I decided to write a list of issues I would like to hear action on from our politicians to stimulate the economy and improve the state of our society. I’m not an economist so haven't worked details, but the exact figures and levels are irrelevant anyhow. It’s the principles I think we should discuss. So here are 12 ideas, in no particular order. Might be a tad controversial though!
1 An amendment to the human rights act to the effect that anyone deliberately breaching the rights of another individual, or society in general, via crime, terrorism, or anti-social behaviour should have their rights automatically considered as subservient to those of the victim(s). Abuse your rights and you lose them.
2 A qualification period for immigration of 10 year’s legal residence or 5 years paying tax before any benefits or health treatment beyond emergency and lifesaving treatment can be claimed from the state. There could be an alternative of a social security ‘buy-in’ for people taking up jobs, rather like France. The ‘buy-in” would need to be set at approximately equivalent to 5 year’s tax at average salary.
3 Drastically reduce the cost of energy as fast as possible. It’s the biggest issue for growth and manufacturing. If the politicians can’t bear to admit their AGW folly let’s at least have a 10 year moratorium on all carbon taxes, credits, subsidies, permits and tariffs. Forget about “green energy”, get resources such as shale gas online as quickly as possible, and let the market find the best value for electricity generation. Apart from being a completely pointless nonsense the existing carbon controls are hideously bureaucratic, expensive and inefficient even were there a CO2 problem to answer. Petrol and transport costs also need to be significantly reduced, shale gas could help there too.
4 A complete moratorium on absolutely all non-essential spending and vanity projects. Overseas aid should be for emergencies only, Euro bailouts should not be our problem and we don’t need an expensive high speed rail line to Birmingham (we need cheap reliable transport nationally). Neither do we need diversity co-ordiators and minority rights officials paid for from local taxes, we need just front line council workers and a few people to co-ordinate them. We most certainly should not be bankrolling pressure groups and fake charities.
5 The complete abolition of National Insurance and job taxes, get rid of all the infrastructure and bureaucracy and load the same ‘tax-take’ onto ordinary income tax (less the savings of course).
6 How about the abolition of almost all employment regulations and employee social obligations loaded on employers. Make employment contracts obligatory and legally binding on employers so people know what they are signing up for and keep basic Health and Safety rules so employers cannot risk staff’s safety or exploit workers beyond their contract, but remove all the rest. That includes maternity pay, redundancy payouts and all minimum wage regulations – the idea is to get people hiring. Bad employers will soon run out of willing workers.
7 I know IDS is trying to sort benefits but I think I’m rather harsher than him. In return for less employment security I would suggest a citizen’s income for everyone over the age of 20 to replace all other benefits and state pensions, scrap them all, everything from free meals, through housing allowances and unemployment benefit along with all the departments and infrastructure that administer them. If a pensioner is expected to exist on less than £8000 a year anyone else should be able to. A small concession to allow, say, £2000 extra each per year for up to two (but no more) underage dependents, more for the disabled who genuinely cannot work, and a tapered fall off for people earning small amounts so they keep much of it, but otherwise that’s it. Anyone caught out by point 6 can immediately claim, no prying into people’s co-habiting arrangements, so it’s a universal safety net. Freely given but deliberately not a comfortable safety net, especially for a single person household, that’s part of the point. Single parents or single old people would need to get into a stable partnership or house share and this would also ease the housing shortage (see 10).
8 Clear the compete income tax muddle by removing all allowances, exceptions and special cases, just a £10,000 (or better) personal allowance and a single rate above it, the rate would probably end up between 30% and 40%, but if set for a similar tax take to current tax+NI should leave an average working family about the same. Remove tax on savings and pension schemes, they should be encouraged.
9 Make all bonus payments for all salaried government/public funded posts illegal. Bonuses are in effect a bribe to make people do their jobs, which they should be doing to the best of their ability anyhow in return for their contracted salary. Bribes are illegal, so bonus payments should be illegal too. Private companies can do what they like as long as bonuses are geared to profitability and worker profit sharing schemes should be strongly encouraged. Council, civil service and NHS salaries should also be capped at about 4 times the regional or council area mean wage.
10 Change the rules on private partnerships (gay marriage) to completely remove all sexual connotations and obligations. Why should we care, or have any right to know, whether people are gay or straight or whether or not they sleep together or have sex? We should allow any 2 adults to create a legal partnership giving them the social, financial and inheritance rights of a household. It doesn’t matter whether the two people are a couple with a sexual relationship or are simply two friends or are, for example, two elderly siblings wanting share a house and take responsibility for helping look after one another in their twilight years. Members of any households, however constituted, should be able to register for exactly the same social and financial rights.
11 Remove the now extensive powers to levy fixed penalty charges (fines) or costs on people for minor misdemeanours and anti social behaviour. There are now thousands of jobsworths, from beach wardens to bouncers through to parking attendants, traffic patrols and council employees who can hand out fixed penalty notices. Most of us have no idea what half the regulations are and have even less of a clue whether the charge (or fine) is being legally and fairly levied by a properly licensed individual. It’s a scammer’s charter. Only the police should have such powers (if anyone should) and even then there should be a clear honest appeals process.
12 Find a simple cost effective solution to old age sheltered accommodation. It is quite absurd that it can cost more to stay in a basic care home than it costs to stay in a luxury hotel or go on a package holiday. Where do the fees go, is it profits or excessive taxes and overregulation creating huge background costs? Maybe charity or co-operative solutions are possible but an affordable solution must be found.
All the above of course assumes that we will have any sort of economy or stable society after the Greek default.