Idea 25: Nationalise Openreach

In 2006 Ofcom's Telecommunications Strategic Review led to the semi-split of BT's broadband, phone and TV supply divisions from the arm of its business which runs all the cable connections into homes in Britain leading to the creation of a new BT subsidiary: Openreach. 

Now Ofcom is conducting another Strategic Review and the future of Openreach is up for debate again. One of the options on the plate is to completely split Openreach into a fully independent company rather than a subsidiary of BT, the main rationales being that:

- the current system gives BT an unfair advantage over their rivals who pay to use their cables 

- the alternative would be complete deregulation which would see a lot of duplication with roads ripped up as Virgin and Sky lay their own cables where BT already have cables 

- there have been criticisms that BT have under invested in upgrading Britain's fibre optic infrastructure  

I propose that Openreach should become entirely independent and that Government should nationalise it. The Government would then be able to coordinate a rapid roll-out of 1,000 MB per second fibre optic connections to the doorstep of every home in the country.  This would put the UK at the forefront of the world's broadband speeds, hugely advantaging our businesses and encouraging inward investment. The Government would then be reimbursed over time from the profits made by Openreach from selling access to the network (as Openreach currently does) to TalkTalk, Sky, BT, Virgin and other broadband suppliers, not to mention the higher revenue accrued from business rates, corporation tax, NI contributions, income tax and VAT from businesses being more successful, new ones starting up or moving here from overseas. 

Consumers will benefit from better broadband speeds probably at lower prices thanks to a fairer playing field with lower entry costs for new suppliers. 

 

Idea 24: Extend the school day to 5pm

So often problems in society suddenly making the headlines are followed by someone proclaiming the solution is something based in schools. There's a lot to be said for that, I'm a huge advocate of early intervention and focusing efforts on child development is absolutely the right approach to tackling inequalities of opportunity but there is a problem - we are asking more and more of our teachers and schools without providing the time, space and resources to do it all. 

Watching ITV's recent two part documentary 'School Swap' where a state school and a private school swapped a set of pupils and their head teachers for a week was interesting for a number of reasons but for me the key thing to take away was that the sheer variety of options for, what we in the state sector would call, 'extra-curricular' activities. 

Much of the divide between state and private is purely down to financial resources the state could never match for all schools but so many extra-curricular activities already exist in and outside of schools that I'm certain capacity is there with a little more organisation to be able to devise a set of 'optional classes' for every pupil - basically extending the concept of picking your subjects at GCSE by making extra-curricular activities compulsory but with such a range of choices it never really feels like it. 

Extending the school day would also allow for longer breaks for pupils to make up for the extended day and it allows for more sports to be crammed into the week so pupils are more active to help tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity. 

The growth of extra-curricular activities has seen many schools heading in this direction already but to get a really serious, national cultural shift it would take a Government mandated change to 5pm finishes for all schools to make it truly work in a coordinated fashion which might see schools collaborating to offer certain activities that other schools don't have the facilities for. 

If nothing else it's worth trying on a city region (say Greater Manchester) scale to test its impact before rolling out nationally if it delivers the expected impact of more rounded young people.  

Idea 23: Roll out free gym, swimming & other activities at local authority centres

Free gym/swimming/badminton etc. may sound like a luxury but the BeActive scheme run by Birmingham's NHS and the City Council has been a tremendous success offering exactly that.  

Hard to reach groups getting involved and all groups (ages, income etc.) are taking part in physical activity more often and of course the benefits of this will, in the long-run, pay for itself in savings to the NHS. 

The BeActive scheme also shows how you can move beyond simply offering free access to facilities to actually create a membership community. Getting residents to sign up and get a members card allows Councils or new English City Regional Mayors' offices to gain data on how often facilities are being used and also a way of contacting individuals to target them with tailored promotional material about the facilities or the activities on offer. 

Savings in the future might sound all well and good but leisure centres could do with some revenue here and now so why not use the membership scheme to its full advantage by working with a list of organisations (shops, experience day providers, restaurants etc.) to offer money off in exchange for points accrued (ala Nectar cards) for attending leisure activities. This has the twin benefit of providing advertising for these businesses who could pay to sign up and it also encourages citizens to stay active and use the facilities often in order to gain points. 

So how about it? A policy that extends the entitlements provided in exchange for the hated Council Tax, a policy that gets the population more active and saves the NHS money/makes workers more productive at the same time; and a policy that brings in revenue from the private sector whilst saving individuals money in shops and restaurants simply as a reward for being healthy and active. 

Idea 22: Extend Statutory Maternity Pay to 52 weeks

Hardly an original idea this one, it actually appeared in our 2005 manifesto as a pledge to be delivered by 2010...this can count as a broken New Labour promise.  

The estimated cost is £195million i.e. small change in Government terms even in these straitened times. 

I think we should re-adopt this policy. We can admit our mistake in not putting it into place and put it alongside our excellent 2015 manifesto pledge of doubling the rate and length of paternity pay as well as a commitment to extending year-round universal childcare of 35 hours a week to ages 1-4.

Labour should make sure all voters go into the next election knowing we are the party for new families - a strong commitment on childcare, paternity and maternity pay would help achieve that. 

Idea 21: Split alcohol duty - one for retailers and another for pubs and clubs

The news that the European Commission won't allow the Scottish Government (and Wales who intended to follow) to introduce a minimum price for alcohol was disappointing. The rationale for such a move is well-established by public health experts who are convinced that is the way to reduce alcoholism and alcohol-related deaths. The Commission didn't deny the evidence or the aim their argument was simply that it was an infringement on a free market that could set a precedent and the same result could be achieved through taxation i.e. raising alcohol duty. 

This presents a problem. Raising alcohol duty   affects pubs and clubs just as much as supermarkets yet it is the twin problems of alcoholics buying up low-cost supplies and students buying up crates of cheap booze to 'pre-load' before hitting the town, that the Government should be targeting rather than the struggling pub trade. 

So we should split alcohol duty into an 'on sales' class and and 'off sales' class. This would allow Government to hike the duty on retailers (namely supermarkets) to address problem drinking whilst freezing or even mildly cutting the duty paid in pubs and clubs thus encouraging more people to head out earlier rather than 'pre-loading' at home when the evidence shows people tend (though clearly we all know exceptions!) to drink more sensibly in a public setting than at home. 

This policy also has more going for it than its public health benefits. It would boost pubs, restaurants and clubs which create jobs. It would also raise more tax revenue than minimum pricing would have done and that money can be used to invest in treatments for those suffering from alcoholism. 

Idea 20: Support the divestment movement and take a lead with council pension funds

The global divestment movement - calling for investors to pull out of fossil fuels - has had some a few high profile successes so far but the movement needs support. 

Labour should actively support campaigners looking to lobby investors to divest from fossil fuels as well as other things such as tobacco and instead invest in ethical investment funds. Further than that it should make it policy that we would pass a Divestment Act which would force all local authority funds to divest from fossil fuels and tobacco industries if were to return to power in 2020. 

We can also lead by example in the local authorities we already hold power, divesting from all direct and indirect investments in fossil fuels and tobacco and instead shifting to ethical investment funds or investing in local infrastructure funds and social impact bonds instead. 

Divesting all UK local authority pension funds in this way would be a significant blow to the fossil fuels industries, it would send a strong message to private investors and would free up large volumes of cash for the renewables industry and other ethical investments. 

Idea 19: Use fines for failure to buy shares in public utilities and give them to citizens to mutualise them

I'll declare it up front, this is an idea totally stolen from Stella Creasy.

Water companies failing to deal with leaks, energy companies over charging etc. Regulators like Ofgem and Ofwat quite regularly fine big companies running our public utilities when the mess up. We could use the money raised from these fines to buy shares in the companies which can then be given to customers and employees alike to mutualise the service. 

Mutualisation has benefits over pure nationalisation in that the co-operative owners have a greater, democratic say in how the organisation is run but a mutual set-up also makes it much, much more difficult for the Tories to re-privatise them when they get back into office. 

Look at what the Tories are doing in office - they are seizing the opportunity to radically alter the state in ways that are practically or politically difficult to reverse (boundary changes, trade union restrictions, privatisations, English Votes for English Laws etc.). We need to get much smarter at locking in the social gains our years in office allow us to enact so that our good work can't be un-done by a few years of Tory rule. This policy is one example of how we can reassert our values of public ownership whilst locking it in for the long-term (and making it more democratic too!). 

Idea 18: Free home security improvements for the most vulnerable

Labour should be proud of its record on crime. Burglaries reduced from 1.7million a year in 1996 to just over 700,000 by the time they left office. Yet still its the Conservatives who are seen as best on crime. We've got to get back to talking about crime because its a social justice issue - you're more likely to be a victim of crime if you're poor and crime is therefore higher in the communities Labour most often serves than it is in places that always elect a Tory. 

So Blair said we should be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. The latter point meaning we'd work hard on stopping people becoming criminals in the first place. We definitely have more work to do on that (earlier interventions being crucial) but the missing element in the Blair statement (admittedly less catchy) is 'tough on the possibilities for crime'. 

The reason car crime has dropped so significantly is partly due to the same trends of dropping crime overall but also because of vastly improved car security systems. If only such systems existed for homes...oh wait they do. Yet very few people in Britain have a burglar alarm on their property. I'm not saying having an alarm will deter all burglars but its likely to deter most so why don't we roll out free burglar alarms to all homes in areas where burglaries have been reported in the last year? 

Labour-led Salford Council (and I'm sure many other councils do something similar too) deliver an individual tailored package of home security improvements (which can include door viewers, chains, burglar alarms, door and window locks) for anyone who meets the following criteria: 

  • Repeat victim of burglary within the last 12 months
  • Repeat victim of anti-social behaviour (3 incidentswithin the last 3 months)
  • Aggravated burglary victim within the last 6 months
  • Victim of Hate Crime within the last 6 months
  • Victim of domestic abuse via the sanctuary scheme
  • Any resident over the age of 70

I like the criteria above as a general eligibility but as I said I'd also widen it to all properties on any street or area where a burglary has been reported in the last 12 months. 

If these simple and not very expensive solutions can help reduce the rate of burglaries then they will be worth every penny in moral terms (providing safety and peace of mind for vulnerable individuals, potentially saving lives) but also in hard cash terms too thanks to reduced police time spent investigating burglaries and break-ins. 

We need to talk proudly about Labour being the party that best understands how to reduce crime and we need to create a new national entitlement to support for those most at-risk of becoming a victim. 

Idea 17: Arts Councils for a devolved England

One of the most ways this Government will have radically changed England by 2020 is devolution for city and county regions. Prepare for rocket boosters under this policy to fire up from this Friday when Osborne's deadline for councils to submit proposals passes - rumour has it the North East, West Yorkshire, Notts/Derby and Merseyside - if not more places - are in line for the kind of powers devolved to Greater Manchester in exchange for adopting an elected Mayor. 

These areas will control all NHS spending in their areas and policing too. Yet one area of policy that hasn't ben discussed is the arts. Probably because local authorities already do quite a bit of arts and culture spending yet if these new areas are to assume any kind of cultural identity and if we are to seriously address the disparity in arts funding across our country then we need to look seriously at an idea first floated by Liam Byrne...

We should create new Arts Councils for each City and County Region. I.e. Just as we have an Arts Council for Wales and for Scotland we should have Arts Council Manchester; Arts Council Cornwall etc. The difference would be that Arts Council England could be maintained to fund major national projects, support touring of productions and national educational schemes too but these new regional arts councils could allow each area to shape their own cultural output. 

Much of the focus on local devolution has been on encouraging growth through local innovation. Our creative sectors are huge exporting success stories, this model would put the developing the creative industries at the heart of plans to rebalance the economy so that the growth is more evenly spread across the nation. 

So for the sake of fairness in funding, for developing local cultural identities and for supporting the development of the creative industries in all parts of England Labour should push the idea of Arts Councils for each of the new City and County Regions.  

Idea 16: Regulate student rents

Much has been made (rightly) of Osborne's removal of student grants for low and average income families and replacing them with loans. Osborne has tried to counter criticism by pointing out that from next year max maintenance loans for students outside of London will be £2,460. This is important as the cost of student rents has soared. Some of the latest figures I could find suggested student rents rose 25% between 2009 and 2013 (they've no doubt risen significantly since). This means average rents for university provided halls in the cheapest region of the UK swallows up ALL of the current student maintenance loan and rents in the private sector are normally higher still. 

My fear is that simply raising the amount of loan available to students will stoke even more rampant rises in rents. Private student accommodation is already one of the hottest investment tickets in town with increasing student numbers and now those students will have higher income you can bet these investors are salivating at the prospect for revenue boosting rent rises. 

There is also the issue of huge disparities in rents across regions. The loans system makes allowance for the higher costs of London but doesn't account for higher costs in say the South East or East of England.

I propose a two-headed solution: 

First...

 - Reform the loans system so that it is based on average student living costs for each individual university location. Such figures are often calculated for the NUS or Which? There is no reason HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) or the ONS (Office of National Statistics) couldn't be mandated to produce these figures on an annual basis for the Student Loans Company. 

Then...

- Introduce a cap on rents (affecting any landlord offering student accommodation, private halls and university-owned halls) of 75% of the average student maintenance loan for that university. 

An £8,200 loan would result in a local cap of £118 a week for any student accommodation whilst slightly more expensive parts of the country like the South East would see students able to get higher loans say 5-10% higher and thus landlords in those areas would be able to charge 5-10% more than £118 a week but no more than that. 

Idea 15: Taking a global lead on the 'circular economy' and committing to zero waste going to landfill by 2030

The tree on the logo is soon to be chopped down and burned, the land it stands on tracked and the huskies are running away from the man who hugged them - the Conservatives have gone from wanting to be 'the greenest government ever' to completely vacated the environmental centre-ground. 

Labour must seize the opportunity to be bold on the environment - either trumping the Lib Dems and Greens with our proposals or pushing those parties to the fruitcake fringes as they attempt to keep up their environmental credentials even if it costs their credibility. 

We should set a bold target of abolishing landfill by 2030. Germany has already achieved this with a 65% recycling rate and 35% going to incineration. We should aim to at least hit 75% recycling rate but ideally more with the rest going to energy from waste solutions. 

Currently a third of food waste goes to landfill. We need to introduce measures to reduce food waste in the first instance, this will include restrictions on supermarkets and restaurant practices but also better food education in schools (and probably a national marketing campaign led by celebrities) to raise awareness of ways to reduce food waste. It will also require all households - including flats - to recycle their food waste or self-compost with fines for those who don't, which in turn will require councils to send this food waste to anaerobic digestion plants which can produce energy or fertiliser for farming. 

The Government should also make a national push for the UK to take a global lead on the 'circular economy' - in other words getting our manufacturers to utilise recycled materials much more. Last year the cross-party House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee called for the Government to legislate to restrict the use of un-recycleable products in manufacturing processes - they suggested the timetable could be set out well in advance to allow businesses to prepare and invest in new designs and for university scientists to help research new uses for materials which can keep costs down whilst making the products recyclable. This is legislators putting faith in the ingenuity of our businesses and scientists to resolve challenges - the law can always be repealed if no such innovation comes forth. The Government could play its part by setting up a Catapult Centre (centres for university-business collaboration on potential growth technologies) focused on 'circular design'. 

We should also be arguing the case at a EU-level to get similar rules applied across the EU area and indeed restrictions on importing goods without those standards which would really speed up the move to more recyclable materials being used in places like Far East Asia and India who would see their export-based economies dry up if they couldn't access the European single market. 

The quick wins with recycling are nearly all achieved. Wales leads the way on recycling and any future Labour government should highlight that fact and take their lead on raising our recycling rate in England to a similar level but beyond that its going to take tougher restrictions, collaboration between central Government, local government, businesses and consumers as well as investment in innovation. Yet the environmental necessity and economic benefits of dealing with waste more effectively demand Labour takes action - especially if the Tories can't be bothered. 

 

Idea 14: Empower teachers with proper technology training

Everyone of my age (28) has a minor horror story of classrooms being fitted with electronic whiteboards only for the systems to either lay dormant or be simply used as conventional whiteboards by teachers who didn't feel comfortable with the technology at all or certainly didn't understand and embrace its full potential. 

Yet nowadays if you were to visit a school anywhere across England (and i'm sure Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland too) you'd be sure to find innovative and exciting uses of these whiteboards and all sorts other technologies. Visit the free annual teaching tech exhibition, BETT, each January to be cast spellbound by the sheer array of new software and hardware available to schools - some are expensive duds, some could be truly groundbreaking and much of it is now an essential part of a modern school.

Unfortunately the myth persists that Labour threw money are fancy new technologies for schools that is left moribund by teachers longing for the return to chalkboards, an example of perceived wastefulness with public spending. Firstly, the party should be challenging this by talking up the many fantastic examples of modern teaching being delivered in schools as a result of Labour investment but we must also learn an important lesson for ourselves too. Teachers - even young, fresh recruits to the profession - desperately need help to properly take advantage of new technologies. 

One development in particular could be transformational: Flipped learning.

Flipped learning changes the concept of homework so that teachers devise interesting lecture-style lessons for the pupils to read, watch or listen to and make notes at home then at school the classwork is much more 'homework' style but the teachers are on hand to be able to help out whenever a pupil gets stuck on a particular problem or wants to explore a topic in greater depth to burnish their understanding. Flipped learning could seriously address the issue of pupils falling behind and (if done right) could also make school time more fun and enjoyable for pupils - imagine doing more actual acting in Drama, or more playing sports in PE because you did watched the video or read up the content off-site for homework in preparation (and the teacher can check you've logged on and done it too!).

The technology is readily available already for this new era of teaching. What is missing is teachers who feel comfortable with the tech. I mean no disrespect for teachers (my mum is a teaching assistant, many friends are teachers and I have huge respect to all who enter the profession and a gratitude to the many great teachers I had during my school years) and I also don't believe teachers are to blame for not embracing the technology. I put blame squarely on the Government who haven't made learning about new learning technologies are much more significant part of teacher training and certainly haven't made time and financial resources available for teachers to undertake comprehensive CPD to explore the opportunities technology could provide for them to develop their teaching. 

So I propose that it should be Labour policy to actively encourage the adoption of flipped learning through fully-funded mandatory CPD for all teachers that helps them understand how to use the technology and discuss its possibilities for their subject or age group. I honestly think it could make teaching more exciting too, as lesson planning becomes much more creative and with a much more structured output (a video lecture with clips of explanatory content interspersed, for example) and the actual 'lesson' time would be much more about helping ensure everyone understands the work they've been set.

I don't think flipped learning should be used every time for every lesson and I don't think it will solve all problems in education but I do think it has massive potential to improve teaching and learning and thus should be a hugely valuable part of the toolkit for all teachers. We need to learn from the past - introduce the new technology but match it with a huge national CPD effort to support teachers to embrace it to its full potential. 

Idea 13: An early intervention audit committee

We all know that it makes far more sense to invest in prevention instead of cure. Not only does it mean better outcomes for the individuals concerned it normally costs the Government less too. 

Examples:

- Investing in proper probation work with ex-offenders to ensure they don't become reoffenders saves on policing, on court costs and on the prisons system and helps communities and the individuals

- Investing in supporting those from the most 'at risk' situations (children in care, children in deprivation etc.) from becoming offenders by improving child protection, improving care services, offering counselling and improving their schooling saves all of the above plus helps these individuals find employment and contribute to the tax system rather than being a cost to it

- Investing in parental antenatal education and other interventions for parents, offering free universal and good quality childcare and early education and providing access to adult literacy and numeracy for parents to help them teach their children / bond with them too will have a huge impact - offers even more positive outcomes than those listed directly above and all for the lowest possible cost (saving on policing, courts, prisons, children in care services, remedial schooling etc.) 

So we know all this yet we still spend far too much money on tackling issues rather than early education and parental support. Early intervention goes beyond this quite traditional example too. It is the same in healthcare where its better to encourage active lifestyles than it is to spend money on gastric bands and heart surgery on the NHS. 

The Coalition Government seemed to be very keen on early intervention. They commissioned several reports on the issue including a particularly fantastic one by Labour MP Graham Allen yet little action seemed to follow the rhetoric. 

I think Labour should put forward a proposal for a cross-party 'Early Intervention Audit Committee' in the House of Commons. This would have full select committee status and act like the 'Public Accounts Committee' by scrutinising all Government spending, legislation and other policies and then providing a critique in the form of reports which would set out recommendations for how Government could better use their resources to refocus on earlier interventions and prevention rather than dealing with the much more socially scaring and economically painful costs of addressing the failings that arise otherwise.  

Idea 12: future generations tests on all policies

This year the Welsh Government introduced a 'Future Generations Bill'. It requires all public sector bodies to think about the long-term impact of their actions i.e. sounds great now but what will be the effects 15, 30, 50 years down the line. 

We already have equality impact assessments for all Government policies to see how they will affect low-income households, women vs. men, ethnic minorities etc. This hasn't prevented the Tories from ignoring horrific findings from such assessments and ploughing on regardless but at least it provides some accountability and also ammunition for those of us who seek to oppose the unfairness of their ideas. 

If I was on the National Policy Forum I'd suggest we propose a new 'Future Generations Impact Assessment' for all new legislation. The assessments could consider environmental sustainability of a policy, the intergenerational fairness of it (i.e. does it benefit current generations to the detriment of future ones) and the financial implications (for example, the current tuition fees system is grossly unsustainable and even more so now Osborne is piling more debt upon debt by changing maintenance grants into loans, this kind of policy would be spelt out in more detail by a 'Future Generations Assessment').

Idea 11: Support British film by turning BBC Films into a distributor

Britain's film industry is booming. British films are selling well at the box office, British directors, writers and actors are winning plaudits and awards, and we many massive films such as the new Star Wars are being filmed here to take advantage of our superb crews and special effects departments. 

Yet the number of British films making their way into our multiplexes is disappointing. This is no reflection on the quality of British cinema its almost entirely the result of a distribution system dominated by distributors owned by Hollywood studios. 

Giving BBC Films a new distribution arm with a big marketing budget would give British cinema the financial muscle to compete with the US-owned distributors for multiplex slots and audiences. This in turn would mean more private investment going into British films as investors realise the increased returns they could now achieve from a strong box-office run (compared with the current more likely scenario of a week in select - mostly London - cinemas and DVD sales). 

Britain has talent in filmmaking, it's true potential to rival Hollywood could be unleashed if BBC Films was backed to become a champion of British cinema as a distributor rather than just co-funding productions. Best of all, if enough films prove successful their box office returns would at least offset the ones that don't succeed thus making the enterprise cost neutral and if potentially profit making which, because of the Beeb's non-profit nature, would mean a new revenue stream to reinvest in more investment in British films or offsetting recent Tory cuts to the main BBC budget. 

Idea 10: allow self-referral to physiotherapists

Expanding patient choice in the NHS, improving quality of care and saving the NHS millions of pounds a year. A policy that does all of that is not only bound to be popular with the voters but also ticks all the right boxes with the various wings of our party - what's not to like?

So what is this magical policy? It's allowing people to 'self-refer' themselves to a physiotherapist. In other words, rather than having to go to your GP who will then make a decision to refer you to a physio you make the call yourself and book an appointment with the physio directly. 

This has been rolled out in most parts of Scotland with tremendous results freeing up thousands of GP appointments. The Chartered Institute of Physiotherapists believe it could save 100million appointments if applied in England which has two benefits. Firstly, it frees up those appointments for other people, thus helping people access their GP more quickly. Secondly, as physiotherapists are paid less than GPs these 100million appointments work out to a £330million saving for the NHS. 

It obviously benefits the patient and their muscular pains too - improving patient satisfaction with the health service by delivering more timely care for them (because they no longer have to see a GP first then wait for a chance to see the physio!). 

At the moment 32% of CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) areas in England allow self-referral to physics. If this figure was 100% (and we know how much the Daily Mail hates a 'postcode lottery' so another bonus would be having the press on our side for once!) we could be improving care and saving money at the same time. 

Idea 9: maintenance loans for part-time students

Jeremy Corbyn has rightly talked up the need for more lifelong learning, all candidates have talked of the need to help workers up skill in order to address Britain's productivity problem and basic Labour instincts that saw us introduce the Open University should mean we're always trying to help people access higher education at whatever stage of their life.  

So my idea to extend student maintenance loans to part-time students should appeal as a policy idea that ticks all the boxes above. 

Currently part-time students can't access any maintenance support, on the basis that they are working so they don't need any income but this of course ignores the fact that many people who might want to access a part-time degree can't afford to give up their full-time hours in order to do so. 

Part-time student numbers have already dropped dramatically since tuition fees were raised. In response many universities and colleges have dropped their fees slightly but extending maintenance loans to part-time students could help reverse the decline and indeed increase numbers to new highs.  

Currently a full time undergraduate staying at home can take out £4,565 a year. Giving part-time students even just half of this (£2,283) would be a big boost to incomes that could be the difference between reducing hours and enrolling or not being able to.  

If every part-time (around 605,000 on current numbers) claimed the £2,283 it would cost £1.38bn a year. Whilst it's unlikely all 605,000 would opt to claim it's also likely that the numbers enrolling (as I've explained) would rise so let's work on that assumption. You could fund that through adding £197,142 for each of the 7,000 large companies who will have to pay the Government's new Apprenticeship Levy. Like the proposed Levy employers could claim some of that cost back off the Government in exhange for supporting employees to reduce hours to allow them to undertake part-time study. 

Final point: to make this work we should also change the loans regime so that part-time students start paying back after they graduate like full time students. Currently part-time students earning over £21,000 start repaying their loan immediately. Delaying that until after graduation may be another way to help boost numbers enrolling and would be important to make the proposal above work too. 

Idea 8: a Chief Technology Officer for every LEP region

I've already said that I throughly back Yvette Cooper's call for Britain to set a target of 3% of GDP to be invested in R&D annually. This would be double current spending and if current levels of productivity and excellence could be maintained then it would be truly transformational for our economy, setting us on a path to being the world leading place for innovation, allowing us to once again lead the world instead of follow in the trails blazed by others.  

We shouldn't get too downhearted though. London recently came out 2nd in a list of best cities for innovation (https://futurecities.catapult.org.uk/news-template/-/asset_publisher/Qw0bKmomFN4q/content/benchmarking-innovation-policy-in-cities/)

The main reason London didn't pip New York for the top spot was because it lacks of a dedicated 'Chief Technology Officer' - a role the report cites as having been 'incredibly successful in other cities'. The report also highlights Barcelona as an example of a smaller city that can be as successful as larger rivals.  

Its with this in mind that I would argue that Labour should include 4 key elements in its policy on science and innovation at the next election:

1. Maintain the 2015 manifesto pledge to bring security to innovation investment by introducing a 10-year framework for science spending that clearly sets out priorities and gives confidence to universities and businesses that science spending policies and incentives won't chop and change every year in the Budget 

2. Set a national goal of acheiving 3% of GDP spent on R&D by 2030 at the latest ideally much before  

3. Building on the Catapult Network - networks of centres (started by Labour) that bring together universities and business to work on cutting edge ideas that can be commercialised - by continuing investment in new Centres and expanding their remit, as suggested in the recent Hauser Review, to look at building relations with the finance industry to help secure private investment in research in new areas and develop Degree Apprenticeship routes into emerging career paths.

4. Introduce a 'Chief Technology Officer' or 'Chief Innovation Officer' for every Local Enterprise Partnership region of England with a remit to ensure the region is doing its utmost to make itself attractive to inward investment in R&D-intensive industries.  

Idea 7: mutualise the BBC

Have to admit I've stolen this idea from Tessa Jowell but if in addition to my party membership in also a member of Labour's sister party Co-operative Party and if I'm elected to the National Policy Forum I'll push the co-operative cause non-stop. 

So the idea is to make the BBC more democratically accountable and give every license fee paying household a say in the running of the organisation whilst also giving it a level of legal protection from the kind of onslaught being brought upon it by the Tories currently. 

We all know the Tories want to ruin the BBC, making it an institution owned by all of us would make their attacks harder to carry out and would rule out their ultimate aim of abolishing the organisation. 

Idea 6: abolish the 11+

A nice easy idea after the more technical two I've proposed recently...

I grew up in Buckinghamshire where every child takes the 11+ and are then split into those who are more academically minded and those who aren't and sent to Grammar schools for the former and Secondary Moderns for the latter, even if you agree with this principle I'm afraid it isn't the 1950s and this selective system no longer works like this in practice.

A few years ago Andrew Neil made a programme about social mobility and expected to conclude that as it was Grammar School system he credited with supporting his own social mobility that the answer to Britain's declining social mobility would be to restore them nationwide. Yet Neil (no leftie I'm sure you'll agree!) concluded that Grammar Schools are no longer great levellers lifting up talented working class kids and helping them smash glass ceilings in Whitehall, the media, law or the City. Instead wealthy parents now sent their children to prep schools or spend large amounts of money on personal tutors to ensure their child passes the 11+ whilst those without such advantages naturally tend to fail. 

The test used in Buckinghamshire was revised last year to try and address this problem but initial findings suggest they've made it worse.  

I remember the feeling of being a failure that not passing your 11+ brings. Seeing parents overjoyed that their son or daughter had passed, another - of considerable wealth - in tears and promising to appeal as their son had missed by a few points; all this while people like me are being told 'oh it doesn't mean you're a failure', maybe not officially but it sure feels like it. 

I was lucky, my secondary modern school (now rated 'requires improvement' by Ofsted) was at the time led by some inspirational teachers in the leadership roles. I received a great education that helped re-build my confidence, shaped the person I am today and I also met some great friends some of whom I still hold dear to this day. I was also elected Head Boy so I did alright out of it but many of the non-Grammar schools in the area at the time weren't so good. 

So if I'm on the National Policy Forum I will push for Labour adopt the policy of finishing the job of installing a truly comprehensive system nationwide, I want to abolish the 11+ system. I want to abolish it because I don't think it's right to separate people at such a young age, I think the test is little more than a glorified IQ test and the system is being gamed by wealthy parents.  

If we are serious about addressing social mobility we need to be brave enough to open the Grammar Schools up to a comprehensive intake.