Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond. Photo Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
What would an ‘Autumn Statement that works for everyone’ look like?
The Prime Minister says she wants ‘an economy that works for everyone’. The Autumn Statement – or mini budget – on the 23rd of November, will be the first test of her commitment, and that of the Chancellor, to put that into practice.
Here’s the actions we believe would show she’s serious about that goal.
1. Set out a plan for a Brexit that protects working people’s jobs and rights.
The Autumn Statement is the Chancellor’s chance to set out the path he wants the country’s economy to follow. The type of Brexit deal we get will be critical to that. So Philip Hammond should take this opportunity to set out the features of the deal the Government wants. We want a British deal that protects jobs and rights now and in the future, including continued compliance with EU protections for working people so we don’t fall behind conditions in the rest of Europe. While there’s a long round of negotiations to go, our opening position is that that’s best achieved by staying in the single market, at least until a new, uniquely British arrangement with the EU is agreed.
2. Invest to keep the economy moving, and to build our future capacity
Britain’s investment record is woeful. As new analysis by Geoff Tily sets out here we’re bottom of the league of OECD countries when it comes to investment in transport, and third from bottom when looked at across the board. The Government has made a start in this area, announcing the go-ahead for Heathrow, and progress on HS2. But we need a sustained push – a Great British Investment Plan – that will build the homes, roads, broadband and green energy we need for the future. Investing now will help boost business confidence in the uncertain environment created by Brexit. And it will help businesses operate more effectively well into the future too; Britain isn’t just at the bottom of the league table on investment but on productivity too. We need investment in our public services too – including in an expanded migration impact fund to ensure that the benefits of migration are fairly shared.
3. Make good on the promise of economic reform
Theresa May has talked the talk on economic reform, with a promise to introduce worker representation on company boards, and a nod towards an industrial strategy with a name change for the business department. But now we need to see action. Our research shows how worker representation on company boards could be a reality within a year, building on common practice across Europe and best practice in the UK. And we want to see a clear plan for an industrial strategy that measures its success by whether it can deliver more quality jobs to areas desperately in need of a boost to jobs and pay.
4. Give working people a pay boost now
Reform should deliver better jobs in the long term. But working people need a pay boost now, particularly as higher inflation and slower pay growth suggest that 2017 could see the return of the squeeze on living standards. Britain saw the largest fall in real wages after the financial crisis of any developed country except Greece, and wages still aren’t at their pre-crisis peak. First, government needs to keep the faith on the minimum wage, sticking to the target for ‘National Living Wage’ to rise to 60 per cent of median earnings by 2020, with a rise this year that makes that intention clear. The Government should end the unfair exclusion of 21-24 year olds from the higher rate too.
The 5 million people delivering our public services, from job centres to hospitals, schools to local councils, have seen six years of pay freezes and pay caps that means the average public sector workers’ pay has been cut by over £2,250 in real terms. Current plans that would see their pay capped by one per cent for the next four years must be dropped.
5. Make sure that everyone can realise their rights
Government plans to review employment rights are welcome. But at the moment, too many people miss out on existing rights because of unfair employment tribunal fees of up to £1,200. Our research showed that in the year before fees were introduced (2012/13) on average 16,000 people a month took a claim against their employer. However, by 2015/16 the average number of people taking claims dropped to 7,000 a month – that’s a drop of 9,000 a month.
The economy can’t work for everyone when working people are priced out of justice. Abolishing tribunal fees is a key test of the Prime Minister’s commitment to a better approach.
You can read the TUC’s full Autumn Statement submission here.