It’s Up the Poll! 2015: UKIP and Tameside

A look at the United Kingdom Independence Party manifesto from a Tameside angle.

As detailed in the previous entry, we shall continue our electoral Tour of Tameside via each party’s manifestoes. For the seventh part of It’s Up the Poll! 2015, we shall be looking at The Purple Gang. In other words, a party formed just 23 years ago.

In the last five years, UKIP have finished second to Labour in some wards. During then the borough’s Conservative vote has fallen, where UKIP have fielded candidates.

This year’s local elections will see UKIP standing in some wards where a Conservative candidate wont be standing. Stalybridge North, St. Peters, Hyde Godley, Dukinfield, Droylsden West, Denton South, Denton North East and Ashton Waterloo wards are the exceptions. In the General Election, UKIP will be standing in all three constituencies.

Back in 1993, one of its candidates played up front for Hyde United. In the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons, he scored 26 and 27 goals for the Tigers. Whilst he was knocking them in for fun in the Northern Premier League, Alan Sked along with members of the Anti-Federalist League formed his party of choice.

An open goal for Phil Chadwick and his fellows? Or will they be eluded by the crossbar or its nemeses forming a 10-man defence in front of the Tinkers’ Passage goalmouth?

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Arts, Culture and Sport

Among many Tameside voters’ concerns is the loss of local heritage, particularly its buildings falling into disrepair. Also among some voters, the transfer of facilities from purpose-built historic buildings to smaller premises, and insensitive development is a grave concern. UKIP favours more sensitive development, which in a local context could mean no poor copies of Park Hill Estate on Armentieres Square.

With Tameside probably being the worst part of Britain for suffering from pub closures, among UKIP’s flagship cultural policies is the survival of the pub. Tickety Brew, Tweed Brewing Company and Hornbeam could benefit from tax breaks. The 2007 Smoking Ban could be changed to allow well ventilated smoking rooms in public houses and clubs. Given the borough’s higher than UK average number of smokers, there is one policy they may find popular: the opposition of plain packets for cigarettes, along with minimum pricing for alcohol.

Though baby steps have already been taken to increase its importance, St. George’s Day could become a Bank Holiday in England. Likewise with St. David’s Day in Wales. The former could be a boost to Tameside MBC’s programme of events which have taken place on the 23 April.

Crime

UKIP’s approach to crime prevention is centred around the UK’s membership of the European Union being a stumbling block. The party opposes any privatisation of the police force and believes each area’s police officers should be representative of the UK’s population profile.

On the other hand, UKIP favours reducing constabulary numbers. Of the 43, there is no reference as to how this affects city regions and rural areas. Any savings from this, the manifesto claims, could go towards boosting front-line services. A moot point given the loss of cover in Tameside after a 2003 PFI scheme.

By deporting foreign nationals convicted of criminal activity, UKIP claims this move would free up prisons. A further 10,000 prison places would be freed up in England and Wales alone. Parole conditions will be changed with prisoners encouraged to brush up on basic skills.

Defence

UKIP sees itself as a party for the Armed Forces, whilst in conflict and shortly after demobilisation. The party favours an increase in defence spending up to an addition £4 billion by 2020. Service personnel could be exempt from Income Tax whilst on duty.

In honouring the Military Covenant, UKIP’s plans entail the opening of a dedicated Military Hospital. Former Service Personnel could be given affirmative action if applying for jobs in the police, prison and border force services. The Armed Forces’ job guarantee scheme could apply to those who have served for 12 years or more.

Citing the rise of ISIS and North Korea’s threats, UKIP favours a replacement nuclear weapon for Trident.

Democracy

Local control and low Council Tax form the tenets of UKIP’s approach to local government. The party favours greater local control over planning and the reinstatement of weekly bin collections. Councillors could see allowances cut along with excessive pay deals and golden handshakes. UKIP also opposes the ‘cabinet’ system of governance which it claims ‘puts too much power in the hands of too few people’. Their approach could strike a chord with a fair few residents from Heyheads to Gee Cross.

At local and national level, UKIP sees the First Past the Post system as unfit for purpose. Instead, they favour a proportional system though no mention of which one (i.e. Single Transferable Vote or Alternative Vote). Postal Voting on demand will be scrapped. Other measures include the Right of Recall and The Citizens’ Initiative – the latter being a biannual national referendum.

Like the Conservatives, they also back EVEL: English Votes for English Laws.

Economy

More people could be taken out of Income Tax with UKIP aiming to raise the personal allowance to £13,000. With leaving the European Union its ultimate goal, UKIP aims to have control over VAT, which the manifesto is a ‘distortion imposed by EU legislation’. This includes scrapping VAT on sanitary towels and on repairs to listed buildings. A move which could increase the attractiveness of saving Tameside’s historical buildings.

A new 30% rate of income tax could be introduced for middle income earners, such as the borough’s teachers. However, a potential UKIP government could see the rich given another tax cut – from 45 to 40%.

Other measures proposed by UKIP include an end to cheap beer and food at the Houses of Parliament, shrinking the size of central government and ending overseas jollies for MPs. Savings could go towards restoring the Palace of Westminster. Small and Medium Sized Businesses (250 employees or less) could be given a helping hand whilst bidding for public sector contracts.

For the borough’s small businesses, UKIP favours changes to Small Business Rate Relief. If a business has less than £50,000 rateable and only one premises, they will get 20% rate relief. Also likely to benefit Stalybridge shopkeepers is a plan to offer 30 minutes free parking in all town centres.

Education

Core to UKIP’s education policy is cutting teachers’ bureaucracy and scrapping performance related pay. Its approach to compulsory education includes the end of Key Stage 1 SATs and a dose of Butskellism for good measure.

Tameside could see the return of its grammar schools, but entry to which wouldn’t be determined by an 11+ examination. Instead, UKIP suggests transfer examinations taken in Years 7, 8 and 11. Other plans include the addition of First Aid training to Personal Social and Health Education syllabuses. Unlike the Green Party’s plans to allow mainstream integration, UKIP wants to reverse the closure of special schools.

Furthermore, UKIP also wants to end the 50% target for Higher Education attendance. On the grounds of parental choice, the party supports home-schooling and Free Schools.

Environment

Of the mainstream parties, UKIP’s environmental policies give voters the impression of Global Warming being a fantasy. Unlike Ms. Bennett’s party it is pro-fracking, though favours the imposition of Community Infrastructure Levies. Other plans include the abolition of Green Levies and a level playing field for fossil fuel (by abolishing subsidies for wind farms and solar power). UKIP differs from the other parties by wishing to expand Britain’s coal mining industry.

The appearance of our borough’s nine towns is an environmental concern as UKIP opposes insensitive development. This, as detailed in the Democracy section, means future developments complementing the town’s immediate surroundings. However, this claim is invalidated by its support for fracking which, if prospectors decide to drill near Tameside, could see further subsidence. All the more so given the borough’s mine shafts and inherent conditions from the Victorian era.

Europe

Key to UKIP and its reason for being (predating Sir James Goldsmith’s short-lived Referendum Party by three years) is Europe. To UKIP, a Britain within Europe though outside the European Union. In short, Brexit. Following a referendum on EU membership, also offered by the Greens and the Conservatives, UKIP favours a more pragmatic exit from the EU as per Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This could grant Britannia two years gardening leave prior to its departure from Strasbourg.

After that, no UKIP MEPs in Strasbourg. The seeds of their destruction as Brexit is ‘Mission Accomplished’ or a rebranding? Post-Brexit, UKIP’s plans involve agreeing a UK/EU trade agreement and negotiations with non-EU countries. What isn’t clear is the economic cost of a Brexit. Air fares could rise dramatically as could import charges. Most obviously, the right to work in other EU member states would be undermined.

Families

UKIP favour a simpler system of childcare, with the present offer of fifteen hours a week being maintained. Their proposals favour more nursery places and care provision for school-age children.

Foreign policy

Besides its raison d’etre (covered in the Europe section), UKIP’s foreign policy includes the guarantee of British sovereignty and territorial integrity of Gibraltar and its waters. The party favours a peaceful two-state solution in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Should Britain reach for her Brexit door, UKIP favours greater ties within the Anglosphere. In other words, further trade deals with Commonwealth countries like New Zealand, Australia and offshore islands such as the Falkland Islands.

With Overseas Aid, UKIP aims to repeal the 0.7% target. Again the manifesto states their claim of post-Brexit Britain’s sense of freedom.

Health

In their manifesto, UKIP has pledged £3 billion for the NHS. Allowing for inflation, it is a real terms cut on the £1 billion under Stephen Dorrell’s watch in 1996. It is claimed the £3 billion will fund 8,000 more GPs, 20,000 more nurses and 3,000 more midwives.

Like Labour, UKIP is in favour of keeping the NHS out of TTIP. They aim to cut NHS bureaucracy by scrapping Monitor and the Care Quality Commission. Their aim to ‘put the “national” back into our national health service’ involves clamping down on health tourism.

The fear of clampers could be a thing of the past at Tameside Hospital. UKIP favours the abolition of parking fees at all hospitals for patients and visitors. Private Finance Initiative projects could go the way of the dinosaurs with hospitals publicly funded.

Housing

Given that the North West of England has the highest number of empty properties, UKIP aims to reverse this trend. That is by means of a commitment to bringing them back to use. The scrapping of VAT on restoring listed buildings could come into its own in this context. Affordable homes could be created from empty commercial and office space.

In social housing, priority will be given to UK citizens who have paid Income Tax and National Insurance contributions for a minimum of five years. The same would apply to Help to Buy and Right to Buy which, under UKIP, will remain in operation.

New housing, according to their manifesto would see brownfield sites given priority over greenfield sites. To promote house building, Tameside MBC will be freed from government imposed minimum housing numbers. A move which UKIP assumes best reflect local markets and concerns.

Immigration

Other than European Union membership, immigration tends to be top of the list among UKIP voters’ concerns. UKIP states that the system of immigration, not immigration itself, is flawed. The party favours an Australian style points system based on managing the numbers and skills base of people wishing to move to the UK.

On the other hand, there will be no clemency for illegal immigrants, nor visas for foreign criminals wishing to enter the UK. Furthermore, UKIP wishes to end the EU Freedom of Movement of People. This is likely to have an adverse effect on Tameside people wishing to seek work in Germany a la Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

Social Security

Under UKIP, pensioner benefits could be maintained. Proposed changes to the State Pension could see a flexible window; as well as a full rate from 69 years old, a slightly lower pension for people 65 to 68.

Along with Labour and Green parties, UKIP would like to see the back of the Bedroom Tax. Other Social Security reforms advocated by UKIP include the retention of Housing Benefit for under 25s and changing Foodbanks to Community Advice Centres. The latter would see an expansion of their current roles and more community services being outsourced to Foodbank providers.

Like the Conservatives, UKIP favour a lower cap on Social Security benefits. There is no detail as to which benefits will be included in the cap, nor regional levels.

Transport

UKIP is vehemently opposed to High Speed Two, and sees HS2 as a vanity scheme. It is also against ‘pay-as-you-go’ road charging schemes – as was the case in 2008 with the Transport Innovation Fund referendum.

Instead of HS2, UKIP believes faster line speeds between Ashton and Stalybridge to Liverpool and all parts Yorkshire is more effective. Omitted in its manifesto is any semblance of a bus and coach policy. There is no policy to ensure the attractiveness of the 346 for all passengers (other bus routes are available of course).

Youth

For many people, UKIP is seen as a party for elderly people. For young people, the party is in favour of keeping Housing Benefit for under 25s. Instead of academic qualifications, they could take the vocational route, with plans to allow schools or colleges to become Vocational Schools. Rather than four non-core subjects at GCSE level, they could choose to start an apprenticeship or take vocational subjects from the age of fourteen.

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At a more local level…

There seems to be some interplay with UKIP policies and local concerns expressed by voters critical of the present incumbents in Ashton-under-Lyne as well as Westminster. As stated in our look at the Conservative and Green manifestoes, there seems to be common ground in terms of local democracy. Hence:

  • Lowering car parking fees: UKIP’s 30 minutes free parking plans;
  • Greater local control of planning applications;
  • The reduction of councillors’ allowances;
  • Ensuring the protection of each town’s landmarks;
  • UKIP’s plans to scrap the Cabinet System of local governance.

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Next up on It’s Up The Poll! 2015

We shall be looking at the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto. Though the Conservatives’ choice of coalition partners’ presence is limited in Tameside, they will be standing in all three of the borough’s constituencies.

S.V., 01 May 2015.

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