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 community.

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.

Affordable housing

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.

Community involvement

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 stock.

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Ecological justice
Securing justice globally
Democratic justice
Conclusion




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 Lambert

 

 

 

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 Authorities.

Fair funding

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 the school.

Higher education

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 non-scientists.




University tuition fees should be abolished and maintenance grants restored.
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 taxation.

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 care.

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.

Source: UN
 



Traffic pollution has been linked to a rise in child asthma.

 

Getting around

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 front).

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.

Better buses

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 transport

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 stranded.

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.

Aviation

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 UK.

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.
Photo:Cherry Puddicombe

Home | Reach for the future | A just economics | The just society
Ecological justice | Securing justice globally | Democratic justice | Conclusion