So what is new?

As we are just over through way through the party conference season here in the UK. So what has been the main policy announcements?

For the Liberal Democrat’s free school meals for all children in years 1 and 2 saving parents about £400 a year per child. The scheme will cost the tax payer around £600m per year. The announcement was welcomed by the Child Poverty Action Group, many parents, and the Chair of Local Caterers Association. It was seized upon by the opposition because not only those parents of the less well off would receive the benefit so would sons and daughters of rich bankers, footballers and millionaires. It sort of made the policy rather bananas! As one group stated “There is no such thing as free lunch, especially one doled out by a politician”. This announcement means taxing those on low and middle incomes to pay for hand-outs to affluent families. It’s incredible to see it proposed by Nick Clegg, who was, until very recently, rightly arguing against universal benefits for wealthy households.

Twenty months will tell if this is the right policy or if polls are correct and the Lib Dems seats in parliament as predicted will be halved.

The big announcement from Labour was a 20 month freeze of gas and electricity prize while reforming the power regulator. Tories and powers companies were quick to point out ‘Red Ed’ was back and Labour were taking us back to the 1970’s, with power cuts and black-outs. The big energy companies fail to mention they have been over charging business and domestic customers by manipulating the market by a tune of 125m per year for at least the last 5 years.

The Tories would ever admit to do such as thing because it would be an acknowledgement that privatising the energy market was a complete failure. Michael Portillo on this Thursday’s ‘This Week’ stated it made on economic sense to fix prices. So all those -like myself – who have been on a fixed pricing plan (in my case 2 years) don’t know about economics? The point is the policy may help those who pay day-to-day via meters. Many already have fixed term deals so I hardly think the lights will go out!

Buried within these announcements was a commitment to lower the voting age to 16.

Not wanting to be outdone the Conservative Party would like to take the country back to the 19th century by announcing tax breaks for married couples. The prime minister said four million couples would benefit from a £1,000 transferable tax allowance from 2015. Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the policy recognised the value of the institution of marriage.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves said: “David Cameron’s so-called marriage tax break won’t even help two-thirds of married couples, let alone millions of people who are separated, widowed or divorced.

“He’s so out of touch he thinks people will get married for £3.85 a week.”

The battle lines for the next general election have been drawn – only 20 months to go!

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