Brendan Barber proposes to increase demand as well as strengthening the economy in the long-term
The TUC has published a 10-point plan to kick-start the UK’s flailing economy.
The TUC believes the government’s unprecedented programme of spending cuts is reducing demand, slowing growth and exacerbating the squeeze on living standards. An urgent stimulus is needed before the UK’s stagnant economy slips into a double-dip recession, says the TUC.
General secretary Brendan Barber said: “The Chancellor’s economic plan A has sent unemployment to a 17-year high and the UK’s economic outlook is the gloomiest it’s been since the end of the recession.
“We urgently need a plan B to get people back into work and the economy back on its feet. The government must change course now and bring in immediate measures to support jobs and promote growth.”
The briefing sets out 10 immediate measures designed to boost the economy, all of which could be implemented in the next six months.
The 10 suggestions are all designed to increase demand directly (such as cutting VAT) or indirectly (for example by boosting employment opportunities for young people) as well as strengthening the economy in the long-term.
The measures the TUC pamphlet explores are:
- Making quantitative easing work for the economy: Channelling money directly to firms which could then use that investment to expand, either through purchases of corporate bonds or through a new government-owned investment vehicle.
- Reversing the VAT rise: This would lower inflation and raise wages, putting money in the pockets of those most likely to spend it and providing a much needed boost to consumer spending.
- Raising capital allowances: Increasing capital allowances would encourage businesses to focus on the long-term and increase investment, contributing to domestic demand.
- Investing in apprentices and young people: There needs to be a replacement for the Future Jobs Fund, measures to support the creation of apprenticeships and a government commitment that no unemployed young person will spend more than six months out of employment or training.
- Investing in energy-intensive industries: The TUC and employers are calling on the government to copy industrial policy support that competitor countries such as Germany give to their energy-intensive industries. Immediate proposals include relief from the carbon tax from April 2013 for those industries most at risk and providing finance for new technology.
- Using procurement to support the economy: Procurement contracts should include clauses that guarantee apprenticeships, that require companies to meet the contract in an environmentally sustainable fashion and – where appropriate – that provide job opportunities for those who find it particularly hard to enter the labour market. Important procurement contracts should be brought forward.
- Protecting the science budget: Investment in science and engineering gives historically proven benefits to society, in both the short and long terms.
- Reversing the cut in support for the solar power feed-in tariff: The jobs of many of the 25,000 people now working in the UK solar power industry are at risk if the government continues with plans to halve the feed-in tariff from December. The decision to cut the tariff should be cancelled until the government has negotiated a new rate with the industry and unions that will secure current jobs and deliver real growth in jobs and investment.
- Reversing the public sector wage freeze: Recent research by Incomes Data Services (IDS) found that the median settlement for private sector pay deals in the three months to the end of September was 2.6 per cent – still far short of what is needed to keep pace with living costs – but the median in the public sector remained at zero. The combined effect of the pay freeze, VAT increase and high inflation has meant a huge squeeze on the spending power of public sector workers.
- Introducing a one-off increase in child benefit: A one-off child benefit boost would give families across the UK some welcome relief in the run up to Christmas, almost guaranteeing that money would go directly back into the economy. Child benefit is paid weekly to households across the UK, which means that the system to give Britain’s families a Christmas bonus is already in place.
Brendan Barber said: “The measures the TUC is suggesting today – including a reversal of the VAT cut, increased investment for apprentices and young people, and lifting the public sector wage freeze – could all be implemented quickly and would give the economy that much-needed boost.”
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