There will be an election in the UK within the next 6 months, so I thought I would take some time to compile a list of the major issues that will influence my vote.
So here’s my wish list for our next government:
- All government spending and contracts should be published openly, and available for anyone to download as raw data. The only exception should be staff salaries, which I would consider personal information. Each department should publish their total wage bill, and the number of staff they employ so that the average wage can be seen. Currently, nobody, not even the opposition, may scrutinise government spending on certain large contracts – so no-one knows the true extent of our nations commitments. Commercial confidentiality is often cited as an excuse not release such information – in my opinion, if you are a business who deals with government – you should accept that your contracts will be public knowledge.
- All Ordnance Survey and Postcode data should be open and free. There should be a central, authoritative address database that anyone can use. I strongly believe that freeing up all this data will encourage a huge amount of innovation and bring economic benefits of several orders of magnitude bigger than the cost to the public purse.
- Prevent any bank or business from becoming too big too fail. If a business is too big too fail, it’s too big. It’s not fair to privatise the profits, and socialise the losses, therefore these businesses should be broken up.
- Pay back the national debt. It’s not a good strategy for individuals or governments to consistently spend more than they earn. Nor is it fair that every child in the UK is born with £30,000+ of public debt. Let’s try to boost the economy through sustainable activities rather then borrowing from the next generation, otherwise interest payments on our debt will soon cost us more than the whole education budget.
- Simplify the tax system. The current system is hideously complex and inefficient. Surely we could save some money by simplifying things. Do tax inspectors really add much value to society? Couldn’t we redeploy most of them as Doctors, or scientists instead? (Or indeed any other job!) Do we need so many loop holes and tax reliefs – a simple lower tax rate would be more efficient. How about a single flat tax for income, capital gains and profits, say 25%. Really rich people don’t pay much tax in the UK currently as they just move to Monaco or other low tax jurisdictions. So, if we got the balance right we could probably collect more tax with a lower tax rate than we do currently.
- Encourage entrepreneurship. Cut back on the amount of paperwork (red tape) that businesses must complete.
- Streamline public procurement and encourage small business to bid for contracts. Let’s make it easier for small business to compete to provide products and services to the government.
- Protect front line services (Doctors, Nurses, Policemen, Firemen), but reduce the size of the state through efficiency savings, removing bureaucracy and getting rid of most quangos.
- Re-structure the benefits system to encourage work. Most people I know who are on benefits want to work, but they find it hard because they will be worse off if they take a minimum wage job. We need to ensure that it pays to work.
- Consider a citizen’s income (also known as basic income) instead of benefit payments, and thus increase the incentive to work. I’ve not fully costed this one, and I’m not even sure it would work – but I definitely think it’s an interesting concept that’s worth considering. Here’s how it would work: All citizens would receive a flat monthly payment regardless of whether they are employed or not. Adults would receive more than children. Parents would receive their children’s payments on their behalf. It would be paid without requiring the citizen to work, or requiring them to accept a job if offered one. Do we really need full employment? If some people don’t want to work then that is their choice. However, if they do get a job, they get to keep all their citizen’s income, so there is no disincentive to work for those who want to. Basic social housing would then be rented back to families for a portion of their income. The incentive to work would be for anyone who wants to live in better accommodation than the basic social housing they rent, or if they want to go on holidays or have luxury goods, etc… You would probably need to scrap the basic tax free allowances in order to fund it, however the marginal benefit of working would increase – people wouldn’t risk loosing their basic income if they accepted any work. We would not need as many staff at HMRC.
- Simplify the planning system, and consider building more towns on agricultural land. I think ultimately we will need to build more new towns. People rightly complain when more housing is packed into smaller and smaller spaces in existing towns, leading to over stretched public services and infrastructure. Planning standards should ensure a low environmental impact of new developments, but not mean that we all have to live in shoe box flats. They should provide open and transparent rules that are positively biased (i.e. you can build here as long as… ) rather than the planning lottery that we currently have. If the rules were simple to apply it would encourage much more investment in housing. Most of us aspire to live in a detached house and surely the gardens that come with these are better for bio-diversity than the tarmac car parks of a block of flats, or even the single crop agricultural land that they could be built on. Even if we doubled the amount of urban areas in the UK we’d still only be approaching the level of urbanisation of the Netherlands. There is definitely not a shortage of land in the UK! As a nation we are perfectly capable of building larger, more affordable, higher quality, more sustainable, lower emission houses. We just need to sort out the planning system!
What are you wishes for the next government? Add a comment to this post!