Sunday, 31 August 2014

A wish list for a manifesto.

Last week  I was invited to a "working lunch" with a few other Liberals. The initial idea was to discuss proposals for the 2015 manifesto but we realised that we couldn't realistic do this as, presumably, the Liberal Democrat manifesto will be based on policy resolutions from our Conferences, and we didn't have a sufficiently comprehensive knowledge of these. So the terms of reference for our lunch  were reduced to a general chat about our party's predicament and how to improve matters.

However, by that time I had put together my "wish list", so here it is:



A manifesto 2014?

Taxation
Tax reductions, if any, to be on regressive taxes (eg VAT);
End to tax exemption for pension contributions above those necessary to build a pension pot necessary generate an income equivalent to the median wage;
Tax evasion and avoidance to become a high priority;
HMRC staff to be increased and powers strengthened;
Corporation  tax reductions for firms which offer  employee participation in decision making and profit sharing.
Housing
Ambitious building and repairs target;
Freedom for local authorities to borrow to build;
Right to buy to be suspended;
Local authorities encouraged to prepare brownfield sites for building;
New towns to be near sources of employment (not 10 to 15 miles away, as currently planned);
Land value taxation on all properties, including empty ones.
Social Security
Respect for the elderly, unemployed, disabled, single parents and other recipients of social security - (stop referring to is as “welfare” which is now pejorative);
Royal Commission on the social security system , with particular reference the feasibility of a Citizen’s Income;
Triple lock to be extended from pensions to all social security payments;
End to the bedroom tax where disabled people are involved, where extra accommodation is needed for separated parent to house their children on visits, and where alternative “downsized” accommodation is unavailable.
Defence
Trident replacement to be abandoned;
No military action except through UN.
Foreign policy
As far as possible work through United Nations and EU;
Work towards creation of an independent UN armed police force.
Europe
Stop prattling on about the need for reform (the others do enough of that);
Emphasise positive contribution EU makes through environmental protection, food security and labelling, catching international criminals, health and safety protection of employees etc etc.
Environment
Commitment to green sources of energy, in particular investment in and development of tidal and wave power;
Protection of Green Belt;
Support of EU  regulations on noxious emissions, clean beaches etc.
Health
No further privatisation of health services;
Those already outsourced to be brought back in house when contracts ended;
A system of hub (big ones) and cottage hospitals;
Restoration of full functions of NICE.
Education
Strengthening of local authority functions in education in terms of planning, support services , negotiation and awarding of contracts, and a supportive system of advisers to replace much of the work of OFSTED;
Reduction of powers and scope of OFSTED;
End to restrictions on qualified overseas students;
Generally, less meddling and allowing the system to bed down;
Strengthening of technical sector and real apprenticeships;
Scope for local authority variations and experimentation.
Transport
Put HS2 on the back burner;
Concentrate on improving regional rail networks and local bus services;
Fuel, road taxes and other motoring costs to be raised above inflation;
Local authorities, cities etc encouraged to introduce road pricing schemes.
Economy
Deficit reduction to be achieved by expansion of the economy, and therefore tax take, rather than public spending cuts;
Emphasis on productivity.  Firms encouraged to introduce profit sharing schemes and employee participation in decision making, and to expand R&D and training;
Tobin-type tax on share and currency dealings to raise public revenue and discourage speculation;
Retention of at least one of the part state-owned banks with the remit to provide long term low cost funding to industry, especially SMEs (as is done in Germany).
Constitution
Restoration of powers and responsibilities of local government (eg in education, as above, and other areas);
Royal Commission on a Bill of Rights defining powers of local, regional and central government  -scope depends on result of Scottish referendum;
Whilst the Second Chamber remains unreformed, any new members to be called Senators without any further titles or fancy clothes, appointed for a limited period rather than for life, and such new appointments (if needed) made through an appointments commission.
Lora Norder
Reduction in number of mandatory sentences;
Expansion of probation service, brought back into the public realm;
Reduction in number of prison sentences;
Expansion of prison health and education services;
Votes for all prisoners - they remain human and citizens.
Communications.
Restore cuts to BBC World Service;
Protect the BBC Licence Fee and protect it from privatisation;
Introduce measures to encourage diversification of ownership of media.

The above is from the top of my head rather than a systematic trawl through all possible issues, but I'd like to feel my party will have the courage to put forward at least some of the these ideas.

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