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This election, your money, and your family

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On May 7th 2015, the people of the United Kingdom are going to be choosing their new government. This is the closest election that the United Kingdom has ever seen and it’s hard to know who to vote for.

To help you vote, this is a guide on the different parties’ policies and how they will affect your pocket, your bank account, and your family. We’ll be looking at energy, housing, the Internet, pensions, public transport, welfare, and finally tax.

We will be looking at the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour, UKIP, the SNP, and the Green Party.

general-election-2015-what-you-need-know-100-days-go-before-polling-day

Energy
Energy is always a contentious issue for people and politicians alike. With oil and gas price having fallen last year and stayed down, it’s about time consumers saw the savings landing in their bank accounts.

Party

Energy Policy

Labour

Labour will freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017 and promises that during the freeze, it will reform Britain’s energy industry.

The Conservatives

The Tories will continue their investigation, run by the Competition and Markets Authority, into the energy markets. The Tories will also be encouraging smaller suppliers to increase their market share against the Big Six supplies—who serve roughly 90% of the UK’s population.

The Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems will be supporting small suppliers and encouraging them to increase their market share. They promise to implement smart metres in every home by 2020. The Lib Dems have also promised to introduce a faster switching service similar to the new switch guarantee introduced by banks in 2014. Moreover, the Lib Dems have promised to introduce smart grid technology to make the national grid more efficient and upgrade Britain’s energy infrastructure. They will introduce new efficiency targets for new buildings and introduce a system of Council Tax discounts for those homes that attain a good enough level of energy efficiency.

UKIP

UKIP, who don’t believe in climate change, have promised to abolish environmental taxes They will also ban energy companies from charging customers using prepayment metres more. In addition they will outlaw energy companies from charging customers who don’t pay via direct debit or use online account systems more.

The SNP

The SNP promise to introduce measures that force energy companies to pass on cheaper oil and gas prices to their customers at a much greater speed than is done today.

Greens

The Greens wants to phase out fossil fuel energy and nuclear power. They want to ban fracking and invest in renewable energy sources, flood defences, and increase the energy efficiency of homes to lower bills.

            Housing
Housing is another big issue because of the shortage of housing in the UK at the moment. With the extortionate house prices in much of the country rising, first time buyers are being priced out of the market—which has coined the phrase Generation Rent.

Party

Housing Policy

Labour

Labour has promised to build at least 200000 new homes a year by 2020 and have promised a fair deal for renters. This fair deal includes new three-year rental contracts where the landlord cannot increase your rent by more than inflation in any given year. They have also said that they will force landlords to declare the prices charged to the previous tenants to allow new tenants to negotiate from a better position than they currently do.

The Conservatives

The Conservatives have returned to the Thatcherite policy of buy to let this election. They have promised that if you rent a property from a housing association, then you will be permitted to buy it a discount. This policy has received an enormous amount of criticism from the press, other parties, and Conservatives alike who stress that it will further increase house prices and lead to more of a housing crisis by shrinking the current social housing stock. They also have pledged to build 200000 homes for under 40s to climb onto the property ladder.

The Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems have promised to build 300000 new homes every year and will construct 10 new garden cities. They have also promised to introduce a rent-to-own scheme where your rent payments will purchase an ever-increasing stake in the property.

UKIP

UKIP has promised to build 1000000 new homes by 2025 on brownfield sites. They will encourage the use of empty properties and have promised to implement the Conservatives’ Right to Buy scheme, though have said they will use the income from this to build more social housing.

The SNP

The SNP will back the construction of 100000 affordable homes across the United Kingdom every year.

Greens

The Greens have promised to stabilise house prices by reducing the attractiveness of property investment and speculation. They will remove landlord tax incentives to stop buy to let schemes from growing out of control.

The Internet
Not long ago, one would have considered it completely absurd for political parties to have specific policies regarding the Internet, yet these days it performs such a fundamental role in our personal and professional lives.

 

Party

Internet Policy

Labour

Labour has promised that 95 per cent of the country will have super-fast (30Mb+) broadband by the end of the next Parliament in 2020. They have also promised to cut out mobile ‘not-spots’ in rural parts of the UK.

The Conservatives

The Tories have also pledged that super-fast broadband will be accessible for 95 per cent of country by 2020.

The Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems have followed Labour and the Tories in promising that super-fast broadband will be ready by 2020. However they have increased their rollout from 95 per cent of the United Kingdom’s homes to 99.9 per cent.

UKIP

UKIP has no broadband policy

The SNP

The SNP has called for a broadband service obligation, forcing telecoms companies to provide 100 per cent coverage across the UK without cost to taxpayers.

Greens

The Greens follow the SNP and will force telecoms companies to provide high-speed broadband to every home and small business in the UK, and has said that broadband firms will foot the bill not the British taxpayers.

Pensions
Pensions are an issue that affects anyone who works in the UK. However as savings are made to reduce the deficit, pensions are often the first thing to get cut substantially.

Party

Pension Policy

Labour

Labour have promised to increase pensions in line with inflation, with average wages, or by 2.5 per cent each year—choosing the increase which is highest. This policy is known as a Triple Lock Guarantee. Labour has promised to keep pensioners’ free bus passes, TV licenses, and winter fuel payments—though Labour plans to remove help with winter energy bills from the richest 5 per cent. Labour has promised to give pensioners the freedom to spend or invest their pensions however they want.

The Conservatives

The Conservatives have also promised the Triple Lock. They have pledged to protect pensioners’ benefits such as free bus passes, TV licenses, and winter fuel payments. Like Labour, the Tories have promised to allow pensioners to do what they wish with their pensions.

The Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems have also promised the Triple Lock. The Lib Dems have promised to remove the eligibility of free pensioner benefits from pensioners in the 40 per cent tax or above brackets. They have promised to maintain them for those who earn below this however. As Labour and the Tories have done, the Lib Dems have promised greater freedoms for pensioners to spend and invest their pensions.

UKIP

UKIP have also promised the Triple Lock. UKIP has promised to make the state pension age more flexible, introducing a ‘window’ that will widen over time. UKIP has pledged to provide a higher standard of pensions advice than is currently available.

SNP

The SNP have also promised the Triple Lock

Greens

 

 

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Public Transport
Public transport is a huge issue in the United Kingdom, with 16.4 per cent of the population using public transport to commute to work each day, rising to 49.9 per cent in London and 70% (including walking and cycling) in Manchester. With prices rising year on year, and customer satisfaction falling, many are looking for good public transport policy to help them decide who to vote for. It is important to note that whilst transport infrastructure developments such as HS2 are discussed on a national scale, transport is a devolved power.

 

Party

Public Transport Policy

Labour

Labour will freeze rail fares from 2016 and introduce a cap on every route. They will allow public sector rail operators to take on new lines. They will support HS2 but have pledged to keep costs down. Cities and regions will be extended London-style powers to regulate and reform bus services.

The Conservatives

The Tories will freeze commuter rail fares in real terms until 2020. Though this means that fares will continue to rise in line with inflation. The Tories will increase investment in roads, increase investment in railways (which includes electrifying 850 miles of track), reform strike laws, and start work on HS2. They will also promote the HS3 Leeds-Manchester high-speed railway.

The Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems will ensure that rail fares rise no faster than inflation until 2020 as a whole but will permit fluctuations year on year. The Lib Dems have promised to give 16-21 year olds two thirds off of the cost of all bus travel across the country. They are opposed to airport expansion in the South East. They want to electrify all suburban and major rail routes, including the reopening of many stations closed by the Tories in the 1960’s Beeching Axe. They support the expansion of light rail schemes such as Manchester’s Metrolink and Newcastle’s Tyne and Wear Metro.

UKIP

UKIP want to scrap HS2 and ban toll roads. They will require all foreign vehicles to purpose a Britdisc road tax card before entry into the UK and will change policy on speed cameras to ensure they’re not making councils money.

SNP

 

Greens

The Green Party has pledged to renationalise the railways bringing them back under public control. Moreover they aim to make public transport cheaper and more reliable so that by 2020 less Britons are using private transport. Whilst the Green Party has pledged to invest in the railways, they will scrap HS2. They will introduce an immediate cut of 10 per cent to public transport. They will promote cycling and walking to reduce pollution and tackle obesity.

 

Welfare
The demonisation of people using the welfare system, often called benefit scroungers by the press, is a pastime for the British right. Benefits though are of huge use to the unemployed, families, and those on low wages. As such a divisive issue, many will vote for parties who want to cut welfare payments, whilst many will vote for parties who believe our welfare system needs strengthening.

 

Party

Welfare Policy

Labour

Labour will cap structural welfare spending, meaning that the overall welfare budget will be capped. Tax credits will rise in line with inflation from the day of the election under Labour and under-25s will be guaranteed a job after being unemployed for one year, whilst adults will be guaranteed a job if unemployed for over two years—this policy will be paid for by taxing bankers’ bonuses.

The Conservatives

The Tories have promised to cut £12 billion from the welfare budget and freeze in working-age benefits for two years. They will cut the household benefit cut by £3000 a year to £23000. Jobseekers Allowance will be replaced for 18-21 year olds with a Youth Allowance that will be limited to 6 months and young people will be banned from claiming Housing Benefits.

The Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems will cap benefit rises at 1 per cent per annum for the next 2 years. They have promised to scrap housing benefits cuts for tenants with spare rooms unless they refuse to move to a smaller property. They will be introducing a yellow card warning scheme, introducing a two-strike system before withdrawing benefits. Carers will receive a £250 yearly bonus by 2020.

UKIP

UKIP have pledged to force migrants to wait five-years before claiming benefits regardless of personal circumstance. They will scrap housing related benefit changes made by the last government that are related to bedrooms. Parents will be unable to claim child benefits for more than two children. The benefits cap will be lowered, reducing the amount of benefits that people can claim.

SNP

The SNP has declared that it will cancel the Tory Party’s Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment scheme. It will back an increase to benefits such as child benefit, disability benefits and tax credits.

Greens

The Green party has promised a wide consultation on introducing a National Basic Income, a fixed amount that every individual in the country would receive. The Greens will end workfare, the current scheme where the unemployed must do work or fulfil certain tasks to claim benefits. Newer, better, and separate support for disabled claimants will be introduced. The work capability assessment in its current form will be axed for disabled claimants.

Tax
Tax, we all have to pay it whatever we do. From income tax to national insurance contributions and from mansion taxes to VAT, the tax system is inescapable—especially this election with plans to prevent companies and individuals dodging tax being proposed left, right, and centre. Tax arguably is one of the policy areas that has a biggest effect on you and your family’s finances.
Part of the tax system is inheritance tax. Inheritance is a divisive issue in the United Kingdom; many people believe that you should be allowed to pass all of your belongings to your children without tax whilst others believe that this continues the cycle of the ‘landed class’ and children should not be able to inherit all of their parents wealth from which they can live without the necessity to work.

 

Party

Tax Policy

Labour

Labour will introduce a mansion tax on properties worth more than £2 million and reintroduce the 50p tax rate for Britain’s highest earners, earning more than £150000 per annum. Labour has promised to abolish the bedroom tax. Labour has also promised to abolish non-dom status, a current system for those who live in Britain but do not pay tax here. The Labour party will not raise VAT, National Insurance or basic and higher rates of income tax.

The Conservatives

The Tories have promised to raise the amount that can be earned without paying tax to £12500, this is known as the income tax personal allowance.  They have also promised to link the minimum wage to the personal income tax allowance and will introduce a 40p tax band for those earning more than £50,000 by 2020. They will ensure people who work 30 hours a week on minimum wage do not pay income tax and that VAT and National Insurance do not rise. The Tories have pledged to remove inheritance tax on properties that are worth less than £1 million by 2017. Though many have questioned from where this tax cut will be funded.

The Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems will also raise the income tax personal allowance to £12500. The Lib Dems will increase tax receipts by £14 billion from tax rises on corporations and the wealthy by reducing tax avoidance. They will change the non-dom system but unlike Labour they will not abolish it.

UKIP

UKIP will end income tax on the minimum wage. UKIP has promised to abolish the bedroom tax. UKIP has pledged to increase the income tax personal allowance to £135000. UKIP will abolish inheritance tax. They will change tax for high earners so that high earners pay less by introducing a 30p tax band for those earning between £45300 and £55000 per annum and a 40p rate thereafter. They have also promised to cut business rates for small businesses.

SNP

The SNP have echoed Labour’s promise to introduce a mansion tax on properties worth more than £2 million, whilst reintroducing the 50p tax rate for top earners. The SNP has promised to abolish the bedroom tax.

Greens

The Green Party has promised to abolish the bedroom tax. They have also promised to raise £30 billion a year by 2019 by preventing tax dodging. They will raise £25 billion a year by 2019 through a 2 per cent wealth tax on people worth more than £3 million. They will introduce a 60p tax rate for those who earn more than £150000 per year. Finally they will introduce the EU Robin Hood tax on banks; this will add £20 billion to the government’s budget by 2019. The Greens will introduce a living inheritance tax that applies to gifts given whilst alive.

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