Fairer Taxation and the Future Funding of our Public Services

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2016 National Delegate Conference
25 February 2016
Carried as Amended

Conference is dismayed that nearly six years on from his promise to “fix” the economy and only one month after the 2015 Autumn Statement – in which he said that the government’s job is no longer to “rescue Britain”, but to “rebuild Britain” – George Osborne has again returned to the economic politics of austerity and the spectre of international economic problems as an excuse to further slash spending on public services. Conference is also angered by the arrogance of a Chancellor of the Exchequer who told the country in November 2015 that no economy in the G7 has grown faster than the UK in any year since 2010, that government spending will continue to rise and that more than a million extra jobs will be created over the next five years – only for him to say in January 2016 that he was confused why “people think that it’s ‘job done’”.

The last five years have seen massive cuts in public spending, huge public sector redundancies and pay restraint across the public services on an unprecedented scale. George Osborne has already let it slip that the Conservative Party’s plans are no longer about “balancing the books” but that they want to return the UK to the level of spending of the 1930’s – a time before the NHS and when young people left school at 14.

UNISON members have experienced the worst of the Conservative Party’s failure to create a fair and balanced economy. With rising prices and falling wages, working people across the UK are worse off than they were before the 2010 General Election because of the disastrous economic policies of David Cameron’s governments. These cuts were made on the backs of the poor and disadvantaged, whilst big businesses and wealthy individuals continue to get huge tax cuts. Most public sector workers haven’t had a pay rise in recent years – whilst the profits of big businesses continue to increase and the chief executives of Britain’s largest companies earned more by 5 January 2016 than most people will earn in the entire year.

Conference rejects the Conservative Party’s ideology that economic prosperity will only be created by big businesses and the rich and that we must keep their taxes low to incentivise them to act benevolently. Conference also rejects the Conservative Party’s mantra that only reductions in public spending, the introduction of competition into public service provision and the privatisation of nationally provided collective public services will deliver a stable economy for the future. Instead, Conference believes that increasing the wages of the lowest paid members of society and implementing a progressive taxation system, based upon a principle that the more you earn the more you contribute, will provide a fairer balance for funding the public services that are accessed by everyone regardless of their incomes.

Conference continues to believe that investment in public services must be seen as a cornerstone of a fairer and just society.

Conference believes the UK deserves the best public services and that this can be funded by a permanent bankers’ bonus tax which could have raised around £2bn in 2015 alone, reversing the Conservative cuts to corporation tax (which by 2020 will mean big business pays £13bn less in taxes each year) and the reintroduction of a 50% rate of income tax for high earners – to ensure that those who can afford to contribute more to society do so. A fairer taxation system must also include efforts to tackle tax avoidance and evasion as well as the introduction of a financial transactions tax.

UNISON believes that a fairer system of taxation is not about punishing success – but instead is the basis for economic success and is also the key to achieving social reforms such as ending child and pensioner poverty, ending low pay and saving our natural resources. A modern taxation system for modern public services can ensure everyone can access high quality public services.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to support campaigns for the fair funding of public services through a fair system of taxation. Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to do this by:

1)Working with the TUC, Scottish TUC, Welsh TUC and Irish Congress of Trade Unions and partners across civil society and campaign groups to establish a model for a fairer and more stable systems of taxation specifically to fund public services;

2)Commission research for a funding models for local government, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland which ensures that public services are properly funded but not at the expense of individual areas, regions or nations;

3)Continue to monitor and campaign around English devolution;

4)Explore protecting access to certain public services in law to ensure their funding is protected appropriately;

5)Campaign to oppose the myth that higher taxes are a punishment and encourage people to view taxation as contributions towards the provision of excellent public services for everyone;

6)Continue to campaign for a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ on financial transactions;

7)In light of the above, amend and re-issue UNISON’s alternative economic strategy and encourage its use as a campaigning and educational tool;

8)Working with the Labour Party, through Labour-Link, to develop an economic policy which rejects austerity, but ensures that a credible and robust plan for UK Government and the devolved institutions can be put in place to support fairly funded public services, public investment, job security and the raising of living standards.