A 'careless' Queen's speech
- Social care can kicked down the road. In July 2019, the Prime Minister promised his Government would “fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared”. But a plan for social care was missing from last week’s Queen’s Speech, which set out the Government’s legislative agenda for this year.
- ~~Response. Care organisations have been left “extremely disappointed” by the lack of announcements on social care last week. NHS Confederation Chief Executive Danny Mortimer says: “The NHS and social care are sister services – if one suffers so does the other – and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how fragile and in dire need of reform England’s social care system has become… reform must no longer be delayed”.
- Debunking Treasury opposition. The Prime Minister’s favoured plan for funding reform is a cap on care costs to ensure those who need extensive adult social care do not face sky-high fees, as recommended in 2011 by the Dilnot Commission. Senior Health Foundation researchers explain this proposal and counter reported Treasury objections that the cap would not be affordable.
- ~~(The authors note that a cap alone would not be sufficient to ‘fix’ social care – see bullets below for resources on wider reform proposals.)
- Care spending as investment. The Women’s Budget Group (WBG) argues that chronic underspending on care reflects a gender bias in economic policy-making, and calls for such spending to be seen as investment in social infrastructure to counter this.
- ~~Biden’s shift on social infrastructure. In line this approach, President Biden treated care as infrastructure spending in his American Jobs Plan, allocating $400bn to investment in care and health systems (see our summary and analysis here).
- ~~Care as stimulus. Previous analysis from the Women’s Budget Group estimated that investing in care as part of an economic stimulus package would provide almost three times as many jobs than the equivalent investment in construction.
- Blueprint for reform. The Women’s Budget Group Commission on a Gender-Equal Economy has laid out the roadmap for a creation of a “Caring Economy", including recommendations both for particular public services (e.g. including a Universal Care Service) and for how public services are treated within the UK’s broader economic policy framework, ending the chronic undervaluing of care.
- ~~Health and care. The King’s Fund has published “five priorities for health and care” as part of the “road to renewal” for the health and care system considering together.
- ~~An industrial strategy for care. CLES's Isaac Stanley and Common Wealth's Adrienne Buller and Mathew Lawrence released a report outlining a people-centred industrial strategy for a care-led recovery in England. The report is backed by UNISON and the TUC calls for councils ending the use of private care providers, a living wage for care workers and properly funding care through progressive taxation. (Independent coverage here)
- ~~Childcare. The New Economics Foundation has made the case for a Childcare Infrastructure Fund to sustain the childcare sector in the face of both Covid-related and longer-term pressures.
- Queen’s speech. 30 pieces of legislation were outlined in the State Opening of Parliament last week, including a Planning Bill, Environment Bill, Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, Health and Care Bill, Procurement Bill, Dormant Assets Bill, a Levelling Up White Paper and more.
- ~~Analysis. IPPR’s reaction emphasised the need to plug the ”policy gulf” on environment, planning, health and care agenda. The LGA’s On-the-Day Briefing provides a good overview of the announcements from a local government perspective.
- ~~Progressive alternative. Labour figures, including former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, published an “Alternative Queen’s Speech” to outline a would-be legislative agenda for a left Labour government.
Environment and climate change
- New peer-reviewed research on degrowth. A landmark article published in journal Nature Communications argues that the IPCC and associated climate modellers should consider pathways to emissions reduction involving ‘degrowth’ in rich countries, and is the first comprehensive comparison of degrowth pathways with established emissions reduction scenarios. (Twitter thread from paper author)
- ~~What is degrowth? Degrowth is defined as an “equitable, democratic reduction in energy and material use while maintaining wellbeing”. The authors argue that these reductions must be accompanied by “deep socioeconomic changes and policy reforms, such as universal basic services, maximum incomes, working time reductions, and democratic ﬁrm ownership” to protect living standards and avoid the harmful and politically challenging effects of recession.
- ~~Why degrowth? Established climate scenarios rely on risky assumptions around “controversial negative emissions and unprecedented technological change” to deliver emissions reductions in combination with GDP growth. A degrowth approach, it is argued, would reduce the reliance on untested and potentially unfeasible technologies in limiting warming.
- ~~US techno-optimism. In contrast to this analysis, US climate envoy John Kerry argued this week that 50% of carbon reductions needed to achieve net zero will come from technologies not yet invented, and that people “don’t have to give up a quality of life” to cut emissions.
- ~~UK techno-optimism. Last month the Government announced a new emissions target in line with the Committee for Climate Change’s (CCC) advice (Carbon Brief summary). But the Government has not followed the CCC’s policy recommendations, particularly around politically difficult topics such as reducing meat consumption and other behavioural changes, instead emphasising “new green technologies”. BusinessGreen’s James Murray argues that the Government cannot rely on such “techno-optimism” to meet its targets, and must instead show political leadership and policy development on trickier areas of the transition to net zero.
- Local financing of solar panels. Torbay Council outlined plans for a £1m community green bond, the third local authority to launch a scheme for local people to invest in environmentally friendly projects in their area.
Welfare, public services and inequalities
- Social guarantee. New site SocialGuarantee.org sets out a policy framework in which every person’s access to life’s essentials is enshrined as a right and delivered through reimagined public services. The site curates a range of resources, including examples of best practice from around the world in provision of services such as adult social care, transport, housing, internet access, and childcare. (Launch video)
- Addressing the housing crisis through a Land Commission. Over 50 organisations, including housing and climate groups, trade unions and charities, have signed an open letter to Andy Burnham calling for a democratic approach to managing public land in Greater Manchester.
- Fiscal policy and human rights. The Centre for Economic and Social Rights and a number of Latin American and Caribbean policy experts have developed a set of Principles for Human Rights in Fiscal Policy. They argue this is a “ground-breaking normative tool that distills the key human rights principles applicable to tax and budget policies and translates them into more concrete guidelines for the design, implementation, and assessment of fiscal policies”.
- US moves against tax havens. 97 Nonprofit organisations across the world signed Financial Accountability & Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition’s petition to support the Disclosure of Tax Havens and Offshoring Act, a piece of US legislation to require large PLCs to disclose accounts data on a country-by-country basis to shine a spotlight on tax avoidance.
- UK resisting US global minimum corporate tax. The FT reported that Rishi Sunak is “holding back support for Joe Biden’s plans for a 21 per cent minimum global business tax rate”. Tax Justice UK Director Robert Palmer argued the move was “not a good look” for a government with a stated commitment to tackling tax avoidance and argued Biden’s proposals could be a “game-changer”.
- ~~International alignment. The OECD is overseeing a forum to overhaul the international tax architecture and coordinate national tax proposals to prevent arbitrage and a race to the bottom. The Economist argued that “Tax authorities should do away with the fiction that intangible capital can be priced accurately through transfer pricing and instead try to reflect where activity takes place, by looking at sales and where employees are.”
- BoE speech on Central Bank Digital Currency. Sir Jon Cunliffe, Deputy Governor of Financial Stability at the Bank of England, gave a speech on the future of publicly-issued money in a world of crypto-currencies: “we are seeing accelerating changes in the way we live and transact that will greatly reduce and perhaps eventually eliminate the role that public money plays in the economy today".