The Just Society
The just society will meet everyone's basic needs. Decent housing,
effective health care, imaginative education, efficient public transport
-access to these vital services will help everyone make the most
of their own life so they can contribute fully to the life of the
Local communities must be involved in planning and providing these
services, avoiding both the centralised bureaucracy of the old-style
public sector and the wrong-headed imposition of market forces.
The right to a home
Access to adequate housing is a fundamental right, yet little
has been done since 1997 to tackle Britain's housing crisis. In
1999, local authorities in England registered 166,760 households
as homeless. In the same year more than 770,000 houses sat empty.
More than 100,000 new afford-able homes will be needed each year
between 2000 and 2011. The cost of providing these homes, as well
as tackling the backlog of repairs across all housing sectors, has
been estimated at an additional £1.4bn per year, substantially less
than the NHS spends treating illnesses caused by inadequate housing.
We cannot afford such absurdities any longer.
At least 100,000 affordable homes should be made available each
year by increasing Housing Corporation funding and requiring private
developers to set aside more units as affordable housing.
Defending council housing
Lack of funds is forcing councils to transfer their housing stock
to housing associations and the private sector. This should be stopped
by increasing the rate of spending of Right to Buy capital receipts
and spreading the cost of new council homes over thirty years in
PSBR accounts, not just one as at present. Councils should be able
to opt out of the Right to Buy scheme.
Using empty property
Councils should maintain registers of empty houses and be able
to issue Empty Property Use Orders to bring them into use. Renovation
and brownfield development should be taxed less than greenfield
development. Higher levels of Council Tax or Land Value Tax (LVT)
should be charged on unoccupied houses.
Democratic tenant participation schemes, housing co-ops, self-build
schemes and co-housing projects should be supported to increase
community involvement in housing management.
Improving the stock
Building regulations should be tightened to ensure the highest
standards of accessibility and energy efficiency in the housing
Reach for the future
A just economics
The just society
Renovation and brownfield development should be taxed less than
greenfield development. Photo: Hilary Hay
In 1999 770,000 houses sat empty in England. Photo: Steve
Learning for life
Formal education should help children and students fulfil their
full creative potential. Too often it is seen as mere 'training
for a job'. Everyone needs the basic skills of literacy and numeracy,
but we also need to develop our practical, creative and social abilities.
There is too much emphasis on testing, form filling and league
tables. Teachers have to work longer hours than ever before - more
than 50 hours a week on average. School class sizes have risen since
the last election; the backlog of repairs to school buildings is
running at about £20 billion, and rising levels of student debt
deter older people and those from poorer backgrounds from going
to university. People should be encouraged to learn throughout their
lives, both formally and informally. Increased funding for the Arts
is an essential part of this.
Trust the teachers
Teachers are trained professionals. They should be given more discretion
to shape the curriculum to pupils' needs and assess their progress.
Burdensome centralised controls should be dismantled. SATs and league
tables should be phased out and the National Curriculum should become
non-statutory guidance. Ofsted inspections should be replaced by
regular self-evaluations, facilitated and supervised by Local Education
Schools should be given greater flexibility to allocate their budget
between staff, buildings and resources. Standard Spending Assessments
should be reviewed to remove current anomalies.
Open to all
Selective admission to schools should be discontinued. All educational
establishments must provide access for people with physical or sensory
impairments. They should be given incentives to make their facilities
available to the
local community for educational, leisure and artistic pursuits.
The whole school community, including parents, teachers, students,
support staff and the local community should have a say in running
University tuition fees should be abolished. Maintenance grants
should be restored, based on the student's income, and incorporated
into the Citizen's Income when it is introduced. All university
research projects should be screened against publicly agreed ethical
criteria. Ethics panels would include a mixture of scientists and
University tuition fees should be abolished and maintenance
Photo: Hilary Hay
Healing the NHS
The health service should do more than help the sick; it should
tackle the causes of illness. Much of the health budget is spent
treating the cancer, mental illness and heart disease that are symptoms
of our increasingly stressed and polluted way of life.
Over time, all of our policies would improve health. For example,
ten people die every day in traffic accidents. Our transport policies
would reduce this toll. Meanwhile we would spend more on preventive
measures and public health.
Free health care
Public health care should be free at the point of use. Free eye
tests and dental treatment should be re-introduced and prescription
charges abolished. An NHS Tax, earmarked to increase health spending
towards the European average, should be introduced as part of general
Prevent and cure
Community Health Centres should be set up with multidisciplinary
staff teams, including occupational, complementary and physio-therapists.
They should improve primary health care, health promotion and family
planning, and build close relationships between hospital and community-based
Democracy in health
NHS Trust and Health Authority Boards should be democratised by
including elected representatives of users, staff and local government.
The free market cannot be left to determine health provision. Rationing
already occurs and is inevitable - the form it takes should be subject
to public debate. Health policy decisions should be taken only after
non-medical preventive options have been costed and analysed.
HEALTH OF THE NATION?
The number of drug prescriptions issued in
England is rising by around 15 million every year.
Office for National Statistics, 2000
The incidence of obesity is increasing. More
than 17% of UK adults aged 16-64 are obese.
Traffic pollution has been linked to a rise in child asthma.
No one can escape the transport crisis. Drivers are stuck in
traffic jams; children breathe noxious fumes; pedestrians and cyclists
are endangered by speeding traffic; buses are caught in congestion;
and our railways are in chaos. Years of Tory neglect and privatisation
caused this, but Labour have also failed dramatically. The situation
is now far worse than it was in 1997 (see diagram 1 on inside
We must change transport and planning policies so everyone
can have confidence in the alternatives to car use. We must invest
much more in accessible public transport and set binding targets
for traffic reduction.
Our transport policies can be funded by re-arranging the priorities
of the £180 billion ten-year transport spending plan announced in
the summer of 2000.
Rescue the railways
The £60 billion for rail in the ten-year spending plan should be
used to re-nationalise Railtrack and to increase capacity, safety
and reliability. Rural branch lines should be reopened, especially
to provide for commuters, school children and the elderly. Urban
underground, metro and rail systems should be safe, punctual, and
cheap. The London Underground must be kept in public ownership.
The number of heavy lorries on the roads should be reduced by investing
in rail freight systems.
Bus services must be radically improved and bus priority provided
on all sections of road that cause delays.
Taming the traffic
The £59 billion allocated for roads in the ten-year spending plan
should be redirected to improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists.
Safe walking and cycling routes to every school in the country will
reduce term-time congestion by 30%. Green transport plans for businesses,
universities and hospitals could reduce car commuter trips by 25%
- spending the money on roads would simply increase traffic. Pedestrianisation,
home zones, low-emission zones and 20mph limits in built up areas
should be encouraged.
Road pricing and charges for parking at workplaces and out-of-town
shops should be used in all cities to recover some of the huge costs
cars impose on society. Revenues raised will be used to improve
the alternatives to car use and to gear streets to people rather
than fast-moving traffic.
Rural public transport should be improved dramatically. This would
help break the vicious cycle of car-dependency that undermines village
shops and public transport, and leaves many elderly and poorer people
Reducing the need
The planning system must be overhauled to reduce the need for travel.
New developments that would otherwise generate a lot of traffic
should be located at public transport interchanges.
Air travel is the fastest growing contrib-utor to greenhouse gas
emissions. Airports should not be expanded and aviation fuel should
be taxed to reduce demand.
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"I will have failed if in five years time there are not many
more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by
car. It's a tall order but I urge you to hold me to it."
John Prescott, July 1997
|JUST 25% OF THE MONEY TO
BE SPENT ON ROADS BETWEEN 2001 AND 2010 WOULD PAY FOR:
° 10,000 Home Zones (twice as many as in the Netherlands).
° Eight-fold increase in bus lanes.
° Safe Routes to School for every school and college in the
° Light rail systems for eight cities, which would replace millions
of car journeys and create 28,000-60,000 extra jobs.
° An extra £4bn to reduce bus and rail fares, to be spent over
a 10-year period.
° £1bn for improving rural public transport.
° £1bn towards transport improvements for disabled people.
Source: Green Party research
The Green Party would boost rural transport to reduce car
usage and support the carless rural population.