Tuesday, 6 June 2017

My Voice, My Vote. Framework for Contemplation Completion

In less than two days, the UK electorate can finally stroll to the polls and cast their vote for the party candidate they want to see represent their constituency going forward from June 9th. It's been quite an intense campaign, marred by the terror attacks in Manchester and recently in London. Jeremy Corbyn seems to have mounted quite an extraordinary offensive, having turned round a huge deficit in the polls to the point now where the Survation poll has Labour 1 point behind the Conservatives and the YouGov poll having Labour 3 points behind albeit on the predication of a large turnout of 18-24 year olds. When the election campaign started I came up with my "Framework for Contemplation" which was designed to help me make my decision as to who to vote for in the Election. I'd already decided I couldn't vote Conservative because of their handling of Brexit but I was having trouble deciding whether to back the Lib Dems or Labour. Here's my completed framework based on research I've carried out (I'll explain my overall decision in an accompanying blogpost):

The Arts: 
  1. Will you match funding currently coming from the EU (including EU Social Fund) for community arts projects? I still don't know whether funding levels would kept exactly as they are but there are commitments to creating Arts Funds which may be used to help fund community arts projects.
  2. Will you commit to re-staffing our public libraries and ensuring every library has free computer access for 0-18 year olds? Labour are committed to protecting libraries and upgrading computer services as well as providing Wi-fi access (which I am guessing would be free) whereas the other parties do not mention library services directly in their manifestos.
  3. Will you increase funding to Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council? Labour would directly increase funding to the Arts Council but no idea as of yet whether funding would be made available to the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Lib Dems and Conservative funding doesn't seem directed towards the Councils.
  4. Will you introduce an Arts premium for primary school children in England? Labour would introduce a £160m Arts Premium; the Lib Dems would not. 
  5. Will you recognise the importance of Dance and Art to the secondary school curriculum and ensure that arts materials are available to every state-maintained school in England? Labour wants to reform the EBacc performance measure to potentially include Arts subjects as an option and the Lib Dems want to protect access to Arts and creative subjects on the current National Curriculum. 
Choice: Labour.

Health and Social Care:

  1. Will you repeal the disastrous Health and Social Care Act 2012? Labour have promised directly in their manifesto to repeal. 
  2. Will you pledge to stop signing Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) and find a way to free the NHS from them (e.g. through a National Investment Bank scheme)? Labour do hint at the prospect of reducing privatisation in the NHS and that means they wouldn't enter into any new PFI contracts. Not sure whether the PFI contracts could be ended. 
  3. Will the Nurses Training Bursary be reinstalled and the £120 registration fee scrapped for new trainee nurses? Both Labour and the Lib Dems have pledged to reinstate the Nurses Training Bursary but no mention of the registration fee in the manifestos.
  4. Will you conduct a national review into mental health services in England, including looking at expanding funding streams to allow for the recruitment of more permanent psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists and psychologists? The Lib Dems would look at reducing waiting times for children and young people so that they don't have to wait more than 6 weeks to treatment for depression or more than 2 weeks for treatment after their first episode of psychosis. The Lib Dems are also looking into introducing a dedicated service for children and young people based on the Australian "headspace model" and end the routine detention of people in police cells. They would ringfence some money from their 1p in the £1 Income Tax increase for the MH budget. Labour would ensure that children no longer need to be treated on adult wards and ensure that every pupil has access to a counselling service. The £30bn NHS spending commitment would include money to recruit more MH professionals and Labour would ringfence the MH budget so it will not be reduced in the course of the next Parliament. 
  5. Will you consider launching a national campaign to fight the stigma of loneliness? Labour talk explicitly about tackling loneliness in their manifesto, stating that they would work with businesses, community groups and civil society to help reduce loneliness. 
  6. Will public health budgets be protected from further budgetary cuts? The Lib Dems would keep public health within the local government remit but reinstate the funding that was cut by the Conservative Government. Labour would create a £250m Children's Health Fund to improve the health of children and young people in the UK which will include increasing the number of health visitors and school nurses in schools.
  7. Will the pay cap on all NHS staff be lifted? Both Labour and the Lib Dems have pledged to do this. 
  8. Will the Social Care budget funding be increased beyond the £2bn announced by the Conservatives in the Spring Budget 2017? The Lib Dems believe that the ringfenced revenue gained from implementing that Income Tax rise would be £6bn and part of that would be spent on Social Care; this would allow them to implement a cap on the cost of social care for those who have to pay. Labour will increase the social care budget by £8bn over the next parliamentary term with an additional £1bn provided in the first year. They also admit that an additional £3bn a year every year for the first few years will be needed to create their National Care Service which would be enough to bring in a cap on the cost of care and raise the asset test threshold so that more people can have access to free social care as well as providing free end of life care. Labour would consult with other parties as to how this £3bn extra a year can be raised including the possibility of bringing in a social care levy. 
Choice: Labour.

Young People & Education:
  1. Will you commit to lowering the voting age to 16? Both Labour and the Lib Dems would reduce the voting age to 16. 
  2. Will you at least protect per pupil funding for state maintained schools in England? Labour have stated that they will reverse the £3bn cuts planned for state schools in England, scrap plans to spend £320m on 120 new free schools and to expand grammar school places and have pledged to reverse the Apprenticeship Levy for schools which would save them £150m a year. £160m a year will be spent on an Arts Pupil Premium in primary schools in England. A fairer funding formula would be brought in but no school would be left worse off as a result of the changes. The Lib Dems pledge to spend £7bn on schools, protecting per pupil funding in real terms by reversing cuts, introducing a fairer National Funding System (along the lines of Labour) and protecting the pupil premium. 
  3. Will you introduce LGBTQIA+ age-appropriate Sex and Relationships Education into all schools regardless of faith? Labour has pledged to introduce guidance to make SRE LGBT+ inclusive but haven't pledged to make SRE mandatory in all schools in England (only state maintained ones). The Lib Dems state that SRE will include lessons on LGBT+ issues which seems to me as if that would mean mandatory lessons needing to be planned to be delivered in the first year of SRE rather than relying on guidance alone. 
  4. Will you consider introducing Mental Health awareness training, First Aid training and basic accountancy skills into the National Curriculum? The Lib Dems would introduce all of these subjects into the NC but Labour has only pledged to give schools access to counselling services which would cost £90m a year. 
  5. Will you conduct a review into the feasibility of charitable status for independent schools? Both manifestos do not mention this but Labour is increasing VAT on independent school fees to fund universal Free School Meals for every primary school pupil in England. 
  6. Will you reinstate the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16-19 year olds? Both parties have pledged to reinstate the EMA for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 
  7. Will you consider reducing the Tuition Fee cap from £9,000 back to £3,000? The Lib Dems would reinstate university maintenance grants and look at the sustainability of tuition fees in the long-term. Labour would abolish all tuition fees for all students starting courses from Autumn 2017 and reinstate university maintenance grants for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 
  8. Will the 3,000 places offered for PhDs and fellowships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) be available to all students, regardless of nationality? There's no mention of the Lib Dems or Labour offering 3,000 PhDs in STEM but both have recognised the need to allow EU nationals to study in the UK and that means that there would still be access to PhDs and fellowships in STEM for the most talented graduates. 
Choice: Lean Lib Dem (because of scepticism over affordability and sustainability of providing free university and FE tuition). 

Employment and The Welfare System:
  1. Will you increase the National Living Wage to £10 an hour and/or establish NLW parity between 18-24 year olds and those over 25? Labour would raise the NLW to £10 an hour by 2020 for all workers aged 18 or over. The Lib Dems commit to establishing an independent review on how to get a NLW in place for all sectors but would pay the NLW in all central government departments and agencies, encouraging other public sector employers to do the same. 
  2. Will you increase the Apprenticeship Wage? Neither party talks about increasing the Apprenticeship Wage per se but it might be the case that apprentices would get an increase in wages under a Labour Government. 
  3. Will you scrap the 1% pay cap on public sector workers and increase their pay by 4% in October 2017? Labour and the Lib Dems both pledge to scrap the cap. 
  4. Will you ban exploitative unpaid internships that last over 4 weeks? Labour have promised to ban unpaid internships whereas the Lib Dems want to see unpaid internships avoided wherever possible.
  5. Will you ban exploitative zero-hours contracts? Labour have promised to ban zero-hours contracts outright whereas the Lib Dems would "stamp out the abuse of zero-hours contracts" and look into giving employees on zero-hours contracts the right to formally request a fixed contract, with a possible right to make regular shift patterns contractual after an extended period of time. 
  6. Will you increase penalties for businesses who refuse to pay the NLW, who refuse to treat their workers with dignity and respect by falling foul of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 or who try to avoid paying the correct amount of tax? The Lib Dems want to encourage best practice in business by introducing a "good employer" kitemark that would include highlighting businesses who pay a living wage or avoid unpaid internships. There's also plans for the independent review into the NLW as mentioned above and larger employers would need to publish data about the number of people being paid below a "genuine" LW in their businesses. The Lib Dems would also mandate large firms to publish data on LGBT+ and BAME employee pay gaps. Labour would encourage trade unions to access workplaces to improve working conditions for employees and enforce all Health and Safety regulations currently in UK Law. Labour would also bring in a civil enforcement system to ensure that there is compliance with gender pay reporting requirements and equalities reps would be given statutory rights so they can spend more time protecting workers from discrimination. 
  7. Will you scrap employment tribunal fees and re-introduce "dual discrimination" claims? Labour have pledged to abolish all employment tribunal fees and re-introduce "dual discrimination" claims. The Lib Dems pledge to scrap the fees. 
  8. Will there be pay ratios in place for private firms who want to secure Government contracts?   Will they be encouraged to take a minimum of 3 Apprentices on who are British BAME, LGBTQIA+ or disabled to help increase their chances of finding long-term employment?Maximum pay ratios of 20:1 would be rolled out in the public sector and with government contractors under a Labour Government. Labour did float the idea of mandating companies to take on a minimum amount of apprentices but this isn't in the official manifesto. The Lib Dems talk about looking at ratios between top and median pay for information purposes but no mandatory pay ratios would be introduced. 
  9. Will you make changes to the late payment system, including making sure all government contractors pay their suppliers within 30 days? Labour have pledged directly to change the late payment system for government contractors in the private sector. 
  10. Will you commit to safeguarding EU-derived employment legislation, including the Working Time Directive 1998 and Agency Worker Regulations 2011? Both parties are committed to safeguarding EU Directives in their entirety. 
  11. Will you maintain the Capital Requirements Directive 2013, which capped the bonuses of some bankers (the bonus can't be more than the yearly salary but can be extended to twice the yearly salary with shareholder approval). There's no mention of the EU Directive in the manifestos which suggests that the Directive would be maintained post-Brexit.
  12. Will you pledge to fully fund nursery places of 30 hours for parents of 3 and 4 year olds in England? If not, will the policy still apply to those working parents earning over £45,000? Labour has pledged that they will fully fund nursery places of 30 hours for 3 and 4 year olds and phase in subsidised provision beyond the entitlement to help those who work longer hours. Labour also wants to extend the 30 hour entitlement to 2 year olds and then make some childcare time available to 1 year olds, with maternity leave extended to 12 months. The Lib Dems would provide 15 hours of free childcare to 2 year olds in England with a view to prioritise 15 hours free childcare for working parents in England with children between 9 months and 2 years. Long term they want to provide 30 hours of free childcare for all parents in England with children between 2 and 4 years old and ensure provision is fully funded and available to parents who work unsociable hours. 
  13. Will you scrap the benefit freeze for out-of-work and in-work benefits including income based Job Seekers Allowance? Labour have no plans in the manifesto to lift the free on JSA but pledge to increase the Employment and Support Allowance for people in the work-related activity group by £30 a week. They have pledged to redesign Universal Credit, including ending the six week waiting time and getting rid of the horrific rape clause so that claimants do not have to prove any of their children were conceived through rape- every child would receive money.  The Lib Dems would reverse cuts to Work Allowances and reverse cuts to the Family Element of UC. They would "uprate working-age benefits at least in line with inflation", abolish the rape clause and increase JSA and UC for 18-24 year olds so they are at the same rate as the minimum wages for the age group. ESA cuts would be reversed for those in the work-related activity group. 
  14. Will you reinstall Housing Benefit for 18-21 year olds? Both parties would reinstate HB for 18-21 year olds. 
  15. Will you review the benefit Sanction system to make sure that it is fair? Labour would scrap the system and change how Jobcentre staff are performance-managed so they can spend more time helping their clients to find work. 
  16. Will you reverse the Personal Independence Payment cuts and scrap the bedroom tax? Labour would scrap the bedroom tax and repeal cuts in the Universal Credit limited capacity for work element as well as scrapping the Work Capability and PIP assessments to replace them with a "holistic, personalised assessment process" with every claimant being given a "tailored plan" which will allow them to build on their strengths and address barriers. Labour would also ensure that people with mental health conditions could claim PIP. The Lib Dems would scrap the bedroom tax and the Work Capability assessment with a new system run by local authorities with a "real world test" based on local labour market conditions built into the assessment. 
Choice: Labour.

Law and Order:
  1. Will you commit to increasing funding for rural policing areas such as Lincolnshire to recruit more frontline police officers and police community support officers? Labour has a general promise to recruit 10,000 more police officers but there's no to increasing PCSO numbers but there is a promise to provide police officers, PCSOs and civilian staff with the equipment they need to be effective, including to fight cybercrime. The Lib Dems would increase funding for community policing in England and Wales by £300m in an effort to tackle violent crime. 
  2. Will you commit to creating a national campaign to raise awareness of hate crime, including homophobic and transphobic hate crime?  Labour would make LGBT hate crimes an aggravated offence and would address the rise in Anti-Semitic hate crime by ensuring there are resources in place to tackle it. The Lib Dems would campaign nationally to reduce levels of intolerance to reduce instances of hate crime and speak out against Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia by working with a range of organisations including the Anne Frank Trust UK and Kick It Out. 
  3. Will you review the Policing and Crime Act 2017 to ensure that collaboration between services does not lead to a reduction in effectiveness? There are no plans in either the Labour or Lib Dem manifesto to review the Policing and Crime Act. 
  4. Will you provide direct funding to help keep domestic abuse and violent shelters open in England and scrap the Housing Benefit cap on them? Labour would establish a National Refuge Fund to provide stable funding for "rape crisis centres" but unsure as to whether that only extends to those charities that help female survivors of domestic violence and abuse only or whether funding will be available to all shelters. The Lib Dems won't fund shelters directly but have promised funding for a national rape helpline which will have "increased opening hours and advertisement".
Choice: Labour.
    Environment and Housing:
    1. Will you commit to safeguarding existing EU environmental protection policies, including the Birds Directive, Habitats Directive and Air Quality Framework Directive? Both parties are committed to safeguarding existing EU environmental protections and Labour claims that quality standards can actually be extended- e.g. protecting native bee species by banning neonicotinoids "as soon as our EU relationship allows us to do so".  The Lib Dems would suspend the use of neonicotinoids until they no longer harm bees. The Lib Dems would also pass a Nature Act so that the Nature Capital Committee can set legally binding targets to help improve biodiversity and air quality even as Brexit negotiations continue. 
    2. Will you end the Badger Cull? Labour would end the Badger Cull outright whereas the Lib Dems would look at safe and humane ways of controlling bovine TB (investing in vaccine research) so that badgers do not need to be unnecessarily culled. 
    3. Will you commit to keeping the ban on Fox-Hunting? Both Labour and the Lib Dems are committed to keeping the ban. 
    4. Will you commit to honouring the Paris Agreement on Climate Change? The Lib Dems and Labour both commit to honouring the Paris Agreement and both state that it's important that the UK is a global leader in tackling climate change. 
    5. Will you fund new clean renewable energy projects in Lincolnshire? It's unclear as to whether there would be any specific funding for projects in Lincolnshire but Labour says they are committed to renewable energy projects and the Lib Dems would invest heavily in future research and development. Both parties want to see 60% of electricity in the UK being generated by renewable energy sources by 2030. 
    6. Will you commit to banning fracking? Both the Lib Dems and Labour are 100% committed to banning fracking and shale-gas exploration in the UK.
    7. Will you commit to reviewing the Common Fisheries Policy to ensure that catch allowances can be co-ordinated effectively with our EU and non-EU neighbours? The Lib Dems openly commit to a review of the CFP, acknowledging that it has failed to help fisheries in the UK. They'd make sure fishing rights weren't traded away and encourage everyone to work together to create a sustainable plan for UK fishing. Labour have promised to "reconfigure funds" to support local small fishing fleets and allow EU nationals employed in the fishing industry to remain in the UK and create a Science Innovation Fund to help small fishing fleets adapt to modern trading conditions. 
    8. Will you provide more funding for coastal communities to help promote local tourism inside and outside the UK? There's no specific policies to help promote coastal tourism especially but Labour have promised to reinstate the cross-Whitehall ministerial group on tourism which will help come up with policies. 
    9. Will you commit to building social housing in England? Labour says they will build 100,000 council and housing association homes a year and ensure they are genuinely affordable to rent. The Lib Dems state they will build 300,000 houses a year, including 500,000 affordable highly energy efficient ones by the end of the Parliamentary term. Local Plans would be drawn up by local authorities to help them plan council housing and the borrowing cap would be lifted. The capacity of Housing Associations to borrow would be increased too. 
    10. Will you commit to getting more empty homes in inner city areas back into social housing use, through Compulsory Purchase Orders? This isn't specifically mentioned in the manifestos but both parties in the past have expressed a desire to allow local authorities to issue more CPOs to free up housing stock. 
    11. Will you commit to enforcing minimum private tenancy agreements of 5 years? Labour would make 3 year tenancies in the private sector the norm and would look at giving renters in London "additional security" by working with Sadiq Khan (the Mayor) to come up with viable measures. The Lib Dems are looking into providing government backed tenancy deposits for those under 30 to help them find their first home and would promote tenancies of 3 or more years.
    12. Will you consider looking at private rent caps in areas of high demand? Labour have pledged to bring in an inflation cap on rent rises. The Lib Dems want to ensure that tenancies have an inflation-linked annual rent rise built into a contract so that tenants have peace of mind and don't have to worry about rent hikes during their tenancy. 
    Choice: Lean Lib Dem but a Labour Government would be strong on animal welfare and social housing. 

    LGBTQIA+ Issues:  
    1. Will you protect the Human Rights Act 1998 from being eroded post-Brexit, including the right to freedom of expression? Both Labour and the Lib Dems are committed to protecting the HRA in its entirety. 
    2. Will you commit to a reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (to remove the Spousal Veto, remove the requirement to have a medical diagnosis, remove the requirement for Gender Reporting Panel validation and allow non-binary and intersex people to use X gender markers on legal documentation?) Labour are committed to reforming the GRA but haven't explicitly stated whether there would be changes to legal documentation. The Lib Dems have explicitly stated that they will introduce an X Marker option on passports, "streamline and simplify the GRA" and remove the Spousal Veto. 
    3. Will you commit to a reform of the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that people of all different gender identities and intersex people are specifically protected from discrimination? Labour would amend the EA to change the protected characteristic from "gender reassignment surgery" to "gender identity" and would also remove outdated terminology such as "transsexual" from the EA. The Lib Dems would do the same. There's no mention of intersex people in the manifestos. 
    4. Will you commit to reviewing the situation of trans healthcare in England, including preventing transphobic abuse, educating GPs about trans issues and increasing the number of Gender Identity Clinics and specialist staff? Neither party makes a commitment to review trans healthcare in England other than Labour mentioning that cuts to mental health services can harm LGBT people and that those cuts would be reversed under a Labour Government.
    5. Will you commit to funding PrEP and the HPV vaccine for high risk groups, including men who have sex with men in England? Labour wants to see the PrEP trial concluded ASAP so that it can be provided on the NHS in England to all those who are deemed as having a high risk of contracting HIV. Labour would also improve sexual-health services and tackle the stigma surrounding HIV by promoting the increased availability of HIV testing. The Lib Dems would make PrEP immediately available on the NHS. There's no mention of the HPV vaccine in either manifesto. 
    6. Will you commit to entirely ending the Blood Ban on men who have sex with men? The Lib Dems would ask the Advisory Board on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs to review rules around blood donation "periodically". 
    Choice: Both Labour and Lib Dems have good policies.

    Other: 
    1. Will you pledge to protect Lincolnshire farmers' subsidies beyond 2020? Labour argue that the Tories have no sustainable vision for the future of farming after Brexit. They would be ambitious, reconfiguring funds to support local small farmers and those who engage in sustainable practices with farmers being given access to a science and innovation fund to help develop those practices. Labour wants to reinstate the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme and guarantee EU nationals already working in agriculture the right to remain in the UK. The Agricultural Wages Board would also be reintroduced designed to ensure pay standards are maintained in the sector.  Labour would also expand the role of the Groceries Code Adjudicator so that both producers and consumers get a fair deal. The Lib Dems would continue campaigning to reform farmers' subsidies, removing direct subsidies and funding the public goods that come from effective land management such as flood prevention. Local small farmers would be better protected. There would also be a campaign to encourage young people into farming by promoting different types of farm ownership and increase the power of the Groceries Code Adjudicator so that farmers receive the best price for their goods. 
    2. Will you increase local government funding for the people of Lincolnshire (currently third lowest in the country at £88)? Labour state that they will provide investment in housing, transport and broadband in rural areas and recognise that rural councils provide services differently so will consider this when redesigning business rate schemes. 
    3. Will you commit to safeguarding existing EU consumer protection including the Payment Surcharges Regulations 2012 and Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013? Both parties would maintain Consumer protections derived from the EU. 
    4. Will you ensure that money raised from the Tampon Tax does not go towards funding Pro-Life charities? The Lib Dems talk about ending period poverty by ensuring free tampons are provided in every secondary school in England. Labour do not mention period poverty particularly in the manifesto but Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Sarah Champion and Jess Phillips have talked about the need for any proceeds from the tampon tax to go towards funding women's charities and not anti-abortion ones. Both parties are committed to defending a woman's right to have an abortion. 
    5. Will you commit to reviewing immigration policy to ensure that it is fair to non-EU and EU migrants? Labour states that their immigration policy will be fair and "not discriminate between people of different races or creeds." Labour would draft the policy whilst negotiating with the EU and consulting with the Commonwealth and other Non-EU partners. Businesses, trade unions and devolved governments would help to identify skill shortages and controls may be brought in, including employer sponsorship, work permits, visa regulations or a mix. The Lib Dems support the freedom of movement principle and believe any immigration restrictions following Brexit must take into account "the vital importance of EU workers to our economy." The Lib Dems believe strict border control is important and we should allow high-skilled immigration. 
    6. Will you review UK Asylum policy so that waiting times for application processing are reduced, LGBTQIA+ people aren't forced back to a country where they cannot be openly themselves and detention facilities are fit-for-purpose with gender-neutral facilities in place for non-binary asylum seekers? The Lib Dems have pledged to end indefinite detentions by introducing a 28-day limit. They want to speed up application processing and offer guaranteed asylum to those who are fleeing persecution on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identification when they could be imprisoned, tortured or murdered in their home country. Deportation of LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers would be halted. Labour talks about honouring international law and moral obligations towards refugees and asylum seekers but there are no specific policies in place to speed up processing times or protect LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers within the manifesto. 
    7. Will you protect the Foreign Aid budget? Both the Lib Dems and Labour would protect the Foreign Aid budget. 
    8. Will you commit to scrutinising the terms of the EU deal and not be afraid to ask for it to be amended? The Lib Dems argue for a 2nd EU Referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal gained from the EU whereas Labour have guaranteed Parliament a free vote (aka a meaningful vote) on the terms of the final Brexit deal and reject "no deal" as a viable option with transitional arrangements negotiated to prevent the UK economy "falling off a cliff edge". 
    9. Will you pledge to look at House of Lords reform, to get rid of Bishops and Hereditary peers and use the freed up spaces to increase the number of Crossbench MPs in the House? The Lib Dems would reform the House of Lords so that it has a "proper democratic mandate", Labour argues too that the House of Lords should be a democratically elected chamber but would end the hereditary principle and reduce the size of the House of Lords in the meantime.