The Conservative Party has launched its election manifesto with a series of pledges directly affecting consumers, including a price cap on standard variable energy tariffs, clearer mobile phone bills, means-testing of Winter Fuel Payments, a social care shake-up and an end to the state pension 'triple lock' guarantee.
Other parties have also made significant announcements on consumer issues ahead of the 8 June general election, with Labour promising to introduce an immediate energy price cap, cap train fares and abolish tuition fees, and the Liberal Democrats pledging a 'rent to own' scheme to boost home ownership and a discounted young person's bus pass.
Here's a quick snapshot of some of the main manifesto commitments we've seen which affect consumers from the major parties. The leaders of the seven major political parties have agreed to take part in our 'leaders' debate' and we'll be quizzing them shortly on topics you've suggested, with pensions, social care and income and tax the key focus.
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What the Conservatives are promising
Here's a summary of the main things the Conservative Party has pledged to do which will affect consumers:
- Introduce a "safeguard tariff cap" on the price of the poorest value energy tariffs - ie, standard tariffs. This follows Prime Minister Theresa May's announcement earlier this month - no new details have been released in today's manifesto.
- As part of a range of measures to provide 'fair markets for consumers', force mobile phone firms to tell customers about cheaper deals when they have paid off their handset, and “make billing for telecoms customers fairer and easier to understand”.
- Make Winter Fuel Payments subject to means-testing - currently most pensioners receive one-off payments of between £100 and £300 triggered when the temperature falls below certain levels.
- Shake-up social care. Pensioners with less than £100,000 will become exempt from care charges (the current limit is £23,250). If you own a property that will be classed as part of your assets (currently only income and savings are taken into account) - but you will be able to defer paying care costs until after your death.
- Create a Train Ombudsman and roll out a fairer ticketing system - which is currently being trialled - nationwide. Also, to “work with train companies and their employees to agree minimum service levels during periods of industrial action”.
- End the pension so-called 'triple lock' - which guarantees that the state pension will rise in line with whichever is highest of average wage growth, inflation or 2.5% - as planned in 2020. It would change to a 'double lock' and rise by the higher of average earnings or inflation.
- Guarantee free eye tests, prescriptions, TV licences and bus passes will remain for pensioners for the duration of the next Parliament, until 2022.
- Raise the income tax threshold to £12,500 (currently £11,500) and raise the starting rate for the higher income tax rate to £50,000 from its 2017-18 level of £45,001, both by 2020.
- Increase the minimum wage from £7.50/hour to 60% of median earnings by 2020.
- Ban firms from cold-calling people involved in traffic accidents to encourage them to make fake injury claims, extending a similar ban already introduced on pensions and charities. Whiplash claims would also be targeted to reduce insurance premiums.
- Make home-buying easier by cutting legal fees including conveyancing costs.
- Introduce measures to help those renting property by increasing tenants’ security and encouraging “landlords to offer longer tenancies as standard”.
- Crack down on leasehold "unfair practices", eg, imposing "escalating" ground rent.
- Adopt a “breathing space” scheme so people with problem debt can apply for legal protection against further interest, charges and enforcement action for up to six weeks.
- Take steps to "tackle rogue private parking operators".
Read the full Conservative Party manifesto here.
What the Labour party says
The Labour party launched its manifesto on 16 May - here are some of the main points for consumers:
- Introduce an immediate "emergency" energy price cap to ensure that the average household dual-fuel bill is "below £1,000 per year".
- Guarantee that the current 'triple-lock' pensions promise (explained above) remains in place, and continue to offer free bus passes and the winter fuel allowance to pensioners.
- Labour has promised to cap rail fares and introduce free wi-fi across the network and bring private rail franchises into public ownership as they expire.
- Raise income tax to 45% for those earning £80,000 or more and to 50% for those on £123,000 or more.
- Extend the Help to Buy scheme until 2027.
- Extend free child care to 30 hours for two-year-olds, make some free childcare available for one-year-olds and extend statutory maternity leave to 12 months.
- Abolish university tuition fees and reintroduce the maintenance grant.
- Introduce a version of Scotland's Debt Arrangement Scheme to give breathing space to households struggling with high debts. Under this scheme you make make one monthly payment based on the amount of money left over once you’ve paid all your household bills.
- Bring in free lunches for all primary schoolchildren.
What the Liberal Democrats sayThe Liberal Democrats launched their manifesto on 17 May - here are some of the main points for consumers:
- Create a new 'rent to own’ scheme so that rental payments go towards home ownership.
- Establish a review on how to set a living wage across all sectors.
- Increase the basic, higher, additional and dividend rates of income tax by 1p each.
- Set up a young people's bus pass which would give 16-21 year-olds two-thirds off fares.
- End the 1% cap on public sector pay rises.
- Reverse the raising of the Inheritance Tax Threshold.
What Plaid Cymru says
Plaid Cymru launched its 2017 Action Plan on 16 May - it's promised consumers it will:
- Introduce a social care rescue plan to help people continue to live independently.
- Fight to guarantee the pensions triple lock.
- Create a Welsh energy company to cut the cost of energy for Welsh consumers.
What about the SNP, Green Party and UKIP?
Both Scottish National Party and the Green Party manifestos are not launched until next week, and UKIP's manifesto is released on 24 May.