Today, Nick Clegg set out the priorities that will be at the heart of the Party’s election manifesto. The value that connects everything the party wants to achieve is fairness. There are four priorities for how the Liberal Democrats will make Britain a fairer place: fair taxes; a fair start for every child; fair, clean and local politics; and a fair, green economy with jobs that last.
The first priority is to introduce fair taxes, with radical proposals for the biggest tax reform in generations. The Liberal Democrats will close loopholes for the richest and introduce a tax on mansions to fund tax cuts of £700 for everyone else. No-one will pay income tax on the first £10,000 they earn, meaning millions of low earners and pensioners will stop paying taxes altogether, while millions more will get hundreds of pounds back in their pockets. Only the Liberal Democrats will make taxes permanently fair.
The next priority is to give every child the fair start they deserve through a huge transformation of our education system that will build the foundations of fair society. That means cutting class sizes so children get the individual attention they need to thrive. The Liberal Democrats will be putting an extra £2.5 billion into schools to pay for more teachers, better discipline and catch-up classes so children get the individual attention they all need. This means an average of £2,500 extra per pupil for the schools teaching the million most deprived children in the country, funded by taking above-average earners out of the tax credit system and cutting wasteful programmes at the Department for Education. The Liberal Democrats will also phase out tuition fees over the course of six years, so that, after school, everyone who gets the grades has the opportunity to go to university without fear of debt, no matter what their background.
Thirdly, the Liberal Democrats are the only party committed to real change of our political system. This means getting big money and corrupt donors out of politics altogether, reducing the number of MPs by 150, giving power over the police and NHS to local communities, changing the voting system to abolish safe seats and giving you the right to sack corrupt MPs. These are changes that would upend our political establishment. Neither Labour or the Conservatives will ever offer change on this scale – they will defend the status quo to the last. Only the Liberal Democrats offer the chance for a different politics. Another whitewash is unacceptable, we need permanent change to make politics clean, fair and local.
The Liberal Democrats will shift the economy away from the traditional over-reliance on the City of London and on financial services. Our plans will usher in a new era where growth is enabled in every part of Britain in a way that promotes green technology and creates lasting jobs. We will put an end to the casino banking that caused the financial crisis by breaking up the banks and encouraging regional and local ways to bring competition back to the financial sector and make sure businesses can find the money they need to grow. Under our plans, councils will regain control of business rates, reconnecting local enterprise with local politics; Local Enterprise Funds will help people invest in growing businesses in their area and Regional Stock Exchanges will give companies a way to move into public equity without the huge risks and costs of a London listing. The Liberal Democrats will also create a new National Infrastructure Bank to bring in private money to build the transport links, energy grid and public buildings we need for a sustainable, low carbon economy in every part of Britain.