Positive Money – Post COVID: Big corporations dominate government’s Build Back Better council

This is being replicated in the EU

By Hannah Dewhirst, Campaigner at Positive Money

Cross-posted from Positive Money

The government’s new Build Back Better council – meant to help the UK recover from the impact of Covid-19 – is dominated by finance, oil and big tech. We cannot let our recovery be hijacked by corporate greed – the needs of people and planet must come first. 

This week the government launched its Build Back Better council. Comprised of 30 advisory members, its aim is to guide our country’s collective recovery from the economic impact of the pandemic. 

Given Boris Johnson’s use of Build Back Better rhetoric over the last few months, many were hopeful that this council’s membership would represent a diversity of voices – including the ‘key workers’ that have been shown to be the backbone of a thriving economy. Now more than ever, we need new and creative ideas to build towards the kind of economy that so many of us want to see. But sadly, just a quick glance over the list of members appointed by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, reveals who this government is really interested in building back our economy for: 

HSBC. Google. BP. Visa. Blackrock. 

Banks. Big Tech. Oil companies. Finance. 

This doesn’t look like building back better – but rather building back the same rigged economy we had before.  A near-perfect example of a revolving door between Westminster and the City (which we’ve warned about before) this council highlights the danger of giving those who are already winning the game, the power to continue writing the rules.

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We’re meant to be a democracy, a state ruled by the people, where all citizens have the power to affect government decisions. But the undue influence awarded by this council to some of the biggest profit-making companies in the UK reveals how shallow that sheen of democracy may really be.

Imagine if this council had been representative of the groups who have suffered the most during the pandemic – the people we really deserve to build back better for, instead of the companies who have continued to rake in millions while the rest of us suffer the consequences. Frontline workers. Cleaners. Carers. Working mothers. The make-up of this council could’ve marked a positive turn in a new direction of who our economy should really be for. 

If there were public sector representatives, we might see pay increases for nurses added to the future list of recommendations. Or even influential public figures like Marcus Rashford who appear to embody the public spirit in his fight for free school meals over the interests of the elite who sit in corporate boardrooms. Or better yet, members could have included leaders from the kinds of alternative businesses we need to see more of if we’re to build an economy that works for people and the planet. Such as B-corps, cooperatives and community-backed initiatives

As long as our big corporations are guided solely by the need to churn out ever greater profits at the expense of our collective and environmental wellbeing – and their past and future employees keep passing through our corridors of power – we’ll never be able to break free from the endless cycle of destruction our current economic model produces. To fix the societal and ecological challenges we currently face, the government must first throw open their doors to new voices. It is only by embracing the communities, unions, cooperatives and small businesses that have been shut out for far too long, that we’ll be able to truly ‘build back better’. 

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