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Brexit can’t cure Britain’s crisis of control, new poll suggests

Those with least control over their lives are least hopeful Brexit will make a difference

  • More than three in four feel little or no control over Westminster, local government and public services
  • Those who feel they lack control are unlikely to see Brexit as the answer – and with good reason, think tank argues
  • New Economics Foundation is equipping people with the tools to meet their deep desire for real control right now

British voters feel as if they have very little control over key institutions in the country – and those who have the least sense of control are also the least hopeful that Brexit will make any difference to their lives, fresh polling for the New Economics Foundation reveals today.

The survey, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and published shortly before the triggering of Article 50, shows voters across the political spectrum and of all classes and age groups feel they have little or no control over a wide range of areas of life, stretching from Westminster government to big business to the provision of public services. Many of them feel devoid of control over a much wider range of issues – including opportunities for their children – than those addressed by Brexit.

And in direct contrast to the widespread argument that Brexit is most supported by so-called left behind’ communities who want to take back control’, this poll shows that those who feel they lack control are in fact the least likely to be enthusiastic about Brexit. Those who are most hopeful for the future when the UK leaves the European Union are in fact those who already feel they have control over their lives.

Among voters who feel they lack control over their lives, the demand to take control extends into the personal world of the kind of jobs they do, working hours, and their own personal data.

Marc Stears, chief executive of the New Economics Foundation, said:

Britain has a crisis of control.

We have heard a great deal from politicians about how they are going to help people take back control. But they aren’t. This poll shows that those who really lack control already know that Brexit isn’t going to make things better.

Brexit optimists are more likely to be those people who already have control. Those who feel they have lost control have good reason to be fearful about what will happen next.

The New Economics Foundation is developing an agenda that meets people’s deep desire for more control over their lives, without offering them false solutions like leaving the EU.

Whether it’s seaside communities left behind by economic development, small businesses starved of finance, or young families hoping for their first home and worried about the cost of childcare, we want to give people the tools they need to change their lives right now.”

The poll in more detail

Of all the 1,994 people sampled:

· 81% feel they have little or no control over the Westminster government
· 79% feel they have little or no control over their local council
· 79% feel they have little or no control over public services in their area
· 75% feel they have little or no control over their neighbourhood
· 70% feel they have little or no control over companies that provide essential services

Of those who feel they have a great deal or a fair amount of control over the things that matter most to them in their lives:

· 58% are hopeful about Brexit (against 38% who are worried)
· 63% own their own home (against 31% who rent)
· 40% voted Conservative in 2015 (against 28% who voted Labour)

Of those who feel they have little or no control over the things that matter most to them:

· 42% are hopeful about Brexit (against 48% who are worried)
· 51% own their own home (against 40% who rent)
· 26% voted Conservative in 2015 (against 37% who voted Labour)

Examples of projects and campaigns at the heart of the Foundation’s agenda

Giving coastal communities real control over their future with a Blue New Deal
Coastal communities feel abandoned by the political elite. Traditional livelihoods have disappeared, without new industries or investment to fill the gaps. Our action plan for a Blue New Deal means working with and supporting communities to take control of their futures, developing an inclusive and outward-looking agenda to revive coastal economies.
The plan identifies 20 priorities, including greater local control over public goods and services, additional investment, closer partnerships between different areas, authorities and industries, and commitment to clean, sustainable coastal waters.

Mapping vacant development sites so that we can take control over our space and the future of our communities by providing homes where we want to live
The housing system is failing a whole generation with property prices soaring beyond reach, millions of tenants being ripped off by private landlords and still too few houses being built by developers on land earmarked for homes. The Foundation will help local people take control of their housing needs by creating the very first maps identifying the vacant sites available for development in their area, as well as showing who owns them and why they have not been built on.

Helping to create a new taxi app owned and operated by drivers so people can begin to share in value they create in digital economy – and take control of the technology that will power all our futures
The digital economy threatens to be even more unequal than the one it is replacing, with data owned by increasingly dominant transnational corporations, jobs being automated and technology platforms like Uber driving down wages in fragmented labour markets. The Foundation is examining how people can use technology to assert more control or share in the value they create with projects such as working with partners to create a new taxi app that will be owned and controlled by drivers, from Leeds to London.

Producing energy locally so that everyone has a stake in a low carbon future and assert some control over a market that seems dominated by the Big Six and vast projects like Hinkley Point
People have virtually no control over the price they pay for energy, they usually do not know whether it is part of the climate change problem or the solution, and they feel they have no control over the cost of enormous projects like the £18 billion nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. The Foundation has teamed up with the Switched On London campaign to create an energy company owned and controlled by the people who use it. This is just one of a new generation of community-led programmes investing in clean locally-produced power that gives everyone a stake in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Turning RBS into 130 stakeholder banks so that finance begins to serve communities – instead of communities serving the banks
Eight years on from the financial crisis, it seems like it is business as usual for Britain’s too-big-to-fail banks with new concessions to the City, whole regions starved of investment and the wealth of those who control financial assets becoming ever greater. The Foundation is drawing up proposals to create more stakeholder banks modelled on the Sparkassen in Germany with a mission to invest for the long term in their areas. We could start by turning publicly-owned RBS into a network of 130 local banks, owned in trust for the public benefit and with a mission to invest in left-behind areas of the country.

Establishing childcare cooperatives so that parents can better afford it and feel less powerless over services that are fundamental to our lives
Britain’s care industry is increasingly reliant on a chronically low-paid and under-valued workforce, run by a few big firms seeking to maximise profit. The Foundation is developing a network of childcare co-operatives, drawing together groups like Childspace in Brockwell and Grasshoppers in the Park in Hackney. These combine the skill of professional workers with the lived experience of families, turning parents from passive recipients of services into active participants who can take more control of how their children are looked after while also ensuring better pay for workers and more affordable services for families.

1. The New Economics Foundation is the UK’s only people-powered think tank. The Foundation works to build a new economy where people really take control. www​.newe​co​nom​ics​.org
2. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR) is a global campaigns and strategic communications research firm. It has polled for hundreds of political campaigns worldwide and also works for a range of leading companies and non-profits. GQRR was pollster to Labour at the UK’s 2015 General Election. The firm is headquartered in Washington, DC and has worked in the UK since 1995.
3. Methodology: GQRR surveyed 1,994 people in Great Britain online between 8 and 10 March. Results are weighted to be representative of the total population by age, gender, region, socioeconomic grade, ethnicity and past voting behaviour. Download data tables showing the results here: http://​bit​.ly/​2​n​nbWiD For more information contact or tweet Peter McLeod (@mcleodp).

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