In a guest publication for the Social Market Foundation, Bim Afolami MP sets out 10 transformative policies for Britain after the Coronavirus crisis.
These proposals are informed by the work of the Unlock Britain Commission, a group of independent advisors, business leaders and politicians, led by Afolami and convened to stimulate new economic thinking as Britain seeks to recover and prosper in the wake of COVID-19.
10 ways to achieve transformative growth for the British economy
- Create a Recovery Fund to provide capital to British SMEs – and once recovery is complete, the fund should be floated on the London Stock Exchange. We should issue shares in the Fund, at a heavy discount, to frontline NHS workers and people aged 18–30, in both respects targeted to those who earn less than £30,000.
- Make it easier for people to invest their savings into businesses – this can inject £6 billion into British SMEs without raising new money from public or private sector.
- The Bank of England should set a nominal GDP level target.
- Remove one tier from local government, and rank local authorities according to key metrics – if a local authority consistently fails, MHCLG may put the local authority into special measures.
- Use a streamlined planning process for a much greater range, and size, of infrastructure. This will make the majority of infrastructure built in the UK much faster, cheaper and easier to build. This will help the “levelling up” agenda be delivered quickly.
- High Streets and urban housing: introduce a “Future Town Centre” council of specialist advisers to assist any town centres in their restructuring, introduce transparency on market rents in town centres, and align business rates to those on a yearly basis. On urban housing, allow “street votes” – proposal to allow individual streets to vote to change planning controls.
- Opportunity Zones for manufacturing centred around our research hubs, building on the freeport agenda already being developed by government.
- Opening up the economy by reducing barriers to innovation and industry presented by anti-competitive legislation. This would mean embedding a pro-competitive agenda into the regulatory framework by requiring a competition review by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into key industries in the UK economy.
- Student debt on high-quality STEM degrees should be written off if graduates spend five years working in STEM occupations (i) of high demand or (ii) in new Freeports or Opportunity Zones. STEM apprentices to be better funded and further financial incentives given to employers to take on more apprentices into full employment.
- Digital skills: private schools and universities should provide all their digital courses to state schools free of charge, which would enable us to equalise opportunities and widen digital skillsets in young people before they enter higher education and the workplace.