An open letter to the UK government calling for faster and more far-reaching action

Compass has signed an open letter to the UK government along with 96 economists, academics and directors of research organisations. An edited version first appeared in The Times on Monday 23 March 2020. You can read the full letter below.

A welcome change but more is needed

We welcome the government’s new measures to support workers, particularly the introduction of grants for wage support. But despite the scale of these spending commitments, there is a real danger that millions of workers will not feel their benefit.

The government must move decisively to get cash into the bank accounts of households and firms before the economic dominos start to fall. Substantial support has been announced, which will be welcomed by many workers — but it will not reach all who need it. The government is certainly moving in the right direction, but the new measures will fail to reach all workers, and could take until the end of April to come into force.

More clarity is also needed on the announcement that the government will provide grants to businesses, covering up to 80% wage costs to a limit of £2,500 per worker. If these grants reach the businesses that need them, they could prevent millions of redundancies.  But there is no assurance that every business that needs support will receive it: the government needs to specify if the payment is more or less automatic, how it will get into firms’ accounts quickly and how it will ensure that this cash translates into wages at the end of the line.

Stipulations against layoffs need to be in place

A further problem with the announced plans is that no stipulations are placed on firms keeping workers on payroll. Financial support for firms must come with conditionality: at a minimum, no workers are to be laid off.  People are losing their jobs right now – the government must act immediately to stem the flow. Without this stipulation put in place immediately, firms  – and their payroll systems – will be shutting up shop in the intervening period, simply precluding the possibility of utilising the government’s ‘Job Retention Scheme’.

The self-employed are left out in the cold and need urgent support

The 5 million people who are self-employed will have taken little comfort from last Friday’s announcements. Greater support is needed. The expansion of an already overburdened Universal Credit system to cover the self-employed will make little difference. While a worker on PAYE could receive up to £2,500 per month, a self-employed worker might only receive statutory sick pay – £94.25 per week.

It is our understanding that self-employed workers who have filed tax returns with HMRC in the past could be supported within days of a governmental decision. As HMRC already holds the bank account details of these workers, it would simply be a matter of paying cash into their accounts.

Universal Credit will not be able to cope or deliver

Universal Credit is going to wilt under the pressure of new unemployed applicants in the coming weeks and months. Other than a minor improvement in levels of income support, no support has been announced for those outside of formal employment, unemployed persons, those receiving personal independence payment, or others without a current employer such as university students. For these people, immediate removal of means-testing from current social security payments should be introduced as a matter of urgency.We applaud the government for taking advice from the TUC and CBI, and recent measures move very much in the right direction.  But it must go further – time is of the essence.  Economic collapses become increasingly difficult to arrest if they are allowed to continue unabated, and there is a real risk that this recession could turn into a major depression. We call on the government to convene a cross-party task force as a matter of urgency to strengthen the measures announced last Friday. 

Signed

Jo Michell, Associate Professor in Economics, UWE Bristol; Rob Calvert Jump, Research Fellow in Political Economy, Greenwich University; Diane Elson, Emeritus Professor, University of Essex; Danielle Guizzo, Senior Lecturer in Economics, UWE Bristol; Miatta Fahnbulleh, Chief Executive of the New Economics Foundation; Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, Women’s Budget Group; Prem Sikka, Emeritus Professor of Accounting, University of Essex; Sunil Mitra Kumar, Lecturer in Economics, King’s College London; Jonathan Portes, Professor of Economics and Public Policy, King College London; Daniela Gabor, Professor of Economics and Macrofinance, UWE Bristol; Fran Boait, Executive Director, Positive Money; Jane Lethbridge, Principal Lecturer, Department of International Business & Economics, Faculty of Business, University of Greenwich; Nick Srnicek, Lecturer in Digital Economy, King’s College London; Mat Lawrence, Director of the Common Wealth think tank; Rob Palmer, Director of Tax Justice UK; Neal Lawson, Director of Compass; Joe Guinan, Vice President, The Democracy Collaborative; Laurie Macfarlane, Fellow, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose; Jackie Jones, Former Professor of Feminist Legal Studies Former MEP; Sarah Jayne-Clifton, Director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign; Michael Jacobs, Professor of Political Economy, University of Sheffield; Ania Plomien, Assistant Professor, Gender Studies, LSE; David Adler, Fellow, European University Institute; Neil McInroy, Chief Executive, Centre for Local Economic Strategies; Will Stronge, Director of Autonomy; James Meadway, Associate fellow at IPPR; Rebecca Tunstall, Professor Emerita of Housing Policy, Centre for Housing Policy, University of York; Juvaria Jafri, Lecturer in International Political Economy, City, University of London; Bruno Bonizzi, Senior Lecturer in Finance, University of Hertfordshire Business School; Andy Denis, Fellow Emeritus in Economics, City, University of London; Anna Laycock, CEO, Finance Innovation Lab; Guglielmo Forges Davanzati, University of Salento; Steve Keen, Distinguished Research Fellow, Institute for Strategy, Resilience and Security, University College London; Constantinos Alexiou, Professor of Macroeconomics and Policy, Cranfield University; Simon Wren-Lewis, Professor of Economic Policy, University of Oxford; Jonathan Perraton, Senior Lecturer in Economics; Sophia Kühnlenz, Lecturer in Economics, Manchester Metropolitan University; Frank van Lerven, New Economics Foundation; Jan Toporowski, SOAS University of London; Cem Oyvat, University of Greenwich; Neville R Norman, Universities of Melbourne  and Cambridge; Pedro Mendes Loureiro, University of Cambridge; Mark Setterfield, New School for Social Research; Ewa Karwowski, University of Hertfordshire; Mary V. Wrenn, University of the West of England; Carolina Alves, University of Cambridge; Ozlem Onaran, Prof of Economics, University of Greenwich; Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven, University of York; Engelbert Stockhammer, Professor of International Political Economy, King’s College London; Deborah Dean, Associate Professor in Industrial Relations, Warwick Business School; Emanuele Lobina, Principal Lecturer, PSIRU, University of Greenwich Business Faculty; Ulrich Volz, Reader in Economics, SOAS University of London; Andrew Fischer, Associate Professor, Erasmus University Rotterdam; Dany Lang, Associate Professor, University Sorbonne Paris Nord; Ania Plomien, Assistant Professor, Gender Studies, LSE; Janet Veitch OBE , Chair, UK Women’s Budget Group; Karl Petrick, Associate Professor of Economics, Western New England University; Nina Eichacker, Assistant Professor of Economics University of Rhode Island; Yannis Dafermos, Lecturer in Economics, SOAS University of London; Duncan Lindo, Vrije Universiteit Brussel; Leslie Huckfield, Lecturer, Glasgow Caledonian University; Frances Coppola, Economist and author; Radhika Desai, Professor, University of Manitoba; Imko Meyenburg, Senior Lecturer, Anglia Ruskin University; Tony Yates, Resolution Foundation and Fathom Consulting; Richard Murphy, Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City, University of London; Thomas Palley, Economist, Washington, DC; Andrew Cumbers, Professor of Regional Political Economy University of Glasgow; Howard Reed, Landman Economics; Trevor Evans, Professor of Economics, Berlin School of Economics and Law; Prof Pritam Singh, Visiting Scholar, Wolfson College, Oxford; Dr Jerome De Henau, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Open University; Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor in Ecological Economics, University of Leeds; Giorgos Gouzoulis, Research Fellow, University College London; Maria Nikolaidi, Senior Lecturer in Economics, University of Greenwich; Emanuele Citera, PhD Student, Economics Department, The New School for Social Research; Antonia Jennings, Rethinking Economics; Sara Gorgoni, Associate Professor in Economics, University of Greenwich; Natalya Naqvi, Assistant Professor in International Political Economy, London School of Economics; Jamie Morgan, Professor, Leeds Beckett University; Adotey Bing-Pappoe, Senior Lecturer, Economics, University of Greenwich; Alfredo Saad Filho, Professor of Political Economy and International Development, King’s College London; Simon Mohun, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy, Queen Mary University of London; Andrew Simms, Co-director, Centre for Global Political Economy, University of Sussex; Giorgos Galanis, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Goldsmiths, University of London; Stefanos Ioannou, Research Associate, University of Oxford; Paul Mason, Author and economics journalist; Ha-Joon Chang, Reader in  Political Economy of Development at the University of Cambridge; Frances Stewart, Professor emeritus, University of Oxford; Ann Pettifor, Economist; Stephany Griffiths, Economist; Will Hutton, Economist; Michael Edwards, Hon Prof, Bartlett, UCL; Josh Ryan-Collins, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, UCL; Josè D. Villadeamigo, Visiting Researcher, CEPED-FCE-UBA – Member of PIUBAD, Argentina; Patrick Allen, Chair of the Progressive Economy Forum; John Weeks, Professor emeritus at SOAS; Asad Rehman, Executive Director, War on Want

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