Commenting on the launch of the Liberal Democrats Manifesto ‘Change Britain’s Future’, Tony Armstrong CEO of Locality said:
“Hot on the heels of Labour’s welcome emphasis on co-operatives, it is good to see the Liberal Democrats recognise the potential of mutuals, employee ownership and social enterprises to give everyone a greater stake in our economy. Their manifesto includes some positive ideas for letting people take greater control, such as reforming company law to include community benefit, using public procurement to support community development or giving staff and passengers a greater say over our railways.
Given the reins of power, we know that local people can come together to solve their own problems and make a better life for their communities, and the Lib Dem’s manifesto is clear in its commitment to supporting community politics and strengthening devolution. We look forward to seeing the other parties recognise how community groups, co-operatives and social enterprises can help build more inclusive economy.”
Specific areas of interest to the social economy
Doubled-down on their Remain credentials and, aim to stay in the single market and customs union and offer a referendum on the Brexit negotiations.
“Support innovation in how organisations can empower staff and patients, including learning from innovative social enterprises delivering community and mental health services.”
“Traditional indicators of economic activity such as GDP are poor guides to genuine prosperity and wellbeing. We will therefore introduce a National Wellbeing Strategy covering all aspects of government policy, including health, housing and the environment.”
“Improve the quality of vocational education, including skills for entrepreneurship and self-employment, and improve careers advice in schools and colleges.”
“Improve links between employers and schools, encouraging all schools to participate in employment and enterprise schemes that promote regular experiences in business. In particular, we will seek to inspire more children and young people to follow technical and scientific careers through partnership with relevant businesses.”
“Aim to double the number of businesses which hire apprentices, including by extending apprenticeships to new sectors of our economy such as creative and digital industries.”
“Take tough action against corporate tax evasion and avoidance, including by:
- Introducing a General Anti-Avoidance Rule, setting a target for HM Revenue and Customs to reduce the tax gap, and continuing to invest in staff to enable them to meet it.
- Reforming Corporation Tax to develop a system that benefits the smallest companies while ensuring the biggest multinationals cannot avoid paying sums comparable to nationally based competitors.
- We will consult on shifting away from a profits-based tax to one that takes account of a wider range of economic activity indicators, such as sales and turnover.
- Reviewing the Business Rates system, prioritising reforms that recognise the development of the digital economy, lessening the burden on smaller businesses, and ensuring high streets remain competitive. We will also consider the implementation of Land Value Taxation.”
Social investment and SME support
“Support social investment, ensuring charities and social enterprises can access the support and finance they need to strengthen their governance and deliver innovative, sustainable solutions to challenges in their communities.”
“Creating true competition means allowing new businesses to rise and challenge established companies. There are also many well-established small businesses and traders which form the backbone of local economies. Our priority in supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses is to ensure that they have access to the funding they need, and in particular long-term (and patient) capital.”
“Establish an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine living wage across all sectors. We will pay this living wage in all central government departments and their agencies, and encourage other public-sector employers to do likewise.”
“Extend transparency requirements on larger employers to include publishing the number of people paid less than the living wage and the ratio between top and median pay”
“A well-functioning economy which works for everyone cannot be based solely on companies owned by and operated on behalf of small groups of shareholders. It should seek to foster a diversity of types of business, including encouraging alternative models such as mutuals, social enterprises or community-interest companies.”
“In all cases, it is vital to ensure the engagement and involvement of employees; successful businesses work for all stakeholders. That is why we will:
- Encourage employers to promote employee ownership by giving staff in listed companies with more than 250 employees a right to request shares, to be held in trust for the benefit of employees.
- Strengthen worker participation in decision-making, including staff representation on remuneration committees, and the right for employees of a listed company to be represented on the board. We will change company law to permit a German style two-tier board structure to include employees.
- Reform fiduciary duty and company purpose rules to ensure that other considerations, such as employee welfare, environmental standards, community benefit and ethical practice, can be fully included in decisions made by directors and fund managers.
- Reduce the reporting requirement for disclosure of shareholdings to 1% in order to increase transparency over who owns stakes in the biggest companies.
- Require binding and public votes of board members on executive pay policies”
“Devolve more decision-making power over key levers of economic development including transport, housing and skills.”
“Use central government public procurement policy as a tool of local growth and community development by, for example, purchasing from diverse sources and using local labour, goods and services, and encouraging local government to do the same.”
“Enable central and local government to prioritise employee-owned and community-benefit companies in awarding procurement contracts by strengthening the Social Value Act.”
“Encourage new and younger entrants to farming by championing different forms of ownership including longer tenancies, share farming and community ownership.”
“Invest £2 billion in innovative solutions to ensure the provision of highspeed broadband across the rural UK, working with local authorities and providing grants to help areas replicate the success of existing community led project.”
“Ensure that new rail franchises include a stronger focus on customers, including a programme of investment in new stations, lines and modern trains. We will allow public sector bodies and mutual groups involving staff and passengers to bid for franchises.”
“Continue the drive for diversity in business leadership, pushing for at least 40% of board members being women in FTSE 350 companies and implementing the recommendations of the Parker review to increase ethnic minority representation.”
“Extend the Equality Act to all large companies with more than 250 employees, requiring them to monitor and publish data on gender, BAME, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps.”
“Extend the use of name-blind recruitment processes in the public sector and encourage their use in the private sector.”
“Require diversity in public appointments. We will introduce a presumption that every shortlist should include at least one BAME candidate.”
“Extend requirements on companies to strengthen responsibility for supply chains, focus on good practice in tackling modern slavery, including training for police and prosecutors in identifying and supporting victims, and implement the Ewins report recommendations on domestic workers.”
You can read the full Lib Dem manifesto here.
See our response to Labour’s manifesto here.