Name: Liberal Democrats
Leader: Nick Clegg
General Political Ideology: Described as progressive, supporting reform in a number of areas including electoral and constitutional reform as well as on social issues and economic policies such as finance and taxation. Seen to be in favour of creating a fairer society. They also believe in protecting the environment by acting against pollution and climate change. The Liberal Democrats are pro-European and have defended the benefits that the EU offers the UK in the past, such as the markets it opens up for the UK. The only point at which the party would call for an in/out referendum would be if more powers were transferred to Brussels.
Key Policies: Balancing the budget in a fair manner and increasing the tax free allowance to £12,500. Protecting the environment by enacting 5 new laws to reduce the impact of climate change and protect nature. They have also pledged to guarantee the funding of education from nursery until 19 years of age.
What they could mean for students: Continuation of the current £9,000 a year tuition fees system and associated grants (due to the belief any reduction is unrealistic to achieve), improved vocational education opportunities. Wish to continue austerity to balance the budget also means that students could potentially experience further negative impact from deficit reduction plans.
Policy on NHS: Add the additional £2bn provided at the Autumn Statement last year to the NHS budget, and work to increase funding by investing a further £1bn in the NHS between 2016 and 2017, paid for by increasing some rates of taxation for richer workers and pensioners. The party has also promised to increase funding in line with the growth of the economy and start an impartial review of NHS funding before the end of the next parliament if elected.
Policy on Economy: Aim to deal with the deficit by 2017/18 and ‘balance the budget fairly’ through the application of a mixture of spending cuts and tax rises for some groups. They also aim to raise a further £1bn by increasing the amount of corporation tax that the banking sector will have to pay. Other proposed changes to taxation include raising the income tax threshold to £12,500, bringing in up to £1.5bn from a tax on homes worth over £2m and other tax rises for corporations and those deemed to be wealthy. The party also wants to raise more income for the government by cracking down on tax avoidance.
Policy on Tuition Fees: Support the current system of Student Loans, describing it as more effective than a full graduate tax. Pledged to cut tuition fees in the 2010 General Election but did not when in government, leading to widespread student protest and damaging the popularity of the party amongst student voters. Later apologised for making an unsustainable pledge.
Policy on Housing: Increase housebuilding to the point where 300,000 houses are being built each year. They also want to put into motion the plans to create 10 new Garden Cities and increase the number of ‘rent to own’ homes being developed to 30,000 a year by 2020. From an environmental standpoint the party wants to prevent landlords from letting out homes which have not been adequately insulated, which could benefit those in private rented student accommodation.