Michael Sheen writes to candidates asking them to support the social economy

25 May 2017

Dear Candidate

As someone who understands what it’s like to be on the public stage, I know it can be a difficult time to be a politician at the moment. I also know what a huge responsibility it is that you have chosen to take on and you have my utmost respect. The small experience I have had of witnessing the work of people like yourself who have chosen to serve the public leaves me truly humbled and inspired. Only a few have the courage to step forward on behalf of the rest of us. Thank you.

Yet all of us have a choice to make. We can choose to abandon people and places left behind. Or we can offer our hands across divides, bringing communities together to take back control over our social and economic destiny. I know that community groups, social enterprises and co-operative businesses are already building the foundations for a new, more inclusive economy, where no place or person is forgotten. If elected, I know you can build on this work, helping communities shape their own, positive responses to the challenges we face. So I am asking you to take a few minutes to learn more about the power of the social economy and how you can help release this potential.

Community groups, co-operatives, social enterprises and charities are worth tens of billions of pounds to the UK economy. Civil society organisations employ 7% of the UK workforce – the same as the creative industries. 17.5 million people own and control our 7,000 co-ops. Local charities and social enterprises own more than £1bn worth of assets. The social economy is a great British success story, and this has been achieved with minimal support from successive Governments.

As part of this election campaign, the Social Economy Alliance has published a “Manifesto for Inclusive Growth”. There is some overlap with your vision and some of our specific ideas support your broad ambitions – on jobs, the economy, public services and across communities. I hope that you will read this short manifesto, tell others about it on social media, in constituencies, and in the corridors of power. If elected, I hope that you will champion our common cause.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Sheen, Patron of Social Enterprise UK

Alliance responds to the Conservative Manifesto

Commenting on the launch of the Conservatives Manifesto “Forward Together”, Mark Norbury, CEO of UnLtd said:

“The Prime Minister has spoken frequently about building a more inclusive economy. The Conservative manifesto continues this theme, with strong statements about rejecting “untrammelled free markets” and the “cult of selfish individualism”. It includes some promising ideas on how an inclusive economy can be delivered – such as a Shared Prosperity Fund designed to reduce inequalities between communities. It also refers to freedom for public sector employees to mutualise, and measures to make public companies more accountable to employees and some markets fairer for consumers.

Yet the manifesto understates the role that community organisations, social enterprises and individual citizens can play in tackling the big challenges faced by the nation. It is striking that while today’s headlines focus on how social care can be paid for, the manifesto says nothing about how government can recognise the inspiring work of social entrepreneurs, such as Ben Allen of Oomph!, who are already showing how care can be made better and more affordable. The government could do so much to help communities find their own sustainable solutions by investing in the social economy.

The foundations of a strong and stable economy are connected, empowered people and communities. We must make better use of their ideas, energy, talent and resources to create social and economic value in tandem with one another. This is the promise that social entrepreneurs – and the wider social economy – offer the next Government.”

Specific areas of interest to the social economy

PUBLIC SERVICES

“We know public services are dependent upon the public servants who run them, which is why we will establish in law the freedom for employees to mutualise, where appropriate, within the public sector.”

INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY

Future Britain funds – “People have long talked about the need to create UK sovereign wealth funds. We will now make this a central part of our long-term plan for Britain. We will create a number of such funds, known as Future Britain funds, which will hold in trust the investments of the British people, backing British infrastructure and the British economy.”

“We will make each partnership and combined authority responsible for co-ordinating their own local industrial strategy in alignment with our national industrial strategy, bringing together local businesses, political and public sector leaders to drive growth and economic regeneration. We will wherever possible deliver growth funding through these organisations. We will give local enterprise partnerships greater weight by backing them in law.”

CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

“Boards should take account of the interests not just of shareholders but employees, suppliers and the wider community. To ensure employees’ interests are represented at board level, we will change the law to ensure that listed companies will be required either to nominate a director from the workforce, create a formal employee advisory council or assign specific responsibility for employee representation to a designated non-executive director.”

“We will consider introducing a new criminal offence for company directors who deliberately or recklessly put at risk the ability of a pension scheme to meet its obligations”

UTILITIES AND PUBLIC GOODS

“We will therefore examine ways in which the regulation of utilities and transport infrastructure can be improved to deliver a better deal for customers and sharper incentives for investment efficiency”

“community minibuses for rural areas poorly served by public transport”

“we will maintain our position as a global leader in offshore wind and support the development of wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland, where they will directly benefit local communities.”

SUPPLY CHAINS AND PROCUREMENT

“We also recognise that government can improve the general business environment for SMEs, so we will use our buying power to ensure that big contractors comply with the Prompt Payment Code both on government contracts and in their work with others. If they do not do so, they will lose the right to bid for government contracts.”

“We will allow large firms to pass levy funds to small firms in their supply chain, and work with the business community to develop a new programme to allow larger firms to place apprentices in their supply chains.”

TAX AND TRANSPARENCY

“We will legislate for tougher regulation of tax advisory firms. We will take a more proactive approach to transparency and misuse of trusts.”

“So for businesses employing former wards of the care system, someone with a disability, those with chronic mental health problems, those who have committed a crime but who have repaid their debt to society, and those who have been unemployed for over a year, we will offer a holiday on their employers’ National Insurance Contributions for a full year.”

“We will require companies with more than 250 employees to publish more data on the pay gap between men and women.”

HOUSING

“We will make sure our councils get the help they need to deal with people as they arrive, and establish schemes to help individuals, charities, faith groups, churches and businesses to provide housing and other support for refugees”

JOBS, EDUCATION AND TRAINING

“We will also provide targeted support for young people between the ages of 18 and 24 so that everyone, no matter what their start in life, is given the very best chance of getting into work.”

“It is why we want to see universities make their full contribution to their local community and economy, sponsoring local schools and being creative about how they can open up opportunities for local people, especially those from ordinary working backgrounds.”

“We will get 1 million more people with disabilities into employment over the next ten years.”

 

Alliance responds to the Liberal Democrat’s Manifesto

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

Brexit

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.

Health

“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.”

Further Education

“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.”

Apprentices

“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.”

Tax

“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.”

Equality

“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”

Wealth sharing

“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”

Devolution

“Devolve more decision-making power over key levers of economic development including transport, housing and skills.”

Procurement

“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.”

Rural areas

“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.”

Rail

“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.”

Corporate Governance

“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. 

 

SEA response to Labour Manifesto

The Social Economy Alliance responds to the Labour Party Manifesto

Commenting on the launch Labour’s General Election Manifesto ‘For the Many, not the Few’, Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK said:

“The Labour Manifesto contains a very welcome and ambitious commitment to creating a more inclusive economy. I applaud the fact that the major parties are coming forward with proposals to share the benefits of business more widely across the UK. Co-operatives and the wider social economy are accelerators for equality and we want to see a government that understands all forms of enterprise and can nurture a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

“Some of the best parts of Labour’s manifesto from a co-operative perspective are new, never leaked and a welcome sign that Labour recognises the need to put substance behind action beyond the state, where people are empowered to meet their own needs and aspirations, through their livelihoods, in their communities and in the market.”

Specific areas of interest to the social economy

Transparency and corporate governance

Introduce a “Tax Transparency and Enforcement Programme”

“By reforming the rules our companies operate under, we can make sure they stay focused on delivering shared wealth. Labour will amend company law so that directors owe a duty directly not only shareholders, but to employees, customers, the environment and the wider public, and we will consult on bringing forward appropriate legislation within this Parliament.”

“We will also bring forward legislation to create a proper legal definition for co-operative ownership. The National Investment Bank and regional development banks will be charged with helping support our co-operative sector. Labour will aim to double the size of the co-operative sector in the UK putting it on a par with those in leading economies like Germany or the US.”

“make ownership of land more transparent”

“We will extend the Freedom of Information Act to private companies that run public services.”

Procurement

“National and local government spends £200 billion a year in the private sector procurement. Labour will put that spending power to good use to upgrade our economy, create good local jobs and reduce inequality. We will require firms supplying national or local government to meet the high standards we should expect of all businesses: paying their taxes, recognising trade unions, respecting workers’ rights and equal opportunities, protecting the environment, providing training, and paying suppliers on time.”

SMEs

“We will put small businesses at the centre of our economic strategy”

“Labour will transform how our financial system operates. Following the successful example of Germany and the Nordic countries, we will establish a National Investment Bank that will bring in private capital finance to deliver £250 billion of lending power. This new public institution will support a network of regional development banks that, unlike giant City of London firms, will be dedicated to supporting inclusive growth in their communities. The banks will deliver the finance that our small businesses, co-operatives and innovative projects need across the whole country.”

“Labour will champion the export interests of SMEs, ensuring all new trade agreements include a commitment to support their market access needs.”

Democratic Ownership

“Legislating to permit publicly owned local companies to purchase the regional grid infrastructure, and to ensure that national and regional grid infrastructure is brought into public ownership over time.”

“Widening ownership of our economy:

More democratic ownership structures would help our economy deliver for the many and lead to a fairer distribution of wealth.

introducing a “right to own,” making employees the buyer of first refusal when the company they work for is up for sale.”

“We will act to ‘insource’ our public and local council services as preferred providers.”

“Labour is the party of devolution and we believe in handing back power to communities”

“Labour will give communities more power to shape their town centres…”

“We will give football supporters the opportunity to have a greater say in how their clubs are run.”

Renewables

“Our industrial strategy will support businesses to create new, high skilled, high-paid and secure work across the country, in the sectors of the future such as renewables. Ensure that 60 per cent of the UK’s energy comes from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030.”

Brexit

“We will ensure there is no drop in Structural Funding as a result of Brexit until the end of the current EU funding round in 2019/20”

“We will rejoin the Government Procurement Agreement, whilst safeguarding the capacity for public bodies to make procurement decisions in keeping with public policy objectives.”

Childcare

“Transition to a qualified, graduate-led workforce, by increasing staff wages and enhancing training opportunities. This will benefit staff, who are among our worst-paid workers, and improve child development.”

Further Education

“Labour would introduce free, lifelong education in Further Education (FE) colleges, enabling everyone to upskill or retrain at any point in life”

“We share the broad aims of the Sainsbury Review but would ensure vocational routes incorporate the service sector as well as traditional manufacturing, working in tandem with our broad industrial strategy to deliver for the whole economy.”

“We will improve careers advice and open up a range of routes through, and back into, education, striking a balance between classroom and on-the-job training, to ensure students gain both technical and soft skills.”

“In recognition of the role played by private-sector providers, we would extend support for training to teachers in the private sector.”

Benefits

“Commission a report into expanding the Access to Work programme.”

“By the end of the next Parliament we will be building at least 100,000 council and housing association homes a year for genuinely affordable rent or sale.”

Loneliness

“A Labour government will create a more equal society for the many by working with communities, civil society and business to reduce loneliness.”

NHS

“Labour will halt and review the NHS ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’, which are looking at closing health services across England, and ask local people to participate in the redrawing of plans with a focus on patient need rather than available finances.”

“The next Labour government will reverse privatisation of our NHS and return our health service into expert public control. Labour will repeal the Health and Social Care Act that puts profits before patients, and make the NHS the preferred provider. We will reinstate the powers of the Secretary of State for Health to have overall responsibility for the NHS. We will introduce a new legal duty on the Secretary of State and on NHS England to ensure that excess private profits are not made out of the NHS at the expense of patient care.”

Health and Social Care

“In our first term, Labour will lay the foundations of a National Care Service for England. Our first urgent task will be to address the immediate funding crisis. We will increase the social care budgets by a further £8 billion over the lifetime of the next Parliament, including an additional £1 billion for the first year. This will be enough for providers to pay a real living wage without cutting the quality of care they provide.”

Justice

“Under a Labour government, there will be no new private prisons and no public sector prisons will be privatised. Labour’s innovative models of youth justice successfully turned round the lives of many young people, steering them away from crime and towards more constructive ways.”

Transport

“Labour will prioritise public service over private profit. And we will start by bringing our railways back into public ownership, as franchises expire or, in other cases, with franchise reviews or break clauses”

“Across the country we will enable councils to provide first-class bus services by extending the powers to re-regulate local bus services to all areas that want them, and we will support the creation of municipal bus companies that are publicly run for passengers not profit.”

Labour’s Manifesto is available herehttp://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/manifesto2017

You can download the Social Economy Alliance’s Manifesto for an Inclusive Economy here.

Our Manifesto for an Inclusive Economy

We’ve now launched our Manifesto for an Inclusive Economy. It sets forward an ambitious, positive vision on how the new Government can harness the energy of businesses, community groups, charities and co-operatives to tackle the inequalities, divisions and lack of trust in the country.

Seizing on the opportunities and challenges of Brexit, the manifesto offers ideas to deliver a more inclusive economy and solutions to empower communities to truly take back control.

Click here to read our 2017 Manifesto

Ideas for the next Government include:

  • Realising the potential of business – with rewarding good business behaviour through tax incentives, tackling tax avoidance, improving tax transparency and socially responsible supply chains.
  • Making the most of Brexit – Government can completely remake state aid, competition law and procurement law to take into account the environmental and social impact of business.
  • Harness the buying power of the taxpayer – Government can insist that profits made from outsourcing are reinvested for the benefit of society
  • Channelling the passion of communities – over a billion pounds of unclaimed assets can enable local groups to take projects they care about under community control, supporting people to build their own local economies and put power in their hands.
  • Tackle injustice and fairly reward the efforts of hardworking people – redirect tax breaks away from owners of unproductive assets towards entrepreneurs, workers and people investing in good causes.
  • Direct the power of government – to deliver an inclusive industrial strategy which ensures the economy works for everyone, inspired by the social economy.

The Alliance has been liaising with the major political parties and sending them these ideas over the past few weeks as they have been drawing up their manifestos.

What we achieved so far

Our Story

The Social Economy Alliance was set up in run up to the 2015 general election, bringing together hundreds of supporters to campaign for an economy that works in the interests of society. The Alliance was made up of a pioneering collaboration of social enterprises, cooperatives, social investors, housing association, social entrepreneurs and members of the public.

Our main aims were to influence the manifestos of the main UK political parties and build up support for the social economy through grass roots campaigning action and top level political engagement. Our ideas were sourced collectively, drawing on the expertise of our members meaning that we could bring forward social economy solutions to the most pressing issues faced by the country from housing and unemployment to public service reform and devolution.

Here are some of the highlights of our story so far:

The Social Economy Alliance Manifesto

We launched our manifesto with an iconic political face-swap advertising campaign which took over Westminster station just before party conference season. This was all part of our messaging stressing the need to take the best ideas from the left and right of politics and create economic and social policies which reinforce each other. Margaret Thatcher was crossed with Che Guevara, Boris Johnson revealed his inner Marxist and John Prescott was worryingly merged with Angela Merkel. The ad-campaign was entirely crowdfunded by the Alliance’s supporters.

Six-face-merges-low-res

The manifesto itself contained a series of policy measures on how we create a pro-social economy, empower communities, harness the buying power of the state, and encourage businesses to act more responsibly.

Click here to read the manifesto

The launch was picked up by mainstream press including the Mirror, the Guardian, the Independent on Sunday, the Evening Standard, political press such as the New Statesman and The Spectator, and trade publications including Creative Review and Housing Excellence. This, in turn, led to a significant spike in people logging on to the Social Economy Alliance website and downloading materials.

The ad campaign helped significantly raised the profile of the Alliance amongst parliamentarians, leading to more recognition at our focused party conference events. We also held behind-the-scenes discussions with party manifesto leads.

The Social Economy Charter

Following the publication of our manifesto, the Alliance launched its Social Economy Charter a broad statement of support for the principles behind the social economy, which we asked our supporters to send to their prospective parliamentary candidates.

In total, there were 1565 contacts made by supporters with their candidates and 239 parliamentary candidates signed the Charter from across the political spectrum.

Manifesto Mashup

Upon publication of the main party manifestos we decided to wade through each one, take the best ideas from each and put them together in a Manifesto Mashup. The exercise allowed us to see whether our ideas were being picked up, as well as giving us a chance to see exactly which party had the most hard hats in their manifesto. In total, there were 95 mentions of social economy type policy suggestions in the main party manifestos.

The Future

The Alliance has proven that the sector is stronger together, can be bold in its ambition and communications, and can mobilise significant numbers and resources.  We know that social economy solutions are needed now more than ever. The Brexit vote brought to sharp focus the inequalities and divisions in society with communities across the country voting against a political and economic system they feel has left them behind. Social enterprises, co-operatives, charities and community groups continue to change lives, shift markets and empower communities. The Alliance will keep on campaigning hard to support them.