition towards a publicly funded and provided national care system, reducing reliance on private, for-profit providers, and implementing sectoral collective bargaining and fair wage agreements to raise wages, perceived value, and improve working conditions for paid care workers across the care sector. This must include support for children in care and care leavers.

Tackle the financialisation of housing:

  • Control entry of private equity and hedge funds: Implement stricter regulations on the entry of private equity and hedge funds into the housing market to prevent speculative practices that drive up housing costs and reduce affordability.
  • Reform real estate investment trusts (REITs): Adjust the tax treatment of REITs to ensure they contribute fairly to public revenues. This includes closing loopholes that allow REITs to pay almost no tax while distributing 90% of their profits to shareholders.
  • Reform council tax system: Replace the current regressive council tax system with a progressive property tax that reflects the true value of properties and relate to the household’s ability to pay.
  • Public investment in quality social housing: Increase public investment in the construction and maintenance of social housing to meet the growing demand and reduce housing costs. The Right to Buy social housing should be abolished and the maintenance and modernisation of social housing prioritised, to ensure they remain good-quality homes for all.
  • Secure homes for all: Alongside an expansion in housebuilding, the rights and securities of tenants should be expanded to include more secure tensures, an end to at-will evictions, a cap on rent increases, and access to arbitration mechanisms for disputes or unsafe conditions. In the long term, increased social home provision and rights to a secure home should aim to end the idea of a house as a financial asset and combat landlordism.
  • Enforce housing standards: Update and enforce housing standards to ensure that all homes are well-ventilated, and free from flammable cladding, mould, damp, and other sources of indoor air pollution, with penalties for developers and landlords for non-compliance.

Recommendations for people-centred governance and work 

Support local economic models:

  • Invest in community wealth building (CWB): Establish a CWB Task Force to develop and enact policies that support CWB principles: incentives to channel investment into local good jobs, municipal forms of organisational and land ownership, public procurement practices that benefit local supply chains, and the role of key anchor institutions (e.g hospitals and universities) in promoting fair work.
  • Begin the process of fiscal devolution: Adopt a gradual, phased approach to devolve spending power from central to regional and local governments to allow for learning, adaptation, and building the necessary institutional capacity over time. Governments must maintain equalisation systems to address fiscal disparities and ensure no region is left behind due to varying economic capacities.

Support alternative business models/solidarity economics:

  • Support co-operatives, mutuals, and employee-ownership: Draft and pass legislation that provides a supportive legal framework for co-operatives, mutuals, and employee-owned businesses, including tax incentives, simplified incorporation processes, and legal protections for worker-owners. Policies should facilitate the transition of existing businesses to worker ownership, particularly as part of succession planning for retiring business owners. This would also involve developing public procurement policies that prioritise contracts with co-operatives, mutuals, and employee-owned businesses, thereby supporting their growth and sustainability.
  • Stop the crackdown on unions: Enact and enforce legislation that protects the right to unionise, strike, and engage in collective bargaining, in compliance with ILO conventions, particularly the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).
  • Strengthen worker representation on boards: Introduce legislation requiring worker representation on the boards of listed and private companies with a certain number of employees.

Invest in quality labour practices:

  • Raise the national living wage (NLW): Pass legislation to raise the NLW to a level that matches per capita GDP, currently at £15. Establish a system of annual reviews conducted by an independent body such as the Low Pay Commission, to adjust the NLW in line with inflation in order to reduce in-work poverty. 
  • Improve working rights and conditions: Ensure all labour is done under safe and social conditions, with support for reduced or flexible hours, support given based on the risks of the job, rights to a fair work/life balance. Expand action against modern slavery and increase mandatory reporting of supply chain conditions.
  • Establish equally paid parental leave: Pass laws that mandate at least 18-weeks of paid parental leave for all genders, paid at 100% of prior salary, in line with ILO recommendations. Include provisions for non-transferable leave to ensure that both parents take time off and share caregiving responsibilities to balance the time, expenses, and burden of unpaid care labour between all genders, as well as between families and the state.
  • Value all work to combat pay gaps: Include all essential work as work that is valued, such as unpaid care, and establish a strong social element when deciding pay. Establish caps on pay for jobs which are socially or ecologically harmful. Strengthen and extend mandatory gender, ethnicity, and disability pay gap reporting and require real action to shrink those pay gaps. 
  • End shareholder primacy: Focusing primarily on shareholder returns can lead to decisions that boost short-term profits at the expense of long-term sustainability. Amend laws to expand the fiduciary duties of executives to ensure that boards of directors include representatives of various stakeholder groups, such as employees, customers, and community leaders.
  • Restrict dividend payouts: Enact legislation that prohibits companies from paying dividends to shareholders unless they meet their obligations to pay all employees and workers in their supply chain living wages.