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Monday, 16 February 2015

Lib Dems unveil their 5 priorities for the next 5 years

The Liberal Democrats have unveiled the party's five priorities for the next five years. These five priorities set out the Liberal Democrat agenda for government of building a stronger economy and a fairer society, creating opportunity for everyone.
Front page of the 2015 election manifesto 

Prosperity for all

Creating a stronger economy is about more than just clearing the deficit that's why the Lib Dems say they will balance the budget fairly and invest in building a high skill low carbon economy. To build a strong, green, innovative economy we need to invest in upgrading our national infrastructure and producing the clean renewable energy that will power our future prosperity. By finishing the job in 2017/18, Liberal Democrats are showing that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Th Lib Dems say they are the only party who can commit to investing in public services in the next parliament, while also getting the public finances back under control. After 2017/18, our new fiscal rules will ensure that debt continues to fall as a share of the economy while allowing us to invest in key infrastructure and vital public services such as schools and hospitals.

Under their plans the Lib Dems say end of austerity is in sight – in three years’ time, unlike the other parties who the Lib Dems say will keep on cutting. Because the party says in Labour’s case because they will not have balanced the books and because the Conservatives have an ideological commitment to a smaller state. The Lib Dem rallying call at this election is 'We will cut less than the Conservatives and borrow less than Labour.'

The Lib Dems say in 2019/20, cutting £38bn less from public spending than the Tories. Over the course of the next parliament, they say they will borrow £70bn less than Labour, which will lead to £4bn less paid in interest on our debts. As they say they finish the job of balancing the books, they will continue to protect NHS funding; education spending from cradle to college; the pensions triple lock and the international aid budget.

Once they 'have finished the job' of balancing the books in 2017/18, the party say they will abide by two new fiscal rules:

  • The Debt Rule: To get debt down to sustainable levels by the mid-2020s.
  • The Balanced Budget Rule: That we will balance the total budget with the exception of productive capital investment.

Taken together, these two rules mean that in the second half of the next parliament spending on public services will be able to rise in line with growth in the economy.

Fair taxes

Creating a fairer society by cutting income tax by raising the tax-free allowance to £12,500. This will put £400 back in the pockets of 30m workers as well as taking a further 1m people out of tax altogether. Unlike the Conservatives who are want to pay for this tax cut by slashing benefits for 5m of the working poor, we will fully fund this tax cut, by tackling tax avoidance and ensuring the wealthiest pay their fair share.

The Lib Dems say tbey want to help people who are struggling with the cost of living and provide an incentive to work. Even though tough decisions will still need to be made in the next Government to finish the job on the deficit, it is right that we reward work and help those on low and middle incomes. That is why despite the financial crisis it was a Liberal Democrat commitment in 2010 to raise the Personal Allowance to £10,000, which they have delivered.

That is why Liberal Democrats say they will deliver a further increase in the Personal Allowance to £10,500 next April and that is why the party says only Liberal Democrats can guarantee and further increase to £11,000 in our first year in office. Increasing the Personal Allowance to £12.5k by the end of the Parliament will deliver a tax cut to over 30m taxpayers including just over 6million pensioners. Everyone earning below £100,000 and below 75 will receive the same cash benefit of £400.

The Lib Dems say this policy will also take a further 950,000 people out of tax over the next Parliament, including 400,000 pensioners. Once we achieve our aim of lifting the income tax personal allowance to at least £12,500, we will then look to reduce Employee National Insurance Contributions (NICs).

Quality healthcare for all

Creating a fairer society by properly funding our world class public services by investing in them as the economy grows. This means making sure the NHS has the extra £8bn a year it needs by 2020. Ending the stigma around mental health and putting it on equal footing with physical is vital to building a fairer society.

The Liberal Democrats say they have protected the NHS in this parliament while still cutting the deficit and we will back the NHS in the next parliament by providing £8bn per year more by 2020 – the amount the head of the NHS says is needed to keep it sustainable. The party say they will also hold a review of health and care right after the election so we can keep it fit for the future.

The Lib Dems say their top priority is to make sure that mental health is treated equally with physical health. The party says it is wrong that for decades mental health has been discriminated against in the NHS. The Lib Dems say they have introduced the first ever access and waiting times standards in mental health and we are pledging £500m a year for better mental health care.

Opportunity for every child

Protecting the education budget from cradle to college, so that every child and young person has the opportunity to fulfill their potential, from nursery school to higher education. Giving children the best start in life by making sure there is a qualified teacher in every class. Liberal Democrats say they believe that every child should have the opportunity to reach their full potential, wherever they live and whatever their background.

Liberal Democrats say that, in government, they have protected school budgets; introduced a £2.5bn pupil premium to get extra money to the children who need the most help; introduced free school meals for infant children, and massively expanded early years education. In the next parliament we want to go even further. They say they will protect the education budget from cradle to college – including early years, schools and 16-19 education.

The party says it’s impossible to raise standards, recruit teachers and help more children succeed if our education system is starved of funds. All parties will have to make savings in the next parliament: but Liberal Democrats will not cut the money the Department for Education spends on schools, early years and 16-19 education. The Lib Dems say they will give every child access to a high quality pre-school education, and we will insist that every child is taught by a qualified teacher.

An outstanding teacher changes children’s lives. It isn’t right that a child taught in a free school or academy doesn’t have the same right to a qualified teacher as other children. We will require every teacher in a state funded school to hold Qualified Teacher Status or be working towards it. These changes will mean every child will leave primary school able to read well by 2025.

Our environment protected

Protecting the environment so that future generations are not left paying for the mistakes of the generations before them. Fighting climate change with five Green Laws. The 
Liberal Democrats say that in government they are proud to have kept the environment on the agenda. In government the Lib Dems say they have planted a million trees in England and are introducing a 5p plastic bag charge to help clean up our environment and protect Britain's natural habitat. The Lib Dems say they want to build on this by bringing forward a Nature Act and prioritising the environment in the next Parliament.

Their plans include a package of measures to protect bees and oceans, and a commitment to put the Natural Capital Committee on a statutory footing so it can provide advice to Government and ensure that nature is at the heart of government decision-making. They also want to make sure that everyone has access to nature and will do this through measures such as completing the coastal path; extending the Right to Roam; and creating a new public body to protect our forests for future generations. They plan to fight climate change by introducing Five Green Laws. These proposals are:

  • A Nature Bill: key measures include legal targets for biodiversity, clean air, clean water and access to green space, extending the Right to Roam and establishing new marine and coastal reserves.
  • A Heating and Energy Efficiency Bill: key measures include building on the Green Deal with a national programme to raise the energy efficiency standards for all Britain’s households. We will legislate to boost renewable and district heating programmes and heat saving standards.
  • A Zero Waste Britain Bill: key measures include establishing a “Stern Report” on resource use, with binding targets and a clear action plan to reduce waste and end biodegradable landfill.
  • A Zero Carbon Britain Bill: key measures include introducing a decarbonisation target for electricity generation, expanding the powers of the Green Investment Bank and banning electricity generated from unabated coal.
  • A Green Transport Bill: key measures include establishing a full network of charging points for electric cars, only allowing low emission vehicles on the roads from 2040 and reforming planning law to ensure new developments are designed around walking, cycling and public transport.