growing local economies

Growth = wealth? Not for everyone.

Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer will stood at the dispatch box and argued that his plan is the one that will set this country on the path to prosperity for all. He’s not the first. He almost definitely won’t be the last. And yet here we are.

The climate emergency, austerity, growing inequality and political inertia mean that across the UK and beyond, many people and their families are struggling to make ends meet.  These are not new crises. And yet, for decades Chancellors have set out the ways in which they will deregulate, bulldoze, build, cut through regulation and overturn every conceivable stone in the pursuit of growth. Few are bothered about the quality of the economy they are nurturing, merely the upward trajectory. Often the most important question is missed: who benefits?

What can councils do to stand up for fair tax conduct?

This article originally appeared in The MJ.

Tax and procurement are subjects that often top the news agenda for the wrong reasons. Tax avoidance has long been a topic of public debate with concern about the lack of a level playing field between domestic businesses and those headquartered offshore. More recently, we have seen eye-watering PPE contracts fast tracked to companies with no history of supplying medical-grade equipment, some with murky ownership structures in tax havens. However – used well – tax and procurement are key interrelated public policy levers that local governments can use to create considerable public good.

Before COVID, a staggering 17.5% of UK public procurement contracts were won by companies with a connection to a tax haven, harming our economy by extracting tax receipts as a result of profit shifting. There is no evidence to suggest this situation has improved over the past year. While many loopholes have been closed, there is still no national policy restricting public contracts to organisations that fail to pursue good tax conduct within their supply chain – either in the UK or beyond. We know the demand for change exists – two-thirds of the public say they would rather shop or work with a business that can prove it is paying its fair share of tax. Councils can and must use their powers to promote exemplary tax practice in their local areas.