A look at the Labour Party manifesto from a Tameside angle.
From the fourth part of It’s Up The Poll! onwards, we’ll be looking at the policies of each of the parties standing in Tameside. Not only the main three parties but also Independent candidates. In all three elections taking place in the borough. For each party and independent candidate, we shall focus on sixteen policy areas.
Since 1979, Tameside has always been favourable Labour territory in the local and general elections. Its three constituencies for most of the time have been safe seats. Apart from three wards, the borough map is nearly all red.
From 1980 to 2010, Tameside MBC was led by Roy Oldham, Labour councillor for the Longdendale ward. The present leader since 2010, Councillor Kieran Quinn, faces a challenge in the Droylsden East ward by UKIP and Green candidates.
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Arts, Culture and Sport
A universal entitlement to a creative education could be a boost to the borough’s brass bands and theatrical groups. Labour believes the arts should belong to every one, with the continuance of free admission to national museums and the right to music tuition. Any extra music or drama lessons could come via new and existing lessons, and after-school clubs.
In Tameside this could include council provision, or community galleries like The People’s Gallery in Stalybridge. And a boost to the same town’s brass band – the oldest in the world.
The likes of Stalybridge Celtic A.F.C., Hyde F.C., Curzon Ashton F.C. and Mossley A.F.C. could benefit from extra funding; Labour will ensure the Barclays Premier League delivers on investing 5% of its TV rights to semi-professional and amateur football.
Supporters’ Trusts will be given a boost, allowing fans to form a new trust to hire or fire directors, and purchase shares when the club changes hands.
The much criticised Police and Crime Commissioners will be abolished. Labour aims to take a local approach to policing with a focus on protecting neighbourhoods. The Independent Police Complaints Commission will be abolished and replaced by a new Police Standards Authority.
The war on drugs will see a change of focus on tackling the root causes of addiction with proper integration between the NHS, Greater Manchester Police and Tameside MBC. Legal highs will be banned.
A new ‘Victims’ Law’ is proposed, giving victims of crime a voice and minimum standards of service. There will also be a ‘Violence Against Women and Girls Bill’ which will give victims of domestic violence greater support.
Continuing where Greater Manchester Police has left off, Labour aims to have a zero-tolerance approach to hate crime, such as anti-Semitism and disablism.
With Britain the only country to be a member of the UN Security Council, NATO, the G7, the G20, the Commonwealth and the European Union, Labour sees the UK in a leading role, instead of as a bit-part player. Part of this includes a central role for its defence and Armed Forces. The first year of a Labour government may see a Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families will receive proper support on leaving service. The Military Covenant will be enshrined in the NHS Constitution. Job seeking ex-forces personnel will be – in a voluntary scheme adopted by employers – guaranteed a job interview.
Though Labour remains committed to a continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent, it will work to increase momentum on global multilateral disarmament efforts.
16 to 17 year olds will be given the vote next year if a Labour government is elected this May. Block registration in schools, colleges and universities will be available, addressing inadequacies with the recently introduced individual registration process.
The Lobbying Act, which stops non-profit bodies and trade unions from voicing opposition to government policy will be scrapped. MPs will also be banned from paid directorships and consultancy positions.
Labour also believes in replacing the House of Lords with an elected Senate of the Nations and Regions for each part of the UK. An English Devolution Act will see greater powers to city and county regions. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, a fairer funding agreement and greater devolutionary powers.
Communities will be given greater power to stem the number of, for example, bookmakers and payday lenders. The people of Stalybridge could object to the arrival of another bookies or takeaways. Ashtonians could cry foul over the number of discount shops and hope for more gents’ outfitters.
If elected, a Labour government will outlaw Zero Hour Contracts. With Tameside being a low wage economy, with a fair number of people on low hours or zero hour contracts, this could be a boost. It aims to raise the National Minimum Wage to £8.00 per hour by 2020. Businesses will be encouraged to adopt a Living Wage and the use of agency staff to drive down wages will be outlawed.
Employment tribunal fees, £1,200 since 2013 will be scrapped.
Small business, which accounts for more than 80% of local enterprise in the borough, could see a cut and a freeze in business rates.
A Mansion Tax will be introduced on properties worth £2 million upwards, which will fund improvements in the NHS.
Income Tax rates will be changed, with the top rate of Income Tax raised to 50%. The basic rate of Income Tax will be cut to 10%, restoring a starter rate from the previous Labour government.
VAT will not be raised nor extended into other areas.
With the revamp of Tameside College taking shape, part-time and vocational students could be given a boost. Labour’s plans will ensure apprentices are able to study higher level (NVQ Level 4 upwards) qualifications. This includes the creation of Technical Degrees co-founded, co-designed and co-delivered by employers.
Complementing this for students aged 16 – 18 years old will be the Technical Baccalaureate. Part of the ‘A’ Level standard qualification will include a work placement. Tuition in English and Mathematics will be extended to students aged 16 to 18.
The Free Schools programme inaugurated by Michael Gove will be scrapped. Class sizes for pupils aged five to seven years old will be capped.
Labour aims to improve on the previous government’s record on the environment. Local authorities will be given extra powers to deal with air pollution. Forests will remain in public ownership.
On animal welfare, there will be greater protection of dogs and cats and a ban on wild animals in circuses. The badger cull will be scrapped, and the hunting ban will be enforced further, dealing with wildlife crime associated with shooting.
Labour believes in continued membership of the European Union. Not only are over 3 million UK jobs linked with the EU, it has also helped to modernise Tameside’s transport system. It has helped with the funding of its public services and to maintain employment rights at work.
It also believes in making the EU more transparent and to ensure national parliaments maintain or strengthen their influence over EU policies.
Labour will expand free childcare provision from 15 to 25 hours per week. A new National Primary Childcare Service will be created to promote voluntary and charitable cross-curricular activities. The formation of the non-profit body could be good for the borough’s after-school clubs and brass bands.
At the heart of this, their manifesto sees a greater role for Sure Start centres, cut back under the coalition government. There will be a greater role for families as well as toddlers.
Labour will maintain its 0.7% of GNP commitment to international development. Part of its plans include the creation of a Centre for Universal Health Coverage, to provide socialised healthcare throughout the world.
There will also be help to enable international governments to look after their own tax affairs. As part of its international development policies, there will be an emphasis on human rights and tackling corruption.
Labour’s flagship policy involves the repeal of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act which has increased bureaucracy and private sector involvement in the NHS. As well as increasing the number of pay beds, it has also seen cuts to frontline staff. The latter issue is especially true with Tameside Hospital, profound before 2010 and exacerbated by continued cuts afterwards. Extra funding will come from a Mansion Tax and a levy on tobacco firms.
With increased waiting times causing a problem, Labour will invest in 20,000 more nurses, 3,000 more midwives and 8,000 more GPs. The target of seeing your GP within 48 hours will be restored.
The Labour manifesto sees a greater role for homeowners and social housing with plans to build 200,000 new homes. The “Help to Build” scheme will be used to boost smaller local builders instead of national concerns.
Short term rents will be ditched for tenants with minimum tenures extended to three years. Rent controls will also be introduced which not only means fairer rents but also lower Housing Benefit bills. Tameside MBC will be given greater powers to reduce the number of empty homes – and charge higher Council Tax on the owners of long empty properties.
Labour’s approach to immigration entails stronger border controls and a tightening of short-term student visitor visas. A cap on workers from non-EU countries will remain. People working in public sector customer facing roles will be required to speak English.
The indefinite detention of people seeking asylum will be scrapped, this of particular importance to pregnant women and victims of sexual abuse and trafficking.
Since the start of the coalition government, claimants of state benefits have seem adverse changes to their entitlement. This has meant a rapid rise in sanctions and referrals to food banks in the Tameside area. This area is of particular importance to the borough, having pioneered the DWP’s Universal Credit scheme since July 2013.
Though Labour favours the benefits cap, it is against cuts to tax credit rates. It is in favour of pausing and reviewing Iain Duncan-Smith’s Universal Credit programme. Of greater importance is the skilling of claimants; that of testing new claimants on English, Maths and IT skills within six months of receiving Social Security payments.
The Work Programme, a tenet of the coalition government’s Social Security schemes, is set to be reviewed. Its replacement will see locally created schemes more receptive to local labour markets.
The cut in the Spare Room Subsidy, otherwise known as the “Bedroom Tax”, will be scrapped from the start of a Labour government. Given the amount of social housing in the borough (New Charter Housing Trust and Housing Association properties), the levy’s repeal would be a boost to embattled households.
The Work Capacity Assessment will be reformed with an independent scrutiny panel of disabled people. There will be a more specialist support programme which could be tailored better for people with hidden impairments, particularly high functioning forms of autism spectrum conditions.
One move likely to affect Tameside’s bus, train and tram users is plans to regulate the borough’s bus routes. Transport for Greater Manchester will be given more powers to plan routes, keep fares down and drive service improvements. Using smart ticketing as part of a single network, this complements TfGM’s GetMeThere pass.
There will be a freeze in rail fares next year, followed by a strict fare rise cap on each route. Labour plans to reform the public transport system by increasing public control across all modes. This includes changes to the rail franchising system.
If elected, Labour will reduce tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 per year. There will also be paid employment for people 18 – 25 years of age under the Compulsory Jobs Guarantee. Candidates, unemployed for a year or more, will have to take his/her position or lose their benefits. This will be funded by a bank bonus tax.
Changes to Jobseekers’ Allowance and (in this borough) Universal Credit could see JSA or UC partially replaced by a Youth Allowance. For people aged 18 – 21, s/he will be able to claim YA if in training.
There will also be greater control over apprenticeships, stopping unscrupulous employers from using them to undermine the National Minimum Wage.
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At a more local level…
In a bid to maintain control of Tameside MBC, other pledges include:
- Free swimming events for under 16s and family activities;
- The continued roll-out of the bin swap experiment conducted in Stalybridge to other parts of Tameside;
- Putting the people of Tameside first where affordable housing is concerned and helping its older residents to stay safe;
- A Town Centre Loyalty Scheme which builds on the recently launched TLC Tameside Loyalty Card scheme;
- An extra £1million for Pothole Repairs within the borough’s streets.
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Next up on It’s Up The Poll! 2015
Could Labour deliver for Tameside? In our next part, we shall be looking at what the Conservative Party has to offer its 210,000 citizens.
S.V., 15 April 2015.