Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, blogs about the stark differences between the Labour and Conservative Parties' manifestos.
Last week, the Labour and Conservative Parties published their manifestos to set out their visions for the UK if they formed the next Government. They could not be more different; Labour’s a carefully costed plan on the side of working people and the Tories’ an uncosted shift from poor to rich.
Labour will introduce free school meals for all primary school children, funded by introducing a VAT on private school fees. This would mean only a small group would pay for a policy benefiting hundreds of thousands of children, but the Tories’ plan to end the current provision of free school meals means everyone loses out.
Labour-run Islington Council’s pioneering free school meals programme means that every primary school and nursery pupil receives a free hot and nutritious meal every school day. The policy has helped each family save over £500 every year per child and helped children to focus on learning. It is shameful that the Tories would deny this to the rest of the country.
The Tories are failing miserably on education as they waste money on their vanity projects like grammar schools and free schools. Islington parents and teachers have been campaigning hard against the estimated 10 per cent funding cuts set to hit their schools over the next four years.
Labour will reverse the £3bn of cuts to schools’ budgets faced by 2020 and protect the core schools budget through a £4.8bn annual real-terms funding increase. These education plans will be funded by reversing Tory cuts to corporation tax. This is a costed policy that would see much-needed funding shift from the richest to those who are less well off.
The Tories have presided over record low house building levels and have no plans to fix the housing crisis. Labour will build at least 100,000 council and housing association homes a year and end insecurity for private renters by granting them new consumer rights.
I am proud of Islington Labour’s record on housing. The Council is undertaking its largest council house building programme in 30 years and has delivered 709 new genuinely affordable homes in the past two years, prioritised for local residents.
We have also been campaigning hard against the Tories’ plans to end secure lifetime tenancies and force the Council to sell hundreds of desperately-needed council homes every year. A Labour Government would scrap the Tories’ plan to end secure lifetime tenancies, offering security to Islington’s many council tenants.
The Tories will make people pay more towards the cost of social care, a sector in crisis thanks to their successive cuts. Labour will increase the social care budget by £8bn over the next Parliament but also establish a National Care Service to find a long-term solution. The fact that the Tories have already U-turned on their social care plans demonstrate they are anything but ‘strong and stable’.
By 2020, Islington Council will have had its budget cut by 70 per cent in a decade. At the same time, Tory Councils, such as former Prime Minister David Cameron’s home in Witney and the leafy shires, have been spared the same level of cuts. The idea that the Conservatives want to redistribute the wealth and stand up for working people is laughable.
The Tories are far more concerned with alienating our neighbours in Europe for the sake of a hard Brexit, stripping working people of their rights and dignity, and bringing back fox hunting. They are determined to further shift funding from the poorest, who need it most, to the richest. Labour’s policies are fully-costed, the only ones that benefit working people in Islington and worthy of your vote on 8th June.
Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council