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Time for a new plan

TUC Submission for HM Treasury October 2021 Spending Review
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
Introduction and summary

The pandemic showed us that when government, unions and business work together we can make a real difference. The Coronavirus job retention scheme, forged through social partnership, helped save nearly 12 million jobs. But the current chaos in our energy markets, at our petrol pumps, and in our increasingly erratic climate shows what happens when government fails to plan for the future. Working families face a cost-of- living crisis. And job losses, price hikes, and shortages hit those on lowest incomes hardest.

This spending review is a chance for government to learn the lessons of the pandemic and to plan for the future. Our submission sets out how government needs:

  • A plan for decent jobs and equality
  • A plan to deliver skills
  • A plan to address the climate emergency and deliver a just transition
  • A plan for strong and resilient public services; and
  • A plan for real security – in and out of work.

We know that delivering on those plans is the best way to ensure a strong economy, and sustainable public finances. Working people and their unions are ready to play their part to deliver this. It’s time for the government to step up.

A plan for decent jobs and equality

Government must protect jobs, deliver decent work, and tackle the class, racial, gender and disability based inequalities exposed throughout the pandemic. In the spending review it should:

  • Continue with sector specific support for those industries like aviation, which offer good jobs and are of strategic importance to the country, ensuring that any government support is conditional on protecting jobs and skills.
  • Begin consultation with unions and business on the design of a permanent short-time working scheme.
  • Tackle labour shortages by improving pay and conditions across industries, working with unions and business to deliver this, as well as introducing stronger laws to tackle unfair practices like zero hours contracts. Exploitative migration policies and removal of protections for workers will not address the problems created by poor conditions at work.
  • Raise the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour now, and extend it to young workers.
  • A sectoral fair pay agreement for care workers
  • In line with existing duties, embed conscious consideration of equality in decision making at every level to ensure that spending reduces inequalities rather than entrenching them, publishing the results of equality impact assessments, with cross departmental plans on tackling race, gender and disability inequality, mandatory ethnicity and disability pay gap reporting, and increased funding for the EHRC to take enforcement action.

A plan to deliver skills

Government must end the short-sighted under-funding of the skills sector, with a co- ordinated plan to upskill the country. This should include:

  • a clear commitment to boost investment in skills over the long-term and to prevent a return to making this part of the departmental budget first in line for any potential reductions in the future.
  • expanding existing skills entitlements and establishing a new “right to retrain”. These entitlements should be incorporated into lifelong learning accounts and accompanied by new workplace rights, including a new right to paid time off for learning and training for all workers
  • expanding access to high quality apprenticeships for young people
  • a new national social partnership on skills and restoration of funding for the successful Union Learning fund
  • a plan to tackle the long-term decline in pay for the college workforce, and ensure they are valued and empowered.

A plan to address the climate emergency and deliver a just transition

Government must show its commitment to climate action and a just transition ahead of the COP26 talks in November. This must include:

  • delivering the recommendations of the government’s Green Jobs Taskforce
  • bringing green infrastructure spending in line with its G7 peers, by allocating £42 billion a year for the next two years to shovel-ready projects that create jobs and deliver compliance with climate targets.
  • Government should contribute its fair share of the global commitment to $100 billion in climate finance to address climate change related needs of poorer countries, with an emphasis on climate adaptation and on grant funding (not loans).
  • This must be on top of restoring funding for spending 0.7 per cent of GNI on overseas development assistance.

A plan for strong resilient public services

Public services were weakened by a decade of needless austerity. Government must now put in place a plan to ensure that we have the strong resilient services we need to face the future. This must include:

  • Reversing the cuts to the value of public sector pay that took place over the period 2010/11 to 2020/21
  • Creating 600,000 new jobs in public services,
  • Investing in an NHS for today and tomorrow, setting out a fully funded workforce strategy.
  • A new funding settlement for social care based on equalising the rates of capital gains tax with income tax.
  • A significant boost to the funding of justice to address backlogs and excessive workloads.
  • Restoring spending in education to 2010 and 2015 levels and introducing a comprehensive programme of investment to reverse the damage to pupil’s learning as a result of the pandemic
  • The government should demonstrate a firm commitment to the protection of public service pension schemes in line with the 25-year commitment following revisions to public sector pensions from 2015

A plan for real security, in and out of work

Social security, including universal credit, sick pay and pensions allows families to plan for the future. Reducing social security levels still further damages our collective health and security.

  • The Chancellor must immediately reverse the decision to cut Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £20 a week; the basic level of universal credit should be raised to £260 a week.
  • Decent sick pay must be available to all. This means removing the lower earnings limit which means that two million people miss out on sick pay, raising sick pay to at least the level of the real living wage (£330 per week), and ensuring that sick pay is available from day one for everyone.
  • The Chancellor must reverse the decision to suspend the state pension earnings link for 2022 and commit to maintaining the triple lock until the state pension reaches an adequate level.

Delivering on these plans is the best way to deliver a strong economy and sound public finances. Fair taxation, including an increase in capital gains tax to help pay for an expanded social care system, can help deliver new and improved public services. But there must be no return to the austerity that damaged our collective health, security and wellbeing over the past decade. This spending review is a chance for the government to live up to its promise to build back better with a new plan.

Download full plan (pdf)

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