Ed Miliband unveils 'predistribution' plan to fix economy

 

Labour leader Ed Miliband: "If they really wanted to make a difference to housing, they would tax bankers' bonuses and use some of the money to build new houses"

A Labour government would attempt to cut the welfare bill by ensuring poorer workers are paid better, Ed Miliband has said.

Instead of redistributing wealth through the tax and benefit system, there should be more "predistribution", the Labour leader said in a speech.

That meant better vocational training in schools - but also a change in attitude from business.

He called for more "responsible" firms that focused on the long-term.

In a speech in the City of London, Mr Miliband said as big a shift in thinking on the economy was needed now as had happened after World War II and in the late 1970s and it could take longer than a Parliament to achieve.

It would also require a major change in philosophy from the Labour Party.

"The redistribution of the last Labour government relied on revenue, at least in part, which the next Labour government will not enjoy," said Mr Miliband.

"The option of simply increasing tax credits, for example, in the way we did before will not be open to us. Of course, redistribution will always remain necessary and I continue to believe that, but we have learned we have got to do more.

"And fiscal circumstances will make it harder not easier."

'Higher wage economy'

What was needed, he said, was more "predistribution" - a phrase he has borrowed from an American academic.

"Predistribution is about saying, 'We cannot allow ourselves to be stuck with permanently being a low-wage economy and hope that through taxes and benefits we can make up the shortfall.'

"It's not just, nor does it enable us to pay our way in the world.

"Our aim must be to transform our economy so it is a much higher skill, much higher wage economy.

"Think about somebody working in a call centre, a supermarket, or in an old peoples' home.

"Redistribution offers a top-up to their wages. Predistribution seeks to go further - higher skills with higher wages."

Analysis

We have all heard of redistribution - to coin a phrase, taking from the rich to give to the poor.

But what in heaven's name is pre-distribution?

Well, the phrase was popularised - if that's the right word - by the American academic Jacob Hacker, who is close to the Democrats.

It's designed to answer, at least in part, the question of how centre-left parties can differ from their right-wing opponents in austere times when there is very little public money to spend.

In the British context, Labour will say that if re-elected, they could spend less on tax credits and welfare by ensuring people were better paid in the first place.

That means more investment in education and skills by the state.

But - and this is the bit Labour aren't saying too much about at the moment - it is also means putting more pressure on employers to pay higher wages.

For example by making government contracts dependent on a bidder's willingness to pay a "living wage", higher than the current national minimum.

That's pre-distribution - and while it's designed to save government money, economically it's not cost free.

Mr Miliband said the Labour Party was working with schools, universities and business to come up with new ideas to boost skills training for the 50% of young people who did not go on to higher education, but who still deserved the chance to build a career.

He also revealed he was in contact with Business Secretary Vince Cable, via text message, and was keen to work with the Lib Dems to change the government's economic direction.

Asked about how he could work with a party that spurned Labour in favour of a coalition with the Conservatives, he said: "They made a tragic mistake, but I welcome all people who recant."

The Labour leader was sharing a platform with shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who repeated his offer of cross-party talks on a "mansion tax" - the Lib Dem proposal to slap a levy on high-value properties.

But Mr Balls derided the government's latest plan to kick-start the British economy, by loosening planning regulations.

He told reporters: "It is a mouse when we need a lion to roar. We have got to get this economy moving.

"They should not be changing the planning rules on conservatories. They should have a cut in VAT of 5% done immediately, for 12 months."

He also called for "another bank bonus tax" to fund 25,000 new low-cost homes.

 

Comments

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  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 456.

    My company is desperate for more staff but we can't afford to take anyone on. However, if the Government paid a basic wage for just a year, we could increase productivity and bring more money in so that we could then afford to pay the wage after those 12 months. It would mean that we could train the staff ourselves, and get more people into employment and training.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 430.

    Not sure I get it. Surely simple supply and demand economics means that you’re just down grading skilled workers jobs. The UK only needs a finite supply of electricians for example, say 20,000, if you training 40,000 to do the job your likely to get them cheaper and then have 20,000 people trained for jobs that don’t exist.

    That or companies will just wack up the prices to cover costs?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 428.

    This is a really good idea. If Labour keeps this up they'll have my vote.

    But Labour should pressure the govt to implement this well before 2015. Left or right, it's a good idea.

    I need to buy expensive equipment for my work, I pay £1,520 now in vat at 20% or £1,140 under Balls plan for a £7,600 order.

    The savings could net me a new video card.

    I'm sure others will spend if vat was cut!

  • rate this
    +29

    Comment number 229.

    The UK economy won't be fixed by meaningless feel-good soundbites. Adding yet another dire buzzword (in 'pre-distribution') to the national vocabulary does nothing to fire-up the stagnant economy . Political soundbites need substance behind them - Milliband needs to explain & justify clearly how pre-distribution would work for the UK, & crucially, how it would be paid for!

  • rate this
    +49

    Comment number 125.

    Milliband's absolutely right - why do we taxpayers subsidise major corporations by topping up the wages of the poorly paid with tax credits?

    Although I don't believe that this should apply to SMEs who are already tied up in red tape, I do think that big, profitable compnaies should be forced to pay a living wage.

    Why should taxpayers subsidise their profits?

 

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