It’s that time again – a general election campaign when every politician is jostling for your attention and your vote. They’ll be appearing on television and radio shows, they’ll be launching poster campaigns, and they’ll be shaking hand after hand after hand.
But one thing can get lost amid all the hubbub, and it’s probably the most important thing of all – the parties’ actual policies. So, to help prevent this, we thought we’d read through the manifestos and pick out the most important policies for you and your business. Here they are:
This year could turn out to be a very significant one for van fleets and their drivers. Why so? It all comes down to diesel.
Diesel engines – and particularly older diesel engines – emit greater quantities of certain air pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide. And so, politicians have started to take action against them. For example, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, intends to turn the centre of the city into an ‘Ultra-Low Emission Zone’ in 2019, and will introduce a special ‘Emissions Surcharge’ in the meantime. Both of these policies will impose fees on the oldest, dirtiest vehicles travelling through the capital.
The Conservative Government will take action too, so long as they’re returned to power after 8th June. We know this because they told us about it before the election campaign. The Spring Budget promised to ‘explore the appropriate tax treatment for diesel vehicles', and the outcome of these explorations could be revealed later this year. The Government also published its draft Air Quality Plan a few weeks ago, which raised the prospect of a scrappage scheme for diesel drivers, among other policies. The final Plan is meant to be published before 31st July.
Given how important these decisions could be for thousands of motorists, they must be central to the Conservatives’ election manifesto, right? Not really. The Air Quality Plan isn’t mentioned once. Neither are diesel taxes, nor is a scrappage scheme. What is there is a generic pledge to ‘take action against poor air quality in urban areas', along with a general commitment to ultra-low emission vehicles. We’ll have to wait until after a Conservative election victory to hear any details.
As for the other parties, Labour’s manifesto does promise to introduce a ‘Clean Air Act’, but doesn't give any specifics about its contents. The Greens would look to increase Vehicle Excise Duty on diesel vehicles, alongside a scrappage scheme, whereas UKIP agree with the idea of scrappage schemes, but little else. They would ‘prevent diesel drivers from being penalised through higher taxes, parking fees, or emissions’ zone charging'.
The most eye-catching proposal is in the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto: a total ban on the sale of diesel cars and small vans by 2025. However, this may not be as radical – nor as harsh – as it sounds. For starters, the Lib Dems would also establish a scrappage scheme to help drivers move away from diesel. Plus, it’s possible that most of the cars and vans sold in eight years’ time will be electric anyway. And finally, of course, the Lib Dems are unlikely to be in Government after June’s vote.
Ever since George Osborne, the former Chancellor, announced his £15 billion plan for improving the country’s highways and byways, roads have become a theme of British politics.
This is reflected in the manifestos. The Conservatives would, unsurprisingly, continue with the ‘largest-ever investment programmes in our roads’ that they have already embarked upon, and other parties would do likewise. Both Labour and the Lib Dems commit to improving the road network too.
There are, however, some differences in emphasis. The Conservatives and UKIP make sure to promise that they would fill potholes. This may seem small in comparison to schemes for remaking entire stretches of motorway, but it isn’t insignificant. Opinion polls suggest that potholes are among voters’ biggest grievances. We all know – and hate – the frustration of bouncing along a pitted road.
Labour, the Lib Dems and UKIP have another policy for appealing to motorists. The first two parties would abolish the toll for crossing the Severn Bridge, while the third would abolish the toll for crossing the Severn Bridge – and every other toll it could.
Of course, roads policy doesn’t exist in isolation. Other policies in the manifestos will affect our daily drives. For instance, improvements to the rail network could see more people and companies using trains – or, as the Lib Dems put it, ‘shift more freight from road to rail’ – and leave less traffic for those of us who remain on the motorways. Here’s hoping!
The three main parties have three different strategies when it comes to their personal taxation policies.
To understand the Conservatives, you have to go back to their manifesto for the 2015 election. Back then, they promised not to raise the rates of Income Tax, National Insurance or VAT – but that was when David Cameron and George Osborne were in charge. Theresa May and Philip Hammond have different ideas, as shown by their attempt to increase NI for most self-employed workers in the last Budget. They were then forced into an embarrassing u-turn when their party’s previous commitment was pointed out to them.
This time? The Conservatives have been careful not to constrain themselves. Their 2017 manifesto does commit to not increasing VAT, but there’s no such commitment for Income Tax and NI. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will increase either of those two taxes – it just means that they would be able to, in future, without breaking a manifesto promise.
There’s happier, though unsurprising, news elsewhere in the Conservative manifesto. They would continue with their existing policies to raise the tax-free personal allowance to £12,500, and increase the threshold for the higher rate to £50,000, both by 2020.
As for Labour, they’re trying to be generous whilst also reassuring voters that they’ll be able to fund their spending policies. The generous part is that they’re promising no National Insurance or VAT rises for anyone, and no Income Tax rises for anyone earning less than £80,000 a year. The funding part is that they would raise Income Tax for those earning over £80,000.
And the Lib Dems feel as though they’ve struck upon that rarest of things: a popular tax rise. They’d add a penny to the basic rate of Income Tax, but ensure that any cash it raised would go towards the NHS.
The parties’ different intentions for Corporation Tax are best summed up by our graph, above. The Conservatives aim to gradually bring the main rate down from its current 19% to 17%. Labour would gradually bring it up to 26%. The Lib Dems want to raise it immediately to 20% and keep it there.
However, Corporation Tax isn’t the sum of it. All of the parties have various policies designed to nurture small businesses, in particular. The Conservatives’ main one is relief on Business Rates. Labour would introduce a lower rate of Corporation Tax – called the ‘small profits rate’ – specifically for smaller businesses. And the Lib Dems’ priority would be to increase access to finance, including through an expansion of the British Business Bank.
There’s an implicit argument in the manifestos over company reporting. Theresa May’s Government has already moved to make companies file tax returns on a quarterly basis, but Labour and the Lib Dems would either exempt SMEs from this requirement or make it voluntary. It’s a debate that’s likely to continue after the election.
And that’s what it’s really all about: after the election. On 9th June, we’ll know which party is going to occupy government, which manifesto is going to be implemented, and we may even learn something about what it all means for diesel. See you on the other side.
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