General Election 2019: SMF Policy Recommendations

These are some of the policies SMF believes any future government should implement in order to deliverer a fairer economy where people can have faith in markets, enjoy good public services and do satisfying, well-paid work followed by a happy retirement.


Fair Markets

  • Automatically switch sticky customers to challenger companies in the energy and fixed-line telephone markets. We would like to see an automatic switching scheme introduced whereby regulators, government or another non-profit entity automatically switch “sticky” customers to new, cheaper challenger providers. That would provide strong incentives to suppliers not to impose “loyalty penalties” on long-standing customers. (SMF Market Competition Bulletin 2018)
  • End the asymmetry between subscribing and unsubscribing with a ‘click in, click out’ ruleCompanies often make it harder to unsubscribe to a product than to subscribe. We would like to see this asymmetry removed from consumer markets. If it is possible to sign-up online to a product, such as a pay TV or broadband service, it should be possible to unsubscribe online. (SMF Market Competition Bulletin 2018)
  • Give regulators, including the Competition and Markets Authority, a new mandate to deliver “trust and confidence” in the market economy. A new ONS British Markets Survey should track the public’s “trust and confidence” of markets as institutions. Competition law should be reviewed to raise the threshold for companies to bring legal challenges to regulators’ decisions. (Better regulators, fairer markets)
  • Put directors of public companies under a stronger legal duty to support workers by raising wages and training budgets. Section 172 of the Companies Act should be amended so that company directors have an obligation to ensure and demonstrate that employees, at all levels of the company, are sharing in the proceeds of company growth. The Government should also consider making it easier for courts to examine whether directors have followed appropriate processes when ensuring they adhere to Section 172. (Pay Progression for Low-Paid workers – Paper 2)



  • Raise the profile and status of technical and vocational qualifications by leading a ‘national conversation’. Promoting an open discussion on the appropriateness of these qualifications for a variety of routes should be encouraged. (Vocation, vocation, vocation)
  • Strengthen the pipeline of future leaders in further education teaching. This could include expanding Middle Leadership programmes and inviting FE colleges to participate in the National Leadership Centre. (Leading skills: Paper 2)
  • Promote higher quality apprenticeships via ‘Apprenticeship Value Premiums’ that clearly show candidates how their future wages may rise. Apprenticeship funding should be adjusted to steer candidates away from jobs in sectors that are at the greatest risk of being lost to automation. (Making apprenticeships work)
  • Establish a new title of ‘Master Craftsman’ or ‘Master Craftswoman’ for those who complete higher-level apprenticeships. This would raise the status of alternatives to higher education, where the holders of doctorates are given the title ‘doctor’. (Making apprenticeships work)
  • Launch a new programme of educational support for children in low-income areas. More money for schools in low-income areas, to offer good teachers financial incentives and help with housing costs if they re-locate.  New ‘family literacy’ classes to help parents who struggle with basic skills. (Commission on Inequality in Education)
  • Increase support for commuting students. This includes: timetabling, flexible accommodation, and more appropriate facilities on campus for universities (and making it easier for students to use the facilities of other universities). (Building on Success)


Health and Social Care

  • Tax asset-rich pensioners to fund free personal adult social care for all.This would mean a new one-off charge on people with significant assets when they reach the age of 65. The one-time payment, made by anyone with assets worth more than £150,000, would ensure that no-one had to pay for personal care in later life. The new charge would raise around £7 billion a year for care. (No easy options)
  • Start preparing for the 100-year life. Launch a new campaign of public education to raise awareness of the implications of rising life expectancy for their health, wealth and services. This sits alongside recommendations calling for changes to medicine procurement and digital skills prescriptions. (Health, care and the 100-year life)
  • Improve the system for looked-after children. We recommend establishing a ‘Charter for Looked-After Children’, a cross-government performance monitoring framework and increasing data measurement. (Looked-after Children)
  • Require companies to provide greater support to family carers. Employers should be required to record the number of their staff who have caring responsibilities towards elderly parents or other adults and publish policies for supporting workers who care for relatives. ‘Care pay gap’ reporting should be considered for large companies. (Caring for carers)


Good work and wages

  • Pilot a tax incentive policy to promote wage increases for low wage workers. Initial evidence from a scheme in Japan has shown positive results for wage growth. Tax incentives to support training should also be expanded. (Pay Progression for Low-Paid Workers)
  • Require companies to publish data on wages, progression, training and HR practices. This would incentivise companies to face reputational consequences of their management. Accreditation schemes for employers who provide training could also provide incentives for good practice. (Pay Progression for Low-Paid workers – Paper 2)
  • Give the National Retraining Scheme a broader remit, to offer a wide range of retraining opportunities across the whole economy. This wouldinclude through the widespread provision of online, evening and weekend learning solutions. (4IR in the Workplace)
  • Target returners to the labour market, especially women, in the widening access policies for apprenticeships. To this end the Institute for Apprenticeships should consider how latent demand for part-time schemes can feed through into supply from employers and providers. (Back on Track)
  • Support local action on supporting disabled people into work with a ‘Financing Future Health’ fund. For London, this would set aside £1 billion for pilots that aim to provide better social, health and employment support for people claiming Employment and Support Allowance. (Supporting disabled people into work)
  • Require companies to publish their ‘disability pay gap’. As with the gender pay gap and our similar proposal for carers, this should help shape norms around fair treatment of disabled people in the labour market. We would also like to see more work done to make public transport infrastructure more accessible. (Measuring the Disability Pay Gap in London)


Personal Finances

  • Pay into pensions of women who take time out of work to care for relatives. Longer life expectancies risk amplifying existing economic equalities as women are more likely to leave the labour market to care. (Gender equality and the 100 year life)
  • Give every 15-year-old £1,500 to invest, to ensure all young people have some financial assets and learn the value of saving and investment. The money would come from reducing ISA allowances. ISAs currently cost the Treasury almost £3 billion, much of it subsidising the savings of people on high incomes who would simply invest elsewhere if tax relief was reduced. Some of that money should be allocated to helping youngsters instead. (Saving Better)
  • Track the ‘poverty premium’ and set a deadline for its elimination.The poverty premium refers towhen low income households pay more for items such as electricity, gas and insurance. (Eliminating the poverty premium in energy)
  • Launch a prize-linked savings scheme with the National Lottery. Low-income households, who disproportionately play the lottery, would be incentivised to build up a regular saving habit with the chance to win prizes. (Win & Save)


Rebalancing the Economy

  • Use data from Facebook, Google and other companies to produce accurate, up-to-date official calculations for the populations of local authority areas. The failure to accurately measure the number of migrants (and UK nationals) in local areas makes it hard to fund services correctly.  (All Immigration is Local)
  • Provide greater support for coastal communities and seaside towns. This includes developing regional strategies on par with the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine, tax incentives for employers to relocate and improvements to transport connectivity. (Falling off a Cliff)
  • Allow buyers of new-build homes to retain a portion of the purchase price until the developer has fixed any defects and dealt with any “snagging” issues. (Building a Better Market)
  • Reform the inconsistent and unfair alcohol taxation regime. This includes taxing alcohol in proportion to its strength, a ‘pub tax relief’ to shift the burden to the off-trade and index-linked uprating of alcohol duty. (Pour Decisions)


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