Last month the Co-op Party launched the Owning the Future report, setting out sweeping policy proposals that could “form the toolkit we need to repair our economy – not simply patching up the damage done by Covid-19 but fixing the problems at the heart of an unfair, inequitable system.”
The report highlights the widespread inequality seen throughout the UK, and says the moral case for change is “crystal clear”.
“We deserve an economy that works for everyone,” says Co-op Party policy officer Anna Birley. “Everyone deserves a decent roof over their head, somewhere to call home. Everyone deserves to be able to put food on the table and to earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. From dignity at work to a say in the decisions that affect us, we deserve better.”
The report makes the economic case for change. “After every crisis, there is a window of opportunity not just to recover but to fix the root causes of the crisis.
“While the economic effects of a pandemic and a global shutdown are unavoidable, its severity and longevity are not a foregone conclusion.
History shows that growing inequality often precedes financial crashes and that economies characterised by inequality grow slower and risk that weaker growth being short-lived. So with the Bank of England predicting a recession three times as severe as the financial crisis of 2008, we must take steps now to limit its damage.”
Ms Birley adds “The causes of inequality are structural and self-perpetuating. Some of these causes, like the entrenched inequality that excludes BAME people from the workplace or sees them disproportionately exposed to the virus, are rooted in discrimination.
“In terms of structural economic inequalities, our shareholder system means wealth and power are concentrated in a small and shrinking
number of executives and company shareholders who make decisions in their own short-term gain, rather than in the long-term best interests of their company, community, workforce or environment.”
The report says that to break the cycle of short-termism, low productivity, low wages and rising inequality, “we need to rewrite the rules governing the economy, and the values that underpin how businesses operate”.
“The answer has been around for centuries. Co-operatives owned by their employees, customers and communities are a fairer way to do business, and economies characterised by a larger co-operative sector are more equitable, productive and accountable, with a narrower gap between the rich and poor.”
The report adds that during the Covid crisis, the state “found a way to solve, albeit temporarily, many of the problems” it had previously washed its hands of. The challenge now is to build on this new consensus. As we open up and look to reboot the economy, it is under threat by the sttus quo. We cannot risk it being a temporary blip of co-operation – we need to shift it to a structural change.”
To address this, the Co-op Party is exploring seven policy areas it sees as integral to a fairer future.
- Co-operative expansion
- Job retention and employee ownership
- Co-operative green new deal
- Fair tax
- An alternative financial services sector
- Place-based economy
- Democratic public ownership
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