The primary objective during the first term of a LIFE government will be the rollout of universal “WellFair” services within the first three years.
The reason to focus on the effective delivery of WellFair services is because they are necessary to develop our economy. WellFair has to be delivered locally so a new Constitution is required and the tax system needs to be reformed.
Until the WellFair services are available we will maintain the status quo of the existing tax and social security systems. For at least one year, the vast majority of the civil service structure, and the social services delivered, will remain unchanged and continue to operate as now. It is important that change is implemented in an orderly and structured fashion, so that the disruption to people’s lives is minimised and the flow of the economy and the security of the society are not compromised. There are also new skills needed and new responsibilities for average citizens, business owners and public service employees, so time must be allowed for dissemination and assimilation of these new policies.
Effective delivery of WellFair services requires a high degree of local autonomy and responsibility. This means that constitutional reform must come first, and the tax system must be reformed in line with the implementation of WellFair services. The necessary coordination of WellFair and tax reform requires that an urgent and early priority is the assessment of the content and the costs of the WellFair services.
All this means that the priorities and schedule of the first government will be:
- constitutional reform
- electoral reform
- WellFair service content assessment
- budget restructuring
- the development of WellFair service infrastructure
The first bill to be introduced in the first month of the new parliament will be a new Democracy & Freedom Bill (modelled on the Standards of LIFE constitutional template). The proposed text of the bill will be reviewed by the Supreme Court, the regional assemblies of Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland, the House of Lords, various select committees and finally debated on the floor of the Commons. It is anticipated that this review process will take about 3-6 months.
Having completed the review of the proposed bill, the House of Commons will vote on any proposed amendments and ratify the resulting text as the new basis of democracy in the United Kingdom. This process should be complete approximately 6 months after the election.
A Law Review Commission will then proceed immediately to determine the assignment of aspects of law based on the existing structure. In this way the current locale of a legal responsibility is inherited by that layer of government at inception and is only changed through the promotion or retrieval of aspects of law through their respective governments at the Community and Region layers per the specifications for Variable Law laid out in the Constitution. This means, for instance, that those aspects of law already promoted to the EU [effectively the UK’s inherited Transterritory] remain so. The only exception to this will be those aspects of law and democratic structure that are mandated by the Constitution to be devolved to the respective layer, such as the Community obligation to maintain census and authorise residency.
The existing devolved assemblies for regions of the United Kingdom closely resemble the proposed Region Assemblies described in the LIFE constitutional template, including four year terms and the ability to vary laws within their jurisdiction. The existing assemblies will remain in place pending the Region selections by the Communities within their existing boundaries and, after the Region elections planned for the second year of the Parliament, the existing regional assemblies will become Region Assemblies under the new Democracy & Freedom Bill with full powers and responsibilities as specified therein. The primary difference between the old and new assemblies will be that the new Assemblies derive their power from responsibilities promoted to them by their Communities, rather than the old structure which was based on the devolution of power at the discretion of the national government. As a result of electoral reform, Regional Assemblies have approximately half the number of Members that they have today, and there may be some variations in the boundaries that result from Community-Region self selections.
As soon as the new Democracy & Freedom Bill is ratified, the LIFE government will introduce measures to reform the European Union using the same standards and principles of LIFE. The long term objective will be to get the EU and all member States to adopt the same multi-layered constitutional structure and proportional election methodologies by 2020. Recognising that this will take some time and will be best advanced by the example of the UK’s own adoption of the same standards, the LIFE government will focus on internal reform before demanding reform externally.
The EU will be formally adopted as the UK’s self selected Transterritory after the next UK general election and will be assumed to be so, informally, until then.
During the constitutional review period local governments and community organisations will begin the process of defining the boundaries of future Communities. Every UK citizen will be asked to specify their desired geographic Community affiliation at whatever address is their primary residence. These selections will be mapped and displayed for public review so that each citizen can see the boundaries that would result from this initial selection. There will then be a period of review (around 6 months) during which citizens may change their selection at will, with a new map being published every 30 days. The creation of these provisional Community boundaries will employ the standards specified in the constitutional template, meaning that Communities must be geographically contiguous and that the affiliation of shared properties (such as blocks of flats) is based on the selection of the majority of the citizen residents of that property.
The average parliamentary constituency has a population of around 80,000 and it is anticipated that each constituency will resolve itself into between two and ten Communities. This suggests that the United Kingdom will be made up of approximately 3,000 Communities, each with an average population of 21,000.
After the ratification of the Democracy & Freedom Bill, the Commons can proceed to the selection of the members of an UK Election Commission who will oversee the reform at the State level, initiate a census to formalise, and arbitrate any disputes in the formation of, the initial Community boundaries. This process should take about another 3 months, given that much of the work will have already been completed while the democracy bill was being ratified. Legal residency shall be automatically granted to all residents legal [according to prevailing UK law] at the time of the Bill’s ratification, in the Community of their primary residence. Individual citizens can change the Community selection of their property once during the life of each Community Assembly (although frequent changes are unlikely to be either practical or popular), and this reduces the pressure on the initial definition of boundaries to be perfect.
The UK Election Commission will also be responsible for initiating a nationwide voter education program to assist citizens with understanding their rights and responsibilities under the new Bill. The Commission will also produce guidelines and standards to ensure that local elections proceed according to the Bill and that votes are counted accurately and transparently.
It should be possible to complete the formalisation of Community boundaries within a few months after ratification of the Democracy & Freedom Bill, so that election campaigns for the first members of each Community Assembly will start approximately 8 to 9 months after the General Election. Community election campaigns last for 90 days which means that the first Community elections using the new system of proportional representation described in the Bill will occur approximately one year after the General Election.
It is quite likely that the meeting facilities for the first Community Assemblies will have to use whatever public facilities are available within the Community boundaries and while these may be less than perfect it will be the State Election Commission’s responsibility to ensure that they meet minimum requirements of the Bill. There will be a preliminary budget disbursement to every Community immediately after their first election and it is anticipated that at least some portion of this budget will be used to ensure that there are appropriate facilities in which the Community Assembly can meet publicly.
A Citizen’s Experience
So what might a typical citizen’s experience be like during this first year of a new Parliament?
The most prominent experience for the typical citizen is going to be the process of selecting their Community. For many this will be a singularly undramatic event because they live self-evidently within a particular town or area that has for decades or centuries had its own identity and which still sees itself as a singular community, and is probably easily defined by the existing boundaries of an existing Council or Parish. For people living in such an area the process will be as simple as going online, or to their local government office, and affirming that they wish to be a part of that Community. Within a month or so of having made their selection, a map will be available online and/or in their local library or government office on which they can identify their place of residence and the boundaries of the community within which they will be placed.
A fairly common experience may be the realisation that the Community that they have selected to be a member of is actually rather small and that the burden and costs of administrating such a small Community is going to be too high. This will prompt public meetings and discussions about the possibility of merging together with surrounding communities to form a single, more viable entity; albeit encompassing a few areas that have distinct identities but which collectively make more sense as a constitutional Community.
Another common experience will be for those who live in a shared property, for instance because they live in a house that has been divided into flats. For these people there will be not only the personal selection of community identity but also accounting for the selections of others who share the same physical property. Again, in the vast majority of cases this is unlikely to result in any significant disputes however that may well be cases in which it is necessary to arrange for an informal, or even formal, selection process by which the majority of the residents make the final determination.
After a few months of this relatively informal process, things will begin to firm up as the newly appointed Election Commission supervises the results of a census that confirms the citizenship status of all residents and ratifies the Community boundaries. Any disputes about community boundaries will be resolved and conformity with the requirements of the Bill for geographic contiguity will be asserted. Final maps will be produced showing the boundaries of every Community.
At around the same time as the Election Commission publishes the Community boundaries, the Law Review Commission will produce a schedule of legal responsibilities based on the existing legal structure. This document will affirm the initial Variable Law status so that citizens can see for themselves which aspects of law their Community Assemblies will have jurisdiction over, and which aspects of law have already been effectively promoted to their Region, retained by the State, or even promoted to the EU (everyone’s Transterritory).
Similarly, and at around the same time, the government will publish an initial assessment of the costs of delivering universal services and how those services are currently split between Communities, Regions and the State.
These three definitions of initial status (Community boundaries, Variable Law and budgets for wellfair services) will provide the basis for much of the campaign issues on which candidates for the first Community elections will stand. Which Region will this Community be a member of? What aspects of law does this Community wish to retrieve from higher layers? What wellfair services does this Community consider itself to be better off providing using its own resources, and which services is it better off promoting to its Region to provide? These are the decisions that will be entrusted to the first Community Assembly and they are the questions that will be uppermost in the average citizen’s decision about how to vote in their first Community election.
Under the new Bill elected representatives at all levels of government from the Community to the State are full-time representatives of the public, and are paid a salary in proportion to the average earnings of the people in the constituency they represent. This will stimulate many more people to stand for election, and the first Community elections will provide the first exposure for many to a more vibrant and multihued political process.
The first term of the first Community Assembly is shortened from the normal three years to two years, allowing for the voters to make adjustments to their local government early on in a period of significant changes. One of the most significant responsibilities of the first Community Assembly will be the selection of that Community’s Regional affiliation. Given that Regional affiliation will be a hot topic during the Community election campaign it is anticipated that Community Assemblies will be able to make their Regional affiliation selection within 3 months of the Community election date. This will allow Region boundaries to be established and Region election campaigns started, such that the election date for the Region Assemblies will be approximately 6 months after the completion of the Community elections.
Based on existing regional identities and the geography of the United Kingdom it is most likely that there will be between 9 and 12 Regions that result from the Community selections, each Region containing approximately 300 Communities. It is most likely that each Region will incorporate an existing public building that can be used as an appropriate venue for the Regional Assembly meetings.
If this schedule can be kept, it will mean that approximately 3 years after the General Election every citizen in the United Kingdom will have had the opportunity to elect representatives at their Community, and Regional levels. The democratic infrastructure necessary to allow the devolution of responsibilities and the delivery of universal services will be in place.
The next elections to be held will be the second Community elections, approximately 1 year prior to the first State proportionally representative election (previously called a General Election).
| Creative policymakers must look at this combination of rising demand and resource constraint as an opportunity to radically re-shape the purpose and alignment of public services to better reflect the needs, wants and capabilities of 2020 citizens.
– 2020 Public Services Trust
WellFair Services Assessment
A critically important component of the rollout of WellFair services is the ability and responsibility of each Community to deliver its mandated WellFair services to its residents. This responsibility is funded by the Community’s share of the national income tax revenues (WellFair Support Grant). In order to make this work it is vital that there is an accurate assessment of the costs of delivering the mandated services.
The cost of delivering the services is significantly dependent on the content of those services, so there is an iterative process that needs to be completed in which the content of the services and the costs of delivering them are harmonised within the available budget derived from income taxes. This process contains the following steps:
- defining the existing content of the existing services
- determining the existing budget assigned to each service
- proposing changes to service content
- assessing the costs of delivering the proposed service content
- determining the revenue available from income taxes at different base rates
- assessing whether there are sufficient revenues available to cover the costs of the proposed services
- adjusting service content up or down based on the available budget
- formalising the mandated content of each service
- ascribing an average per capita budget value to each service
- assigning budgets based on the existing/starting service responsibilities splits between Communities, Regions and the State
Furthermore, it is anticipated that in order to effectively deliver certain services, especially household and personal expenses, it will be necessary to rollout credit and identification systems that will allow citizens to access the services using credit facilities. The amount of preparation that is necessary means that it is highly unlikely that it will be possible to rollout the new WellFair services for at least 18 months and possibly two years.
WellFair service delivery will gain significant efficiencies by using a service hub in each community, a Community Centre (CC). While some Communities will be able to repurpose an existing building to use as their CC, many more will likely require the construction of a new CC. In order to facilitate this the government will solicit, select and approve a set of CC designs which Communities can adopt and build.
During the first six months after the General Election the government will embark on the following specifications projects:
- WellFair specifications (see Shelter and Sustenance)
- xID standards
- SPEx standards
- UCC standards
- CC designs
Both the xID and UCC systems are expected to take 1 year to rollout, at least in their initial form, after their specification has been solidified. Community and Region xID infrastructure will likely not be ready until the next Parliament, and so it will be necessary to launch WellFair services using a State xID infrastructure (this is not ideal, but preferential to a delay of WellFair service availability). The UCC system should be able to leverage the existing credit/debit card infrastructure, allowing for a relatively rapid deployment.
Following is a review of each of the seven basic WellFair services and the process by which their initial contents and costs will be assessed.
The existing national housing budget can be combined with assessment of local government housing costs to arrive at an existing total expenditure on public housing. To this amount can be added to total revenues received by way of rents charged for public housing today, and the combined total yields an average per capita spending for Shelter.
The existing quality standards are unlikely to be so luxurious as to invite any downgrade in the content standards for shelter, so the initial housing can use the existing standards and costs.
As with other WellFair services, there are likely to be significant differentials between Communities as to the percentage of the population that receives housing support and the quality of shelter available. To provide a period for adjustments the initial Community budget for Shelter will be set at the current expenditure in each Community and adjusted annually to harmonise with to the standard over 5 years. This will be accomplished by moving the per capita Shelter budget towards the standard by 20%, 25%, 33%, 50% and 100% in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th years respectively. For instance if the standard budegt for Shelter [UK-wide] is £500, and there is an inner city Community where the current average expenditure per person is currently £1,000: then the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years of Shelter budget for that Community will be £800, £725 and £600 respectively. Similarly in a suburban Community where the current average expenditure per person is £100, then the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years of Shelter budget for that Community will be £180, £260 and £320 respectively.
This adjustment period provides constituencies with the time and opportunity to restructure their services and revenues as they wish.
Example of Shelter in action
Every Community has a responsibility to provide shelter to its residents and citizens. To meet this responsibility it is necessary for every Community to have sufficient public housing stock to meet the demand from the population. The quality of the shelter provided must be at least at the basic standard specified at the national level and the budget available to provide this shelter must be within the budget assigned to the Community, unless it is supplemented by additional revenues raised from local taxes.
Community residents who own property or are otherwise paying for their own shelter with private rents are not in need of shelter, and do not need to be accommodated within the budget. Should any citizen elect to forgo their private residence and request accommodation in public shelter, they are perfectly entitled to do so, however there is no incumbent responsibility on the Community to maintain them in their current abode.
There is always the option for a private citizen to sell their private property to the Community at a price not higher than what it would’ve cost the Community to build and maintain a standard shelter service. Say, for instance, that a family of four living in a £1,000,000 house decides that they would rather move to public housing. The Community government can decide whether they would be better off buying the family’s existing house or moving the family into existing public housing. If no public housing exists and it would cost the Community £250,000 to build a new housing unit and run it for 20 years, then it may be better for the Community to offer the family £200,000 to buy their existing house (assuming that a reasonable expectation of maintenance and utility costs for that house are £2,500 per year). If the family is unwilling to sell their house to the Community at the offered price then they are free to move into whatever Shelter the Community can offer them, which might be Emergency Shelter for up to 6 months.
Given that the current system of benefits does not provide a nutritious diet, it is not possible to use existing budgets to determine the standards for Sustenance.
Standards do exist for the content of a nutritious diet and the price of food is known. This allows for a weekly per capita budget for nutrition to be easy derived.
The UCC system will be used to provide credit to those in need that can only be used to buy household and personal items.
Community Centres with operational kitchens and commercial food vendors who can provide validated meal options that meet the content and cost standards of the Sustenance standards could be able to accept UCC payments on a per meal basis, depending on how their Community decides to provide the Sustenace service. Grocers could be able to accept payments as well.
Legal guardians of minors will be able to draw on the UCC account balances of their charges in order to make payments for food.
The existing national public transport budget plus the revenues derived from charging fares for local public transport services yields the national transport budget. The State retains that portion of the budget that represents the costs of providing national, inter-regional transport services and distributes the balance to Communities and Regions on a per capita basis, using the existing split of transport provisioning between them as a starting point.
The existing NHS budget yields a national per capita cost for healthcare services. The State retains that portion of the budget that represents the costs of providing national specialised services and distributes the balance to Communities and Regions on a per capita basis depending on the existing distribution of healthcare responsibilities between them.
Over time Communities and Regions will be able to adjust the balance of the services and budgets by promoting or retrieving responsibilities through their respective governments at the Community and Region layers.
The existing education budget plus the revenues derived from charging fees for local public education services yields a national per capita cost for education. The State retains that portion of the budget that represents the costs of providing national specialised services and distributes the balance to Communities and Regions on a per capita basis depending on the existing distribution of education responsibilities between them.
Over time Communities and Regions will be able to adjust the balance of the services and budgets by promoting or retrieving responsibilities through their respective governments at the Community and Region layers.
The cost of providing every household with high-speed Internet access and TV broadcast access can be assessed and provided to Communities as a per capita budget. The national costs of infrastructure, the BBC, xID, and SPEx will be added to the total Information budget.
The existing public order and safety budget will distributed to Regions and Communities, proportionate to their existing responsibilities, after deducting the costs of State-wide services such as national prisons and national law enforcement.
Police forces and other law enforcement will have to be restructured to match the constituencies of Regions and Communities so that responsibility and accountability can be aligned with government. In the majority of instances will not require significant changes as it is likely that regional boundaries will not vary significantly from current ones and that Communities will promote those aspects of law enforcement that they can in line with their promotion of service responsibilities.
Over time Communities, Regions and the UK State will be able to adjust the balance of the services and budgets by promoting or retrieving responsibilities through their respective governments at the various layers.
The costs of provisioning and managing the multi-layer democracy infrastructure also form part of the Legal Services budget. The current “democracy budget” is around £10Bn, and the introduction of salaries for all elected representatives will add another £3Bn to that – a small price to pay for a truly representative democracy.
This presents a good opportunity to investigate the relationship between the size of Community constituencies, their budgets and the revenues available to them from the distribution of national income taxes. To assess the costs of, and therefore the budget for, Community Assembly salaries the average size of Community constituencies and the Median Earnings (ME) across the entire income tax population (i.e. across the entire UK population) used as inputs into the following calculation:
( (Average Constituency Population / 1,000) x (ME x 5) ) / Average Constituency Population
This calculation yields the average per capita cost of supporting a full Community Assembly with each member receiving a salary equivalent to five times the Median Earnings of the population. As an example, let’s substitute the following numbers into the equation: an Average Constituency Population of 20,000 and a Median Earnings figure of £30,000. So the per capita allocation to every Community to cover the costs of Assembly Members’ salaries would be ((20,000/1,000)x(£30,000×5))/20,000 = (20x£150,000)/20,000 = £150.
So for a Community with an actual population of 4,000 the budget available from the distribution of national income tax revenues to cover the costs of Community Assembly Members would be £600,000. If the Community elected its constitutionally allowed maximum of seven Assembly Members, the budget available for an individual Member’s salary would be £85,714, irrespective of the Median Earnings of the Community’s population. If that Community’s Median Earnings are around 17,000 then this number is in line with the national standards. However if this Community’s Median Earnings are the same as the national average, then they would have to raise another £450,000 in local taxes (about £110 per person per year) to meet the national standards for the compensation of Assembly Members.
Let’s say that a neighbouring Community has a population of 35,000, Median Earnings the same as the national average and that their election yields a total of 17 elected Assembly Members. This Community would receive a disbursement of £5.25 million from national income tax revenues, but would only need to expend £2.25 million on Assembly Members’ salaries, leaving a surplus of £3 million that could be used for other Community WellFair services.
This example demonstrates the benefits of relatively large Communities and will have to be one of the factors that citizens weigh when choosing which Community they would like to be a member of and how big that Community will be.
Current State Budget Alignment
Tax Collection Systems
In order to collect and distribute the tax revenues necessary to deliver universal services the existing tax collection systems will have to be overhauled. Prior to the launch of WellFair services HMRC will have to update their tax collection systems to accommodate the collection of taxes from all citizens (as there will be no personal allowances by 2020) using both PAYE and self reporting mechanisms. The dramatically simpler tax code will help to make the changes easier, however HMRC will also have to collect information on “income” from a wider range of sources including capital gain transactions.
Resource Tax Implications
The introduction of carbon loading taxes as well as the full and proper costing of waste management will both result in an increase in the costs of providing WellFair services. The calculation of resource tax loading will include sufficient revenues to mitigate these costs and make their impact on the public purse budget neutral, so long as each layer of government meets its goals for resource efficiency.
It is worthwhile to bear in mind that the extent and content of all WellFair services affect the income tax rate of everyone, irrespective of their use of the services; and everyone pays income taxes. This places a natural resistance to the over-use or over-specification of services. As a corollary to this, it is perfectly possible that Communities and Regions will decide to raise additional revenues from local property, sales or income taxes to enhance the level of services that they wish to provide within their areas.
Annual Budget Adjustments
Each year the governments at each layer will provide data about their costs of delivering the universal services to the agreed content standards. The average national per capita allocations for each service will be adjusted for cost changes and the distributions from State incomes tax revenues in the following year amended accordingly.
Adjustments to the standardised content of the services can be made by the Assemblies at each layer and will affect the constituency of that layer accompanied by changes to the taxation rates for those constituents necessary to fund those content changes. So if a Region decides to increase the per capita Sustenance budget for their constituents (over and above the State budget) they will have to generate sufficient additional tax revenues to fund that increase. If they chose to raise those revenues by imposing additional income taxes they will have to pass legislation in their Assembly prior to end of the year and allow sufficient time for the State tax collection systems to be adjusted to collect those revenues on their behalf.
National Infrastructure Bank
Many aspects of the LIFE government’s policies will require significant investments in infrastructure of Communities and it is quite possible that these new entities will not be able to easily access commercial sources of funding at reasonable rates. To meet this need the LIFE government will establish a National Infrastructure Bank, funded by State issued bonds, that will accept loan applications from Communities and Regions for infrastructure investments to meet their universal services responsibilities. The loans will be guaranteed by providing liens on the future tax revenues of the borrowing constituency.
Much of the progress toward a carbon neutral, sustainable United Kingdom will be made over time with structural changes to social and economic systems catalysed by the introduction of WellFair services and the development of microeconomic activity. During the first term of a LIFE parliament, in addition to the push for universal services, governments at all layers will be required to develop their own plans for achieving carbon neutral status within 10 years. This means that every Community and Region will have to start a thorough planning process spanning a diverse range of issues from efficiency and energy production through to water use and waste management.
At the State level a Carbon Planning Board will introduce a carbon tax that will start to be collected not more than one year after the General Election. The objective of the carbon tax will be to raise revenues sufficient to support Community and Region carbon neutral plans, mitigate increases in the costs of universal services caused by the taxes and fund the UK’s contributions to international efforts for mitigation, adaptation and technology transfer.
The development of Community and Region waste management plans should allow for the start of source waste taxation within the same timeframe as carbon loading. The waste taxes will be aimed at making sure that products bear the cost of their waste management at the front end of their lifecycle. The result will be that short lifespan products that contain unrecylable content will carry the cost of managing the waste they generate in their sale price. and that the revenues generated by these waste loading taxes will be distributed to the Communities within which the products are consumed.
An example of how Britain could reduce emissions by 53% in the near term is available in this graphic.
For a full schedule of actions during the first term of a LIFE parliament see this chart.