As the policy wonks, commentators and public digest the coalition programme for government, there will be a lot of carping. I was not enthusiastic about a full 5 year coalition. But having joined it, we must make it deliver. The programme is not perfect. It reflects compromise. But let’s not lose sight of the positives, including:
On the Economy …
• Recognising deficit reduction as ‘the most urgent issue facing Britain’, starting to cut it immediately, and prioritising spending cuts ahead of tax hikes.
• Creating an Office of Budgetary responsibility – an independent warning siren on government spending and debt.
• Publishing online government spending over £25k, salaries of senior civil servants and council spending over £500.
• Improving the flow of credit to small business.
• Bank of England control over debt bubbles.
• Staying out of the Euro.
• A ‘one in, one out’ rule for new business regulation, along with sunset clauses.
• Commitments to scrap the IR 35 and make business rate relief automatic, as part of a wider review of tax on small business.
• Reversing Labour’s NI hike (the jobs tax).
• Cutting corporation tax – to make Britain the most competitive regime in the G20.
• Part-privatisation of Royal Mail.
• Ending gold-plating of EU rules – so Britain is not the only country implementing EU regulations to the letter.
• Freezing council tax for 1 year, and aiming for a second.
Defending our freedoms …
• Scrapping ID cards.
• Outlawing the finger-printing of children in school without parental permission.
• Ending police retention of innocent people’s DNA.
• Strengthening jury trial.
• Restoring the right to non-violent protest and strengthening free speech.
• Limiting the use of RIPA (surveillance legislation) to serious crimes.
• Reviewing UK extradition rules
Strengthening local democracy …
• Reviewing local government funding, giving back more of the revenue raised locally.
• Scrapping the South East Plan (and its arbitrary housing targets), strengthening local conttrol over planning policy, and maintaining the Green Belt.
• Giving communities a greater say over decisions on frontline services (like our community hospitals).
• Putting directly elected representatives on the Boards of Primary Care Trusts – one Lib Dem policy I am delighted we are signing up for.
• Directly elected police commissioners.
The best of the rest …
• Schools reform – so parents, teachers and charities can set up new schools (with state funding, without the bureaucracy).
• A Lib Dem pledge not to block plans for nuclear power – to meet our energy needs, whilst protecting the environment.
• A re-affirmed commitment to welfare reform.
• A pledge to ‘stop foreign healthcare professionals working in the NHS unless they have passed robust language and competence tests.’
• A Cancer Drugs Fund and more dementia research.
• Protections for pensioners – including restoring the earnings link to the basic state pension, and compensating Equitable Life victims.