Redbrick’s Education correspondent, Duncan Kenyon reports on the Party Conference in relevance to students and young people.
The Party Conference season, which has lasted for over a month now, has seen all of the major parties pledging different policies in the run up to the general election. This is the last conference for each of the parties, who are all vying for government before the general election.
The Green Party began the conference season in Birmingham, with their conference focused on youth and the economy. Natalie Bennet, leader of the Greens, has pledged a £10 an hour minimum wage by 2020, the largest pledge to increase the minimum wage of all the major parties. She also aims to increase the minimum wage to the living wage immediately. They hope to abolish tuition fees and ensure funding for every student, no matter of their background, to be able to attend university to achieve as well as they can.
The Labour Party followed, who pledged an £8 minimum wage by 2020. They would ensure this was done by fining companies who did not comply with this £50,000. The Party also wants to make sure an equal number of students go to university as apply for apprenticeship schemes. These schemes would attract more students from outside of the EU, and be funded by any company who had major contracts with central government. Labour, additionally aim to increase the number of affordable homes by one million by 2020 in hopes to help young people get onto the property ladder.
The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) held their conference next. Their plans were less to do with younger people in general. However they talked about increasing the lower end of personal allowance from £10,500 to £13,500 and restricting immigration numbers by 80% to 50,000 per year. They also want to scrap the HS2 train link from London to Birmingham and their flagship policy is to leave the European Union.
The Conservative Party conference aimed to ‘abolish long term youth employment forever’. 18 to 21 year olds would be ineligible to receive housing benefit, and those in that age category who fail to find work or help in ‘community projects’ would be taken off Job Seekers’ Allowance within 6 months. Cameron would reduce the benefits cap to £23,000 per household, and use the saved money to fund 3 million new apprenticeship schemes for young people. The income threshold would move up to £12,500, taking anybody on minimum wage out of a tax bracket, meaning one million people would live income-tax free.
Finally, the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow warned of a probable increase in tuition fees if a Conservative government was elected next year. Vince Cable warned of this possibility after Osborne announced a £25bn reduction in public spending if the Conservatives win another term in office. Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, promised to reduce tax liabilities for 29 million people, and borrow less than Labour, but cut tax by more than the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats also plan to raise more money for the NHS by taxing the rich more.
The party conference season has outlined many of the policies that will be fought for by the major political parties next year. The general election in May 2015 will be the first election fought by a coalition government since World War Two, so surprising results are expected. This brief summary is by far not the only policies that the parties will stand on, but they are an idea of what each party wants to present to the electorate over the course of the next eight months.