Fair spring please, Mr Sunak
Fair spring please, Mr Sunak

Fair spring please, Mr Sunak

Thanks for reading.

This week, we outline how Rishi Sunak could use fairness principles at this week’s spring statement, as well as looking at P&O, the government’s response to the Sewell report, and more.

Will Snell

Chief Executive Fairness Foundation

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Fairness principles for the spring statement

We need to tackle the cost of living crisis by focusing on the causes as well as the symptoms

On Wednesday, all eyes are on Rishi Sunak as he delivers his spring statement. What action will he take to protect people from the rising cost of living? We also need to tackle the underlying causes. This includes not only the high costs of energy and food but also low incomes.

People aren’t fairly rewarded for their work. 3.6 million people were in low-paid and insecure work when the COVID pandemic broke out. This needs to change. We can’t go on pretending that we live in a meritocracy where everyone deserves what they get.

We need to build an economy that delivers fair opportunities for everyone, no matter their family circumstances or where they live. People living in some areas can’t get decent jobs, while people in other areas can’t afford decent housing, let alone energy and food.

Children’s life chances are too heavily influenced by their family income, their ethnicity, their gender and whether they have a disability. We need to level the playing field by dismantling barriers to opportunity.

We need to take action to ensure that our society is based on fair exchange. We need to make sure that everyone pays the taxes that they owe, and we should do more to tax wealth as well as work.

We should provide better universal public services so that everyone gets the support they need, when they need it. We can and should provide better childcare and better social care. We can and should ensure that people on universal credit are not living in poverty.

We need to take urgent action to ensure that the cost of living scandal does not tip hundreds of thousands more people into poverty. But we already have 14 million people in this country living in poverty. This is a national scandal and it needs to end.

Everyone should have enough resources to meet their immediate material needs, including energy, food and housing. If people don’t have equal opportunities to succeed, then they can’t be held equally accountable when they fall into poverty.

We need to treat people fairly, based on need. Those faring the worst need extra support - not just to keep them afloat now, but to give them the resources they need to improve their lives in the long term. Fair play is important - we should all abide by the same rules.

But more fundamentally, we need to redesign our economy to reduce today’s excessive level of wealth inequality, where you can earn more money sitting back and watching your house increase in value than you can from an honest day’s work.

For more on what a fair society looks like and how to get there, see The Fair Necessities.

Poll of the week

Should the chancellor impose a windfall tax on the fossil fuel industry?

The Financial Times called for a windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas extraction last week, as a way to ease the cost of living. Do you agree?

Last week we asked whether you thought that the cost of living scandal and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were likely to help or hinder Britain’s progress towards net zero. 68% of respondents were pessimistic. 32% thought it might actually help.

Reads of the week

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has published a series of papers about labour market inequalities as part of the Deaton Review of inequality, with an overview by Richard Blundell. They highlight persistent wage stagnation and the expansion of non-traditional forms of work, and the need to restore widespread earnings growth rather than relying on tax credits, benefits and the minimum wage.

Kate Ogden et al, also at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, have written a piece asking whether public service spending is aligned with the ‘levelling up’ agenda, and arguing that past funding settlements for local authorities and schools have actively undermined it. They will be publishing new research on this topic over the coming months.

The government has published Inclusive Britain, its response to the the recommendations made last year by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. The Runnymede Trust has called the plan “a welcome de-escalation from a contrived and divisive culture war”, arguing that many of the recommendations in Inclusive Britain echo those that race equality organisations have been calling for for years, while warning that many of them are vague, lack clear targets or accountability measures, and do not go far enough. Rajeev Syal in The Guardian agreed, writing that the government’s plan “artfully ignores [the] most damaging and ridiculed conclusions” of last year’s report.

The Social Metrics Commission has published its 2021 report, Measuring poverty before the Covid-19 pandemic, which finds that the the economic fallout from the pandemic significantly increased poverty, despite some improvements immediately beforehand.

Condemnation of P&O Ferries’ treatment of its workforce has come from all sides; Ernestine Gheyoh Ndzi has written for The Conversation about how the sacking of 800 staff shows just how precarious UK jobs can be.

A new project, the Commission on Political Power, has been launched to review where power is within government and how to make it work better. Baroness Frances d’Souza, writing on their blog, has outlined how the democratic space around the world is shrinking.

Paul Lee has written for The Sense of Fairness about the madness, let alone unfairness, of US executive pay; for a UK perspective, see last December’s analysis of FTSE 350 pay ratios by the High Pay Centre.

Fairness Foundation updates

Our next joint event with the KCL Policy Institute is on 31 March at 1pm on Zoom, discussing the social contract and what we owe each other, with Baroness Minouche Shafik, Director of LSE, and panellists.


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