An Open Statement from We Are the Economy
Date Posted: Wednesday 1st November 2023
Since free education was introduced in England and Wales in 1880, we have understood that an educated population is essential for a strong economy. Over the subsequent decades politicians recognised that the same is true for good health, housing and connectivity, and so invested in essential public services like the NHS, social homes and public transport.
What’s good for us individually is good for the economy, this is because we are the economy. The economy is the sum total of our work, purchases and social interactions. When we are in ill health, poorly educated, living in precarious, poor quality housing, or unable to get around due to poor transport links, there are not only incalculable costs to physical and mental wellbeing; we also are less productive. Public services are essential for a strong economy because, in addition to making our lives better, they support all of us to function well. That is why we are calling on the Chancellor to use this budget to invest in the essential public services we all rely on. Universally accessible housing, transport, education, and healthcare are not just ‘nice to haves’, they are essential for a thriving society, a resilient economy – and for achieving our carbon reduction targets.
A sustained failure to invest in adequate social housing is pushing more and more people into homelessness, ill health and poverty. Investment in social housing has fallen by 60% leading to a net loss of 165,000 social homes since 2010 – whilst homelessness has increased by 74% in the same period. The ‘societal costs’ of exposure to poor housing – which include loss of economic potential and the cost of physical and mental health treatments – are estimated at £18.5bn per year. Given that 15% of the UK’s carbon emissions come directly from homes, the UK’s failure to make existing homes more energy efficient through insulation and renewable heating systems is a huge missed opportunity. Retrofitting would create green jobs, ensure millions more people are warmer and healthier in their homes, and lower energy bills and emissions.
Failure to invest in transport has contributed significantly to regional inequality. The North received 19% less funding per person on transport infrastructure than the UK average and 60% less than London. This has a significant impact on connectivity, with those in the South being able to access up to seven times as many jobs by public transport as those in the North. This disparity embeds unemployment – and the social harms it causes – in those regions most in need. At the same time, private vehicles contribute to 88% of all transport emissions, whilst public transport contributes only 4%. A comprehensive public transport system will pay for itself in connectivity and job creation and is fundamental to a green transition. We need significant public investment now.
2.5 million people are now unable to work due to long term sickness, and NHS waiting lists are at an all time high of 7.6 million people. This coincides with a decade-long shortfall in healthcare spending as a proportion of GDP. However, poor public health is not only due to underinvestment in health services over the past decade. It is also the result of falling investment in things that keep us well and active such as good housing, leisure centres, transport links and parks.
For the last 13 years, politicians have repeatedly claimed that we simply can’t afford to invest in essential services such as care, education and housing. This is a wilful misunderstanding of economics and a failure to take the action necessary to start building a truly sustainable economy. In industry it is an obvious fact that if you want to boost business it is essential to invest in productive capacity. The same is true of an economy. But short-term thinking has created the economic ‘doom loop’ that we now find ourselves in – where we are told we cannot invest because we can’t afford it, and not investing weakens our economy further.
We’ve watched austerity and underinvestment erode the foundations of our society for far too long. Now, with millions living in poverty whilst wealth at the top soars, and in the midst of a deepening climate emergency, we can’t afford to keep going down the same track. We can’t afford not to invest in the collective services that will generate more value than they cost, keep us well, and our planet habitable. The Chancellor should use this budget to invest in the lifeblood of our society – our essential services – that will improve our lives, reboot our economy, and help us meet our legally obligated climate targets.
To add your signature to the We Are The Economy campaign Open Statement, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, position and organisation.
- Ann Pettifor – Director – PRIME Economics
- Kate E Pickett, OBE – Professor of Epidemiology – University of York
- Kate Raworth – Economists and co-founder – Doughnut Economics Action Labs
- Neal Lawson – Director – Compass
- Nadia Whittome – Member of Parliament for Nottingham East
- Sr Tom Shakespeare – Professor of Disability Research – London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
- Professor Ian Gough – CASE Visiting Senior Fellow – London School of Economics
- Professor Diane Elson – Emeritus Professor – University of Essex
- Prof Diego Sánchez-Ancochea – Professor of the Political Economy of Development – University of Oxford
- Professor Susan Himmelweit – Emeritus Professor of Economics – Open University
- Priya Sahni-Nicholas – Co-Executive Director – The Equality Trust
- Jo Wittams – Co-Executive Director – The Equality Trust
- Mary-Ann Stephenson – Director – Women’s Budget Group
- Professor Rebecca Tunstall – Professor Emerita of Housing Policy – University of York
- Baroness (Ruth) Lister of Burtersett – Member of the House of Lords
- Jerome De-Henau – Senior Lecturer in Economics – Open University
- Mathew Lawrence – Director – Common Wealth
- Anna Coote – Project Director – The Social Guarantee
- Maeve Cohen – Project Lead – The Social Guarantee
- Niall Glynn – Founder and Leader – Working Class Economists Group
- Robert Palmer – Executive Director – Tax Justice UK
- Colin Hines – Convenor – The Green New Deal Group
- Professor Richard Murphy – Professor of Accounting Practice – Sheffield University Management School
- Professor Simon Mohun – Emeritus Professor of Political Economy – Queen Mary University of London
- Claudia Webbe MP – Member of Parliament for Leicester East
- Jonquil Lowe – Senior Lecturer in Economics and Personal Finance – Open University
- Dr Deborah Dean – Co-Director of the Industrial Relations Research Unit – University of Warwick
- Dr Manuela Galetto – Co-Director of the Industrial Relations Research Unit – University of Warwick
- Jackie Longworth – Chair, Fair Play South West – The Women’s Equality Network
- Frances Rayner – Comms Lead – Wellbring Economy Alliance
- Andrew Simms – Co-Director – New Weather Institute
- Clive Lewis – Member of Parliament for Norwich South
- Will Snell – Chief Executive – Fairness Foundation
- Sarah-Jane Clifton – Executive Director – Economic Change Unit
- Dr Ellie Chows – Green MP candidate for North Herefordshire
- Sian Berry – Green Party member of the London Assembly
- Antonia Jennings – Chief Executive Officer – Centre for London
- Ania Płomień – Associate Professor – London School of Economics
- Carla Denyer – Co-Leader of the Green Party
- Will Stronge – Director of Research Autonomy
- Dr Muhammad Ali Nasir – Associate Professor in Economics – Leeds University Business School
- Leslie Huckfield – Visiting Fellow – Glasgow Caledonian University
- Malcolm Sawyer – Emeritus Professor of Economics – University of Leeds
- Dr. Nikolaos Karagiannis – Professor of Economics – Winston-Salem State University
- Cyrus Bina – Professor Emeritus of Economics – University of Minnesota
- Prof Suzanne J Konzelmann – Professor of Economics – Birkbeck, University of London
- Professor Sergio Rossi – Chair of Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics – University of Fribourg
- Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah – Rabbi Emeritus – Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue
- Judith Heyer – Emeritus Fellow in Economics – Somerville College, Oxford
- Dr Phil Armstrong – Associate – Gower Initiative first Modern Money Studies
- Stefan Zylinski – PhD Researcher – University of Bristol