Tories place housing at heart of manifesto

Tories place housing at heart of manifesto

The Conservative Party has placed housing at the heart of its election manifesto, revealing plans on building starter homes for first-time buyers as well as confirming that it plans to extend the controversial Right to Buy scheme.

The Tories’ manifesto, published today (14 April) unveiled plans to build 200,000 starter homes over the course of the next parliament, reserved for first-time buyers under 40 and sold at 20 per cent below the market price.

“We are setting an ambition to double the number of first-time buyers compared to the last five years – helping one million more people to own their own home,” it read.

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The Conservatives also plan to extend Help to Buy to cover another 120,000 homes, continuing the mortgage guarantee until the start of 2017 and the equity loan until at least 2020.

This follows this morning’s announcement that they intention to extend the Right to Buy scheme for up to 1.3m tenants of housing associations in England, along with the creation of a £1bn Brownfield Regeneration Fund to unlock 400,000 new homes.

Forcing housing associations to sell properties is controversial and has been criticised by the National Hosuing Federation, among others, who claim it will reduce the stock of affordable housing.

The Tory manifesto said that the party will fund the replacement of properties sold under the extended Right to Buy by requiring local authorities to manage their housing assets more efficiently, with the most expensive properties sold off and replaced as they fall vacant.

The manifesto also reconfirmed plans to introduce a Help to Buy Isa to support people saving for a deposit, as announced in this year’s Budget.

Elsewhere plans on taxation include confirmation the party would raise the 40p tax threshold further, so that no one earning less than £50,000 pays the higher rate of income tax.

The manifesto stated that this would mean 800,000 people earning between £42,385 and £50,000 will no longer pay the 40p rate of tax. The party also pledged to not increase VAT, income tax or national insurance, as well as to raise the tax-free personal allowance to £12,500.

“That means by the end of the decade, one million more people on the lowest wages will be lifted out of income tax, and people who work for 30 hours a week on the increased national minimum wage will no longer pay any income tax at all.”

Critics will seek answers to how these and other promises, including to meet a demand for £8bn in additional NHS funding a year by the end of the parliament, will be funded, especially given previous attacks in the previous parliament on unfunded spending pledges by other parties.

The party has said it will reduce spending by £30bn a year, including £13bn in departmental spending, £12bn from the welfare budget and £5bn through a clampdown on avoided tax. Few details were offered beyond the headline numbers, however.

Turning to pensions, the ‘triple lock’ will be maintained under a Tory government and from next April they would stick with plans for a single tier state pension, effectively abolishing means-testing.