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Government / Local politics

General Election 2015: What do the manifestos promise for London?

With less than a month to go until the general election on 7 May, England’s political parties have released their manifestos for us to dissect. But what do their manifestos say they’re going to do for Londoners? Let’s take a look at where party pledges meet on the capital’s biggest issues.

Housing

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Everyone’s in agreement that we need more homes, especially social and affordable ones, and most of the parties have set targets for increased building nationwide.


The Greens want 500,000 new social rental homes, presumably to try and offset the ones the Conservatives seem to want to keep giving away. The Tory pledge to extend Right To Buy to Housing Association tenants has already made half the country bang our heads on desks in despair, though they are offering 200,000 new starter homes for first time buyers, extending the Help to Buy mortgage subsidy scheme (which the Greens want to scrap) to a further 120,000 homes, and creating an ISA for first time buyers.

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Labour and the Lib Dems have plans for 200,000 and 300,000 new homes a year respectively. UKIP favour a “brownfield revolution”, which they claim will mean 1m new homes built by 2020, and which will see no stamp duty charged below £250,000 on brownfield homes.

The capital’s beleaguered tenants could also benefit from some reforms if Labour or the Lib Dems make it to government: both have pledged longer tenancies and a cap on excessive rent increases. (Nothing for renters from the Tories, though.) The Lib Dems are also behind a Help to Rent scheme, essentially a government-backed loan for deposits.

Wages and economy

 

All parties are ostensibly behind helping the low-paid. The Greens want the minimum wage to rise to £10 per hour, Labour and the Conservatives to more than £8, but the Lib Dems just say they’ll look at ways of raising which is a slight cop-out.

UKIP and Conservatives want to abolish income tax on the minimum wage, too, though the latter wants this capped at 30 hours per week. Stuck on a zero hours contract? Labour and the Greens want to ban them completely, while the Lib Dems want to give workers the right to demand a fixed contract instead.

London’s bankers are unlikely to escape with their bonuses intact – all parties except UKIP mention either extra taxes, clawbacks or raising the higher tax rate. The Greens propose a tax on financial transactions, and the Lib Dems want a specific corporation tax charge on the banking sector. Basically, if you’re any combination of rich, non-domiciled or the owner of a house worth more than £2m, London under a new government might feel that little bit less hospitable.

Transport and rail fares

There’s potentially good news for commuters who have faced year-on-year increases in rail fares – the Conservatives and Labour want to freeze them, while the Lib Dems will peg them to inflation. While the Greens haven’t exactly said they will freeze fares, they want to extend free public transport for pensioners and students.

 

UKIP and the Greens are united on putting the brakes on HS2, but the Lib Dems, Conservatives and Labour seem equally united on going ahead with it. The Conservatives are so keen on it that they want to push ahead with HS3, linking the cities of the north; as well as Crossrail 2, which will connect Surrey and Hertfordshire to London. We anticipate some NIMBY-style protests from the regions’ UKIP supporters.

Would commuters fare better under a nationalised rail system? The Greens and Labour seem to think so, with the former wanting the whole lot renationalised and Labour going for a halfway house National Rail body to oversee railways and one public sector operator to compete with the private ones.

It pretty much goes without saying that UKIP want to get rid of road tolls (though we’re not sure if that includes London’s Congestion Charge), while the Greens want more of them. And the Tories want roads. Lots of them.

Environment

 

Labour’s manifesto is pretty non-committal on airport capacity in the south east, merely saying they will make “a swift decision” on it. The Greens and the Lib Dems, on the other hand, would stop airport expansion entirely. The Greens also want to ban the night flights that recently threatened the peaceful rest of residents in the flight path of City Airport. With the Davies Commission final report into airport expansion due later this year, UKIP are uncharacteristically cautious in their decision to wait and see.

Welfare

 

Everyone apart from the Conservatives has got the spare bedroom subsidy (or “bedroom tax”) in their sights. Labour, the Greens and UKIP want to abolish it outright, while the Lib Dems say they won’t apply it until the tenant has been offered alternative accommodation. Given the almost complete lack of alternative accommodation, this might not work out quite as planned – although those 300,000 houses they claim have up their sleeve will come in useful.

You can read the party manifestos on their websites, should you feel so inclined. Here are the links: ConservativesGreensLib DemsLabourUKIP.

Beth Parnell-Hopkinson is a senior editor at Londonist.
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