Each year the Labour party consults with members on different topics, asking questions about policy going forward. We call this the Policy Forum! Here’s the website https://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/  It’s a really important part of the democratic way our party operates. You can go onto the website and ‘Make a submission’, and have your say on something that is important to you.

Throughout the Policy Forum (which ran throughout June & July) we had our own local discussion on Zoom. Thanks to all those who came, there were some really interesting views, and I learned about the matters that matter to you!

Here are the topics and the questions we discussed, together with the answers we came to that I have submitted to the NPF.

Now the Consultation has ended, the NPF will read submissions (like the one below) and then come up with the actual policies for the whole Labour Party. Papers on different topics will be written, and then those papers get put to the Party Conference and voted on individually, and if approved then ta-da! Policy!

Julia Wheeler
Broadland CLP Policy Officer

 

Environment

  1. What conditions should be attached to financial support given?
    • Bailouts should not be a mere loan. There should be conditions.
    • carbon neutrality
    • industry specific targets, and more stringent ones for fossil fuel/airline companies.
    • that the firm is based in the UK and not a tax haven, and that the company pays full taxes.
    • workers rights. Retain as many workers as possible, and offer retraining where retention is not possible.
  1. Other green infrastructure projects people could be redeployed to:
    • locallised power generation: eg Norwich City Council have their own community owned energy production.
    • Home insulation is really important
    • upgrading flood defences around norfolk coast.
    • putting in green transport projects, eg cycle routes around villages to get to the schools.

Other points:

Taxation must be paid by companies and not avoided, so that green projects can be funded.

Localised supply chains, and support for local businesses. We are used to being able to buy from our local shops, our farm shops in the villages etc, and currently can’t because of lockdown and the national supermarkets are not purchasing from our local farms.

Scrap zero hours contracts so that workers have sustainable income, and can then plan accordingly.

People shouldn’t support Amazon, and encouragement should be given accordingly to shop elsewhere.

 

Health and Social Care

  1. What lessons can we learn?
    • Care workers are key workers: they should be paid as such.
    • Care workers work long days, with few breaks, and little thanks, and put their lives at risk, and increase the risk of spreading disease because they move from home to home. They should be given better pay, better contracts with routine and stable people they are providing care to, and given shorter days with more chance to have a break in between.
    • There weren’t enough care workers: care workers do zero hours contracts: care workers are doubling up and working for more than one agency, and this increases the risk to them of catching and risk of spreading disease. Should employ more care staff, and put them on fixed contracts so that they have a guaranteed wage and aren’t having to look for other matters.
    • Central govt can say what it likes, but because care homes are privately run there was no ability to control the spread of the disease. Therefore should be nationalised.
  1. What drivers should underpin on health care policy?
    • Renationalise the NHS. Serco and their cronies should be thrown out. The NHS has already been privatised and it should immediately be renationalised.
    • Fund it better. We expect the £350m a week from Brexit to be paid over immediately.
  1. What drivers should underpin our settlement for social care?
    • Nationalised care service.
    • Council care homes.
    • Scrap zero hours contracts and pay workers a good wage.
  1. How can we ensure health & care workers are valued and rewarded?
    • Scrap zero hours contracts.
    • Pay a proper wage, not minimum wage, or living wage, but recognise it for an extremely valued skill, and pay it accordingly.
    • Get them PPE
  1. Areas for focus going forward.
    • Mental health. Worry/anxiety/depression/ptsd all increasing. In Norfolk our local NHS trust is in absolute dire straits, having been condemned several years running and has got worse during lockdown . Mental health services are going to need much more investment going forward, and priorty should be given to it.

 

Welfare Benefits

  1. What has the crisis taught us?
    • That the poor performance of UC has not been improved, and needs to be rapidly overhauled immediately:
      • UC must immediately scrap the 5 week wait.
      • UC rates must be increased as it is not enough to live on.
      • The computation month must be reassessed. (particularly following court of appeal finding that it was unlawful)
      • The advanced payments must not be treated as a loan and should be an actual payment: pay UC in advance not in arrears.
      • Increase the local housing allowance. It doesn’t cover the rent.
      • Improve how it pays for mortgages, as more home owners are now needing to claim it as unemployment rises.
      • Scrap the lower rates for under 25s. What are they supposed to live on, air?
      • Scrap the penalty system, under lockdown people haven’t been required to do the full job search hours and the world didn’t end because of it, and instead people were able to continue to get their benefits.
    • Scrap the bedroom tax
    • Scrap the benefit cap.
    • Scrap the 2 child limits.
    • That the govt does have a magic money tree and therefore can spend it on
  1. Change in public perceptions.
    • Yes: language around benefit claimants eg ‘scroungers’ has changed.
    • understanding that the rates of payment really are low, and that it wasn’t just people who were unable to budget and incompetent saying that. No one can realistically live on such low income and pay all bills, and housing costs.
    • Understanding that the welfare system is supposed to catch everyone, and that the need to claim could happen to anyone at any point.
    • the ‘them’ and ‘us’ condescending attitude has shifted a bit. Need to maintain this, and build on removing prejudice, particularly concepts about the undeserving poor.
    • A country that calls itself civilised should treat people fairly and with respect, and making sure that all public narrative/discourse is couched in those terms, instead of assuming that the people on benefits are uneducated, illiterate, idiots with no idea how to manage their money, and
  1. Benefits available to all?
    • Absolutely yes, including those with no recourse to public funds who are here legally.
    • Universal basic income should be considered – there is a lot of merit to it for lower wage earners. This could be brought into the UC system: eg raise the threshold at which UC starts to taper off to a much more reasonable average wage (rather than a pathetic 16hrs min wage) and then people will start to be financially secure.
    • Benefit cap should be scrapped, it’s punitative on single mothers with more than 4 children.
    • Scrap all child limits: it’s absolutely arbitrary to limit child benefits to only 2 children. It has now been evidenced that claiming benefits can happen to anyone instead of this ridiculous narrative that all single mothers deliberately set out to have more children to claim more benefits.
  1. Benefits for self employed people.
    • scrap the assumption on UC about self employed earnings and actually look at reality, as though they were an employee.
  1. Role in addressing inequality and poverty.
    • Exploring UBI more would be essential to understanding this, and making sure that people have access to income fairly.
    • scrap zero hour contracts.
    • increase the local housing allowance to actually

 

Economy

  1. Priorities for economic recovery:
    • scrap zero hours contracts.
    • Improve welfare rates
    • Ensure that companies are all paying the right tax.
    • Make any bailouts to companies linked to environmental reforms/targets
    • Renationalising services.
  1. Ensure work is fulfilling/ secure and well paid:
    • scrap zero hours contracts.
    • Explore Universal Basic Income. Eg: UC tapers off after 16hrs a week work is obtained. Increase that threshold to something more realistic, eg the average wage in the country, and then everyone can afford everything and aim realisitcally to become financially stable.
    • Workers sit in the boardroom and make decisions.
  1. Economy that is fairer and more sustainable:
    • Link bailouts to environmental reforms/targets.
    • Scrap zero hours contracts.
    • Improve the tax allowance.
    • Deal with Brexit.
  1. Families are financially resilient in the future.
    • Scrap zero hours contracts.
    • Explore Universal Basic Income – eg not giving money to those who are financially stable, but setting it at an average threshold for earnings.
    • Reform Universal Credit in the meantime, including increasing the rates that it pays at, including increasing local housing allowance.
    • Build social housing so that people have stable homes and aren’t at risk of eviction from private landlords easily.
  1. A new social contract with businesses
    • Business provide education opportunities, and training.
    • Business provide health care vouchers, eg dentist and opticians.
    • Business provide PPE
    • Workers in the board rooms.
    • Workers share in profits.

 

 

Local Government

  1. How do we open up local democracy?
    • education around what local democracy is: it’s confusing to know the difference between parish/district/county councillors, and what any of them do, or have the power to do.
    • make the system more streamlined, eg unitary authorities.
    • Give parish councillors more of a community role, eg send them out to meet with everyone in their parish and actually know who the vulnerable are and what help they need. Give parish councils more power accordingly – or at least a direct link to the district/county councillors.
  1. What is national govt for and what is local govt for.
    1. Too big a question to be answered here, but it does need to be more thoroughly explored. We live in a very Tory rural area. Therefore need to be careful about how much power is handed to local govt: if Labour were in power in Westminster and lots of decision making had been devolved to local govt, then it wouldn’t matter if Labour was passing the most brilliant socialist laws in the world as the local Tory councils would stonewall all of it. This happened, for example with the expansion of grammar schools and would happen again.
    2. We should look very carefully at how other federal systems work, and cherry pick the best elements from our international friends, not just devolve everything quickly.
    3. Example today is in the news about Leicester needing their own localised lockdown, but central govt is not sharing the relevant information/data with the local leader of the council. There needs to be much more fluid communication.

 

  1. How can we make local govt more democratic and accountable?
    • There is huge disinterest, the ‘politicians are all the same’ attitude needs to be overcome and showing that councillors are humans who have real jobs in the real world and experience the same issues as the other local people.
    • there is interest in local issues: facebook groups for the villages have increased in the numbers of them, and people are using them more. Other social media apps as well show that people are interested in local issues. Therefore need to make sure that councillors get out there and show that it is not a ‘them’ and ‘us’.
    • Make sure councils and councillors (particularly at parish level) are linked up with other community groups, eg church.
    • One localparish council managed to raise money to give £5k to local businesses to support them, and there was lots of interest and support in this from the local people.
    • try to get people away from ‘party’ id, and stereotypes.
  1. Digital Technology.
    • Set up proper broadband everywhere. We are in rural norfolk, and internet and telephone signals are poor and infrastructure still needs to be invested in.
    • Then provide a free broadband service for people, particularly lower incomes so that it can be accessed.
  1. Resources for local authorities
    • Work out fairer distribution of taxes across England
    • Allow local authorities to retain more tax revenue.

 

Education

  1. Lessons learned
    • Smaller class sizes are better, as the current class sizes have been almost impossible for teachers to keep track of how individual students managed during lockdown.
    • Smaller class sizes are needed to be able to manage disease.
    • Smaller class sizes are needed to be able to observe and help not only learning, but also social issues, or mental health illness.
    • Smaller class sizes are better for teachers to be able to manage all the ‘non teaching’ things we ask of teachers, such as identifying abuse/terrorists/neglect/mental illness.
    • We do not have a good system that allows each child to learn in a way that is suitable for them.
    • Students do not have access to technology that is needed to connect remotely, low income families have not had internet access/laptops etc, therefore need to ensure that this is provided for nationally with better internet provision.
  1. Accountability of schools.
    • Deal with the lack of accountability with academies. The local authority has responsibility for SEN children, but the acadmies seem to be able to ignore this at their pleasure, so overhaul the constitution of academies to put back into local authority oversight.
    • sort out OFSTED! Inequalities are unfair and unreasonable, crazy amount of bureaucracy for teachers.
  1. What other services are needed?
    • Mental health – have a nurse in the school/ counsellors.
    • Social Services
    • food banks
    • School uniform banks.
    • Consider systems where schools can give vulnerable students vouchers to buy what they need (not just cash to the parents, but specific vouchers so that the support is targetted appropriately) expectation that this is funded by local authority and organised by schools.
  1. Education system support people in the economic turmoil
    • Free school meals.
    • Free child care availability for those working.
    • Free school buses.
    • Free school uniforms – or systems in the school so that children ‘recycle’ their uniforms via the school instead of having to buy expensive new ones.
    • Training for the children into apprenticeships.
    • Look at the tuition fees charged to the university students, and sort out the system of charging exorbitant amounts for them.
  1. How to support the staff.
    • Pay teachers a better salary
    • Reduce their stress: fewer assessments, smaller class sizes
    • Review the national curriculum so that it teaches relevant and practical subjects including budgetting, and apprenticeship skills.

 

Justice & Home Affairs

  1. Devolution and federalism
    • Do not divide up the United Kingdom, we wish to keep the 4 nations together.
    • If going to devolve to English regions, then need to ensure reasonable distribution of wealth in order to support areas.
    • Any constitutional changes has to be matched with economic distribution, and will need reform to our electoral structures in order to support it.
  1. Metro mayors:
    • We do not support. In a rural area such as Norfolk there is no identity to have a Mayor of Norwich that would have relevance for the whole of Norfolk. There is not sufficient identity to have a Mayor of Norfolk.
  1. Strengthen the role of Parliament and courts in accountability of the government.
    • We are aware of the contents of the Conservative party manifesto on this area, and we strongly oppose all of it (page 48).
    • We strongly support the right of individuals to judicial review of government decisions, and the courts should retain their power to do check that government actions are compliant with the law.
    • We believe that the Supreme Court is a constitutional court, and that it clearly has the power to hold the government to account on it’s decisions.
    • The Human Rights Act is important and should not be scrapped. Updated is simply another word for scrapped.
    • The voting age should be reduced to 16 years old, and supported by clear lessons in schools for students on politics and voting.
    • Consider codifying the constitution into one place, so that it is clearly laid out and everyone can see it.
    • Consider using referendum more frequently so that it becomes more ordinary and less binary.

4&5 ran out of time to discuss.

 

 

Internationalism

  1. Values of internationalism.
    • The value of internationalism is through unity with other nations we can advance common interests.
    • It is possible to do this and still be patriotic. It is a misconception that supporting internationalism means that you don’t believe in our country/ act in the best interests of our country, and want to interfere in other countries to the detriment of our own.
    • Some issues can only be resolved by internationalism, such as climate change.
    • We should resist all attacks on WHO and UN.
    • We should embrace our friends and allies in order to progress together, and show that other countries are our friends and not enemies who should be feared.

 

  1. Not discussed.

 

  1. International Development Strategy:
    • We oppose the closure of Department for International Development, and believe it should remain seperate to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
    • All international development should be underpinned by ethics – eg you can give to a country that is a dictatorship, if you are supporting the people who are suffering because of it.
    • We should not be given aid to states that is used to purchase arms.
    • Aid should be for the alleviation of poverty.
    • We should retain our 0.7% giving.

 

  1. Global Leadership
    • The world super powers of China and USA should be handled carefully. We should not ally too closely with the USA, but treat them cautiously.
    • Russia is attempting to be a disruptive influence, and we will need to look after national security to defend against this.
    • We are saddened to have seen a lose of British global leadership by the fiasco of our government in the last few years, and that Britain is no longer seen as competent, and coherent, but as bumbling fools.
    • We should work closely with the European neighbours to reestablish this position.

 

  1. National security.
    • We recognise the economic impact that our armed forces have on regions, particularly in Northern England, where many people are employed, and have patriotic communities.
    • The funding for the armed forces should be appropriate
    • The support provided for returning service personnel should be high, for mental health, housing and jobs.
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