The most eye-catching spending commitment in the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto is probably about childcare.
Like Labour and the Conservatives, the Lib Dems plan to invest significantly in schools and the NHS but the pledge to provide free childcare to working parents from nine months and for all parents of children aged two to four years old will cost the state almost £14 billion a year by the end of the parliament.
This is an eye-watering sum.
- Joel Hills examines the Lib Dems spending pledges
Total spending on childcare in England last year was £3.4 billion.
Labour propose more support for parents with children but the Lib Dems are massively outbidding them.
This is a big win for all families with young children.
Whether such an investment will enable more women to find work or children to do better a school is less clear.
In the event of increased demand, there may also be delivery issues.
On education and the NHS the Lib Dems are spending more than the Conservatives.
On the NHS they are promising to match Labour.
On welfare the Lib Dems are also being more generous.
Universal Credit stays but a series of cuts are being reversed.
The Bedroom Tax goes, the two child limit on means tested payments will also be dropped.
These are significant giveaways and are effective ways of targeting support to poorer families.
Interestingly though, there’s nothing obvious here for pensioners.
Pensioners will be paying more income tax.
The Lib Dems plan to add one pence to all tax bands.
This is a modest, progressive, broad-based (paid by 60% of adults) tax increase that will raise a huge sum of money.
The abolition of the tax free allowance on Capital Gains Tax (currently £12,000) will hit those who own shares and second homes (and are therefore lucky or wealthy or both).
The Lib Dems plan to double the amount of money raised from Air Passenger Duty.
Anyone taking fewer than three international flights a year will pay less.
Above that people will pay progressively more.
The detail here is vague but this looks like a tax that will hit business travellers and frequent fliers significantly.
The Lib Dems are banking on a Remain Bonus that will free up £14 billion of spending by the end of the parliament.
The IFS says the assumption there will be a windfall is “broadly credible” - all forecasts suggest that the economy is set to be larger if Article 50 is revoked.
Interestingly, the Lib Dems are the only one of the main parties committing to ensure national debt is falling as a proportion of national income.
Money is cheap to borrow and both Labour and the Conservatives are determined to take advantage with significant investment programmes.
The Lib Dems take a more cautious approach.
A lower national debt would put the UK in a strong position should interest rates rise in future or the economy take a turn for the worse.
The downside, of course, is society wouldn’t benefit from the infrastructure projects Labour and the Conservatives plan to fund.
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