What motions should we table to autumn conference?

Crossposted from the Social Liberal Forum social network.

The deadline for autumn conference motions is looming (30 June to be precise), so we don’t have much time.  But what should the Social Liberal Forum be championing to get onto the agenda?  Here are some ideas:

  • Secondary education – academies and free schools in particular – appears to be a simmering issue (see John Howson’s article on the SLF website).  Should we push for ensuring that the academies system is brought under greater local control and scrutiny?  What else?
  • Higher education: tuitions fees is clearly a big issue.  Is there a way of squaring the circle? Move towards a graduate tax?
  • Wealth taxation: the Tories struck anything even vaguely resembling a wealth tax from the coalition agreement.  This is an area in which the Lib Dems and Tories have a clear difference.  Is now the time to set out a strategy to make it clear we are a distinctive party?
  • The Office of Budget Responsibility: as we spelt out in the SLF letter to Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander, the OBR doesn’t currently have monitoring socio-economic inequality written into its terms of reference, despite the Treasury having to consider this under the Equality Act 2010. What’s more, despite being formally independent, its members are directly appointed by the Chancellor.  Shouldn’t it be subject to a confirmation hearing by the Treasury select committee (or, better yet, appointed by parliament in the same way that the Electoral Commission is)?

These are just a handful of ideas from off the top of my head.  Feedback welcome on these – as of course are other ideas.  Add your comments below.

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14 comments on “What motions should we table to autumn conference?
  1. John says:

    yes – the need to move Parliament and all its civil servants out of London, to create discrete roles for this new Parliament and then to devolve power to regional bodies and other local authorities while at the same time cutting the Parliament’s staff and number of MPs.

    You can then add on creating regional stock exchanges with more stringent rules than the present one so that regions can compete against each other trying to attract the better jobs from London and attracting companies to actually HQ in places like Leeds and Manchester.

    Is that radical enough for you? Or does that upset the London SLF apple cart?

  2. mike cobley says:

    Personally, I’d rather not have a gutted, bowdlerised central government for the simple reason that we need a government that is strong enough to protect us from the economically strong and greedy. There – that social democratic enough for you?

    • Sri says:

      I’ll be blunt, the Lib Dems are going nowhere in Scotland wlshit in westminister coalition with the Tories.They’ll get hammered in next year’s council polls, they’ll lose their MEP in 2014 and maybe half their MPs in 2015. I do think their next real chance of good gains is the 2016 Holyrood election.A more immediate indication will be the Inverclyde by-election(RIP David Cairns). They got 13.3% last year and finished 3rd above the Conservatives. They’d love to hold onto 3rd, but I think quietly they’ll just hope to keep their deposit.

  3. Mary Reid says:

    I would really love us to attack the academies programme head-on. And I seem to recall that primaries can now apply for academy status.

    Academies were first created in order to turn around failing schools in deprived areas – the intentions were sound even if the solution was flawed. Now Gove is offering academy status to all outstanding schools, ie the very opposite of the original intention.

    The academy programme has failed – schools have become magnets for the middle clases so now have a lower than average take-up for free school meals. Adding outstanding schools to the mix simply means higher level of resources going to those least in need.

    The Pupil Premium is our flagship mechanism for supporting disadvantaged children and must not be sidelined by vanity projects like academies.

    The other key issue here is the role of local authorities. The Tories want to dilute their powers and pass control to unelected and democractically unaccountable bodies like governing bodies. And yet top tier local authorities still have the duty to provide sufficient school places and are held responsible for standards – both of which they cannot control as more schools opt out of local authority control.

  4. Prateek Buch says:

    agree that a motion on ensuring some democratic accountability for free schools (and academies for that matter) is a good idea, but is likely to be argued against given that the whole point of the programme is to make schools more independent…

    on the economy, I would favour a motion that reiterates current Lib Dem policy as approved by conference – and that called on all LD Ministers in govt to continue to press for things like renewed social housing, converting idle shipyards into factories for green energy production, local exchanges (John, regional exchanges, co-operatives and credit unions are already backed by the party, we just need to remind ourselves & the public of that fact!). We need a motion that strengthens our commitment to using the State to pump-prime economic recovery in a sustainable way, to mitigate the inevitable job losses that will occur following contraction of govt spending.

    To be honest it’s best if we wait until the emergency budget, we’ll know immediately what the urgent issues are then!

  5. Kirsten de Keyser says:

    I agree with Prateek. The emergency budget will do the job for us!

  6. Mick Taylor says:

    I am putting forward a motion on Political and electoral Reform on behalf of Leeds Central and Leeds West. This includes STV for European and devolved and local council elections, weekend voting, ending postal voting in favour of the ‘moving ballot box’ and requiring voters to produce some form of identity to prevent fraud.

    Any other suggestions?


  7. Stuart Stockdale says:

    I would support ‘any of the above’.
    I’d also like to see something on affordable housing. It looks like centrally imposed housing targets will be abandoned. This will certainly mean fewer houses built. My local council (Lichfield) is one of the worst in the country for providing social housing. We have below average earnings and above average house prices. What we need locally is affordable housing so local youngsters have somewhere to buy or rent.. What we will probably get from the local Tories is more £500,000 houses with several bathrooms and huge double garages, sucking in more commuters from the Birmingham conurbation.
    I know we believe in localism, but I would still support a minimum quota for social housing, if only in ‘failing’ authorities.

  8. Andrew Duffield says:

    Re-nationalisation of the water industry. There remains no effective competition in water supply. In all such monopoly situations, public ownership should apply.

    A similar case could be made for re-nationalising the money supply – monopoly privilege to create 97% of sterling in the hands of a few private banks. Madness!

    Or an easy one; CPI to include housing costs as a truer measure of inflation. Might help delay the certainty of the next boom-bust.

    Unless we get serious about LVT of course…

  9. Karen says:

    graduate tax would be a good one, at a low rate for basic rate tax payers. Also bring academies into some kind of proper locally based democratic control, local government or directly elected schools boards, admissions to be done by LAs, insist on pupil premium, absolutely vital. By school too as atm wealthy schools in big cities send to get more per pupil than schools like the one where my husband works which is very deprived, but in a rural county. Lastly decent sixth form colleges everywhere. Proved to be the best way of getting good results from a low cost and best at social mobility – getting students from non traditional and less privileged backgrounds into elite universities and courses. They tens to be open to all unlike the oversubscribed schools.

  10. Martin Tod says:

    Completely agree on the need to go after the half-baked Academy Programme.

    Trident? Or has that horse bolted?

  11. Chris Brice says:

    Given the huge emphasis in ‘Re-inventing the State’ on Richard Wilkinson’s work on Inequality, and the very wide coverage given to his and Kate Pickett’s latest book ‘The Spirit Level’ on the pernicious and growing destruction caused by rising economic inequality in the UK, I think we need something that urges government policies that address this issue.

    It is frankly obnoxious to hear privileged and very wealthy leaders such as Osborne and Cameron claiming that we are all in it together as we face unimaginably savage cuts from which thy and their families, because of their wealth & privilege, will be immune. We need to press the government, in the light of the new revelations of the scale of the cuts, to introduce progressive income tax increases as a matter of urgency to ensure that the brunt of the pain is experienced by those most able to bear it – the rich – through taxation aimed at re-distributing their wealth & thereby reducing inequality, and not by the poorest and most needy having both vital services cut, & also having to bear the disproportionate burden of unfair VAT increases. There is now a very strong case indeed for large progressive income tax increases, as a fair way of reducing the proportion of cuts to be born by reduced public spending on vital services. Without this progressive increase in income taxes aimed at the wealthy, economic inequality rise very significantly, as in the Thatcher years, and, a la Wilkinson and Picketts research, the poor such as those on the council estate where I work will suffer hugely: becoming iller more frequently from preventable diseases, dying even younger than they do at present, suffering even more violence, having more of their children and parents committed to prison, experiencing ever higher levels of addiction and mental illness, and feeling ever more excluded from education, employment and society. We have to get the government to recognise this and hugely redress the balance between imposing cuts and progressively increasing income tax in favour of the latter. Only in this way can we maintain investment in the public sector and the kind of services that the people on my estate need desperately , whilst also reducing the deficit.

  12. Rabi Martins says:

    I agree with Stuart’s suggestion re affordable housing.

    I would also suggest a motion on developing more poers to local government. Both Clegg and Cameron are on record as being committed to this. A motion based around specifics and seeking a start to the process within specified time frames would be worth pressing for

  13. Sue Farrant says:

    I’ve had more emails about academy schools than anything else so it is definitely something that excites interest. I’d welcome a motion aimed at making them fully accountable and making them demonstrate that they have an intake that reflects the demography of the community they serve. I’m less bothered about what they teach than who they teach.

    My personal hobby horse is making sure that every person in this country has a decent standard of housing, with enough bedrooms if they have children and the ability to move to another home if they choose. Until we treat housing with as much seriousness as health and education we will never achieve social mobility. We have extensive rights to justice, to health care, to education but very limited rights to a home. The Housing Minister doesn’t even have a Cabinet seat, for heaven’s sake. How about something radical along those lines?

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  1. [...] is a clear priority, although local, government, housing and tax also score quite highly. Prateek Buch advises against making any decisions before budget day and while there is certainly merit in that, [...]

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