With the general election fast approaching on 7th May 2015, it’s time to decide which party you will soon be voting for. Many of you may have already decided, but for those who are still unsure, we have looked into the varying policies and have delved deeper into the pledges made by each party about healthcare and pensions, to help those who may be relying on digital hearing aids in later life. Read our summary of how they could affect you below.
Currently in power as part of the coalition government, Prime Minister David Cameron and the Conservative Party are now hoping for a second term. Their key priorities are to:
- eliminate the deficit
- cut taxes by raising basic and higher rate starting points
- help those looking to become home owners and live independently in retirement
- provide an education system to ensure children reach their potential
With regards to health and care, the Conservatives are pledging to increase spending on the NHS each year, as well as recruit and train 5,000 more GPs, with GP surgeries opening seven days a week by 2020. They also hope that each NHS patient will be assigned a named GP.
The triple lock will be maintained on state pensions, and universal pensioner’s benefits such as a free bus pass, TV license and Winter Fuel Payments will be protected. Those with savings will also be rewarded with the introduction of a new single-tier pension, and people will be given the freedom to invest and spend their pension as they wish.
Often considered the Conservative’s biggest threat, Labour were previously in power before the coalition government was introduced in 2010. The party’s main pledges include:
- cutting the deficit each year with no borrowing from manifesto commitments
- making it illegal for employers to exploit migrants and undercut British workers
- providing an extra £2.5 billion funding for the NHS
- freezing energy bills until 2017
On top of the funding they hope to provide to the NHS, Labour are also expecting to repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012, integrate council-run social care and NHS health care services, and put an end to 15-minute care visits.
Pension charges will be capped in order to force full transparency, with the triple lock maintained. Tax relief on pensions for wealthier savers will also be cut, and all savers will be referred to an independent broker so that they get the best deal for them.
Liberal Democrats form part of the current coalition government, and their key priorities going forwards are:
- balancing the budget by making cuts and taxing higher earners
- raise the tax free allowance to £12,500
- guarantee more education funding
- invest £8 billion in the NHS
- protect nature and fight climate change
On top of the £8 billion funding each year for the NHS by 2020, it will also receive an extra £1 billion a year until 2018. This will be alongside integrating health and social care budgets, and added funding for mental health. The Liberal Democrats also hope to decrease the waiting times experienced by those diagnosed with mental health.
Again, the triple lock has been pledged to be kept on pensions, with the single-tier pension to be completely introduced. Pensioners on the 40 per cent income tax rate would have their Winter Fuel Payment and free TV Licenses scrapped, although the free bus pass would still be kept by all pensioners.
The UK Independence Party’s key aim is to withdraw from the European Union, but its other priorities include:
- control of immigration
- remove tax on the minimum wage
- provide an extra £3 billion per year for the NHS
- introduce a power for voters to recall MPs
The added funding given to the NHS will be paid for by savings from leaving the EU, with social care also being granted £1 billion per year. UKIP plan to keep the NHS free at the point of use and will keep GP surgeries open to the public on at least one evening weeknight.
As for pensions, UKIP pledges to stop increasing the retirement age and will provide dedicated annuities advice.
The main pledges made by the Green Party include to:
- aim for publicly funded and provided health service which is free at the point of use
- end austerity
- create jobs which pay at least a living wage
- build 500,000 social rented homes by 2020.
The party also hopes to work with other countries in order to make sure that global temperatures do not rise by more than 2°C.
Alongside the NHS pledge made above, an end to the privatisation of the NHS would be enforced, and the Health and Social Care Act 2012 would be repealed. Social care would be provided for free if needed, and more priority would be given to mental health.
With regards to pensions, the Green Party hopes to introduce a Citizen’s Pension, which would be linked to rises in average earnings, meaning all pensioners would receive a non means-tested sum.
The Scottish National Party has pledged that it will:
- protect Scotland’s NHS budget
- introduce job-creating powers for Holyrood in Edinburgh
- stand by free tuition
- ensure there are smaller classes for school children
Additionally, the party backs the cutting of cheap booze and wants to introduce a minimum pricing for alcohol, and has a zero-waste strategy.
Health and care priorities include protecting the health budget and cutting senior management in hospitals by 25 per cent, although some of these points are partly devolved to the Scottish Parliament, which is next up for election in 2016.
The needs of Scottish pensioners are hoping to be met by the party by re-shaping and simplifying pensions, who have also questioned the UK’s plans to increase retirement age to 67 in the near future.
The main priorities of the Welsh Party are to:
- introduce a living wage by 2020 for all employees
- provide an additional 1,000 doctors for the Welsh NHS
- scrap bedroom tax as introduced by the Conservatives
The party also hopes to get the same powers and funding as Scotland, with an additional £1.2 billion per year.
As with the Scottish National Party, the issues here are also partly devolved to the Welsh assembly, which is also up for election in 2016. However, for health and care it has been pledged that alongside the training of extra doctors, there will be a fund created for treatments not usually available on the NHS, with the party strongly opposing NHS privatisation.
All pensioners would be provided with a living pension and support would be given for early access of these. The party also hopes to inspect flexible pension rights for the self-employed.
We hope we’ve managed to clarify things for you, but if you’re still unsure about which party to vote for, you can take this survey by Vote For Policies, which may be of further help.
Image Credit: John Keane (Flickr.com)
Thanks to Age UK for this excellent digest