Don't Mention the "B" Word!

Brexit is the dominant subject in this general election campaign - but of course the next government will be responsible for an awful lot more too.

So, as part of our series called 'Don't Mention the B Word', we've been asking you what other issues are most important to you - and picking through the parties' manifestos to find out what their positions are.


Lynn Hughes, from Seaham, got in touch to explain how she's one of the estimated 165,000 women in the North East born in the 1950s who have been made to wait for the state pension.

The state pension age is rising from 60 to 66, and the so-called 'WASPI' women say they weren't given proper notice.

What are the parties' positions?

Labour have made this a big election issue, with their high-profile pledge to pay 1950s women compensation at an average of £15,380, varying according to the year of their birth. They've described it as a "debt of honour" and estimate it would cost £58 billion to pay for.

The Liberal Democrats also say they would ensure that the 1950s women are "properly compensated... in line with the recommendations of the parliamentary ombudsman" who is due to investigate the issue.

The Green Party have pledged that these women would be first to receive a new Universal Basic Income they want to introduce. Pensioners would receive £178 per week.

The Brexit Party say in their 'Contract with the People' that they would "review the position" of women who have been "unexpectedly short-changed" by recent rises in the state pension age.

The Conservatives do not mention this issue in their manifesto. Responding to Labour's announcement and questioned on this, Boris Johnson has said it would be "very expensive" to find a solution, and they "cannot promise" to "magic up that money."


Steven Stayman, from Ferryhill in County Durham, says he wants to see Universal Credit scrapped or overhauled.

He's one of more than 140,000 people in the North East who have been moved onto the controversial benefit so far. It was first introduced by the coalition government, is aimed at simplifying the welfare system, but has left many claimants worse off.

What are the parties' positions?

The Conservatives have defended Universal Credit against criticisms, saying it "combines multiple benefits into one while building a clearer pathway from welfare into work." In their manifesto, they say "we will continue the roll-out of Universal Credit", but also pledge "we will do more to make sure" that it "works for the most vulnerable."

The Liberal Democrats say they would "reform Universal Credit to be more supportive of the self-employed", and reduce the wait for the first payment from five weeks to five days.

The Brexit Party have pledged to "undertake a 12-month review of the system and bring in reforms within two years."

Labour say they will scrap Universal Credit and "design an alternative system that treats people with dignity and respect." They say that, while the new system is being worked out, they will bring in "emergency" reforms - including an "interim payment" two weeks after claimants move onto the benefit.

The Green Party manifesto says they will create a new Universal Basic Income - "a weekly payment for everyone, replacing the current benefits system and lifting everyone up." Adults would receive £89 per week.


Susan Young, from Houghton-le-Spring, wants social housing to be given a more prominent place at this election - and says the next government needs to deliver more of it, and to a better standard.

Our research last year found more than 56,000 people in our region are on the waiting list for reduced-rent properties.

Susan's housing association, Gentoo, provided a statement in response to her criticisms:

As the main provider of affordable housing in Sunderland with 29,000 properties, Gentoo is committed to providing good quality homes that are affordable to rent for local residents. Our announcement earlier this year to invest almost half a billion pounds in improving our existing properties and to bring 900 additional affordable homes to rent to the city by 2024, reinforces this commitment. We support the National Housing Federation’s call to fix the national housing crisis for good, with a significant national investment to build new homes for affordable rent, the development of a fair and effective welfare system, and the delivery of a new deal for social housing with residents right at the heart of these three main priorities. >

Nigel Wilson, Chief Executive Officer at Gentoo Group

What are the parties' positions?

Labour are perhaps most ambitious. They have pledged that "by the end of the Parliament we will be building at an annual rate of at least 150,000 council and social homes". They also say: they would "fund a new Decent Homes programme to bring all council and housing association homes up to a good standard."

The Conservatives aren't putting a figure on their building plans - but say: "As Boris Johnson has promised, we will bring forward a Social Housing White Paper which will set out further measures to empower tenants and support the continued supply of social homes. This will include measures to provide greater redress, better regulation and improve the quality of social housing."

The Brexit Party are again keeping their pledges brief. They say they would "change the funding model to make it easier for councils to borrow from central government to build council houses."

The Liberal Democrats say they would "build at least 100,000 homes for social rent each year." They also want to introduce "a new Rent to Own model for social housing where rent payments give tenants an increasing stake in the property, owning it outright after 30 years."

The Green Party policy is also to fund "the creation of 100,000 new energy efficient council homes a year." They say "the new council homes will offer secure, lifetime tenancies."