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2019 National Delegate Conference
18 February 2019
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that brutal austerity has continued to blight public services. Despite claims from Prime Minister Theresa May in her 2018 Conservative Party Conference speech that “support for public services will go up”, all public services have been pushed to – and in many cases beyond – breaking point.

Conference notes that during almost a decade of austerity, the Conservative government have paired savage cuts to the public sector with tax cuts for some of the wealthiest in society.

UNISON research shows that the 19,000 taxpayers earning more than one million pounds per year have between them gained £11.1 billion since the top rate of income tax was slashed by the Conservative government.

Conferences notes that the Resolution Foundation estimates demographic changes alone are set to increase the size of the current UK public sector by £36 billion a year by 2030, and £84 billion by 2040.

Conference notes that the latest official HMRC ‘tax gap’ estimate of £33 billion not collected does not take account of the taxes that are avoided by multinational companies such as Starbucks, Amazon and Google through overseas transfer pricing and other financial engineering. According to the Tax Justice Network, this tax avoidance could amount to £120 billion a year.

Conference further notes Tax Justice Network research estimating corporate profits equivalent to 0.9% of world GDP were shifted in 2012 and that between $21-$32 trillion of assets are stashed in offshore tax havens.

Conference believes that austerity must end immediately and spending cuts must be reversed, but this will not happen under a government which prioritises tax cuts over restoring public service spending to safe levels. Conference notes the Scottish Governments ability to vary Income Tax which is now being used to a limited extent.

Conference believes that an alternative economic agenda is needed, not just to defend public services but to help identify and build the public services of the future.

Conference believes that any alternative economic agenda must prioritise increasing the funding available to public services through a significant increase in tax revenues.

Conference believes that working people – especially public service workers – have been hit hardest by austerity, and should not be forced to bear the bulk of these necessary tax rises. Tax rises should be focused on those individuals and companies with the greatest income and the greatest wealth.

Conference believes that UNISON must be leading the debate on progressive taxation, decent pay, quality jobs and sustainable growth as an alternative to the rampant free-market ideology of the current Westminster government.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

1)Campaign for a shift to more progressive taxation as the means of funding quality public services and properly placing the burden for doing so on those who can most afford it;

2)Ensure that UNISON’s public facing campaigning for decent levels of investment in public services explains how this can be paid for from progressive taxation;

3)Reaffirm UNISON’s commitment to increases in Corporation Tax and the top rate of income tax and the introduction of a “Robin Hood Tax” on trades of stock and shares;

4)Support research and campaigns on potential new sources of funding for public services – especially taxes on wealth and unearned income;

5)Continue to make the case that higher progressive taxation is necessary and positive as it funds better public services in a fair and transparent way for the benefit of everyone;

6)Support the end of the caps on local government council tax and to provide local government with fair funding for decent services and the freedom to raise extra revenue through a variety of sources when required;

7)Support the work of organisations such as the Tax Justice Network, Publish What You Pay, and the Fair Tax Mark that seek to promote corporate transparency, social responsibility and end tax avoidance by multinational companies and wealthy individuals;

8)Promote changes to the Public Contract regulations that would add the use of tax havens by company corporate structures or the failure to comply with (extended) country by country financial reporting as grounds for mandatory exclusion from invitations to tender.