Reducing asset inequality
Phillip Blond's Res Publica think tank has a new report out, about different ways of supporting community groups to take over the management and ownership of assets which are currently owned by the state.
The report cites a number of sensible ideas which other people have come up with, such as letting unemployed people work and receive a 'Community Allowance' in addition to their benefits; supporting community groups to be able to use empty shops in deprived areas; and urging local authorities to have a strategy for asset management which gives community groups opportunities to take over the management or ownership of state assets, rather than just selling them all off to balance the books.
There isn't anything particularly new here (which is a good thing - for once Blond has drawn on existing ideas rather than coming up with his own wheezes), so by the usually abysmal standards of Blond's work, it is quite good - though very light on detail. There is, for example, a grand total of one paragraph on the risks involved in transferring assets to community groups, which concludes “there are risks but they can be minimised and managed – there is plenty of experience to draw on. The secret is all parties working together.”
For some weird reason, the press release for this report is all about how this is like selling off council houses and will reduce asset inequality. I guess this is an attempt to interest Tories in a set of technocratic leftie policies designed to make modest improvements to the delivery of public services, but the fact it is being spun in this way suggests that Blond doesn't actually understand his own pamphlet.
In particular, if transferring assets to community groups is meant to be an alternative to privatisation, why not follow the logic of this argument through. There are a wide range of public services which are currently being delivered by private companies which are dependent on money from the state. Rather than asset strip the public sector, why not start by breaking up companies like Capita and Serco and transferring their assets and contracts to local community groups?
Instead of the profits from delivering public services going to wealthy shareholders, thus further increasing asset inequality, these resources could be redirected to local community groups and their members in low income communities. If you want to reduce asset inequality, as these "Red Tories" aim to do, then it will involve taking on vested interests in the private sector, not just attacking the state.