Liz Emerson, IF Co-Founder, analyses the manifestos using the lens of intergenerational fairness in the run-up to the May General Election. Today she inspects UKIP
Young people beware! With the tightest election result anticipated for many decades come May, political parties are using increasingly desperate tactics to find votes, with bigger promises offered and little policy detail to back these promises up.
So who should young people vote for? As a non-party-political charitable think tank, the Intergenerational Foundation is unable to support any one party or set of parties. However, it is possible to analyse each party’s manifesto to see whether their major election promises are in the interests of younger and future generations.
While the Conservatives, Labour and the LibDems address the issue of the national debt and deficit reduction to varying degrees, UKIP offer no proposals other than to leave the EU, reduce overseas aid, scrap High Speed Two, replace the Barnett Formula and cut the cost of Westminster spending.
Leaving the EU could have serious consequences for younger and future generations of UK citizens. The UK has a rapidly ageing population due to increasing longevity, which while good news, is changing our demographic profile. We have moved from a society with a large number of young people supporting a few older people, to fewer young people working – and working fewer jobs with lower pay – to support many older people. Our older people are also increasingly likely to live with a number of health conditions. The old age dependency ratio has shifted dramatically meaning that the current working population will need to fund the care and benefits of many more older people. So, by leaving the EU and reducing in-ward economic migration – which brings younger workers who pay UK tax and reduce the old age dependency ratio – this UKIP policy could lead to an increased financial burden for younger and future generations over time.
While other parties are offering to address maternity and paternity leave, UKIP remain silent. They do offer 15 hours of free childcare for 3-4 year olds but this is just half that offered by other parties. Their plans to deregulate the childcare system may increase the number of nursery places but could lead to a lack of protection for very young and vulnerable children.
UKIP offer no education policies other than ending SATs and league tables and closing down academies. There is no mention of how children currently in academies will be schooled. All other major political parties pledge to protect the education budget with the LibDems extending their offer up to 19 years of age. There is also no mention of free school meals for children, which most other parties have pledged. UKIP does have a position on university education with a promise to waive tuition fees for new medical students and those on STEMM degrees. The subtext for this pledge suggests that UKIP is only interested in investing in the next generation if their degrees are science-focused. In UKIP world, does this mean that any other degree course or qualification is valueless?
While the Conservatives pledge three million apprenticeships, the LibDems offer a more restrained two million and Labour pledge an apprenticeship for every school-leaver, UKIP remain silent. They also have no policies on National Insurance or job creation.
UKIP appear to acknowledge that new homes are required with the promise to deliver 1 million more by 2025. They also pledge to keep housing benefit for the under-25s, which is a welcome move. Like the Conservatives they appear resistant to a Mansion Tax and would keep help-to-buy. As IF has stated many times, help-to-buy may appear to offer first-time-buyers the chance to get a foot on the property ladder, but it’s effect is more likely to increase house prices. A braver policy move would be to withdraw these sticking plasters, thereby removing buyers from the housing market and force a house price fall. Shackling younger generations to a lifetime of over-valued property mortgage enslavement is not in the best interests of younger generations when their income could be better spent stimulating the real economy. UKIP offer no policies on addressing letting agents’ fees, reforming buy-to-let tax treatment or giving renters more tenancy protection. They do however call for an Empty Homes Tax.
UKIP pledges to spend £12 billion – £2.5bn more than any other party – over the course of the next Parliament on the NHS. Leaving the EU, they say, can fund this. They also pledge to spend £1.2billion a year on social care. While these numbers may sound impressive there is little detail on what the impact to the economy would be and thereby welfare budgets available from a withdrawal from Europe. This funding may be an unaffordable promise for younger generations. With NHS spending on retired households already double that for working populations, IF would query whether this increase in spending is intergenerationally fair when the costs of an increasingly ageing population are likely to fall ever more on over-burdened younger generations. A social care cap may also push costs onto the shoulders of young people and lead to an increase in intergenerational conflict. Young people may start to question why as they are forced to bring up their families in increasingly smaller homes while subsidising older, wealthy people to remain in larger and more valuable spaces and receive free social care.
While the Conservatives, Labour the LibDems have all made a commitment to upgrade the nation’s railways, UKIP are silent. UKIP however do call for the scrapping of High Speed Two due to what they consider to be unaffordable costs. This begs the question as to the obligations today’s generation have to provide national transport infrastructure for future generations at a cost that is shared across the generations fairly? UKIP also pledge to withdraw road pricing and vehicle excise duty, which runs counter to current environmental carbon emissions policy in the UK. The pledge to re-open Manston Airport in Kent would be detrimental to future generations by encouraging an increase in aviation travel, with its high carbon emission, rather than encouraging travel by rail.
IF welcomes the UKIP pledge to introduce a Sovereign Wealth Fund but is cautious over how the fund would be financed if Shale gas extraction and other dirty fuels are used to fund it. If is disappointed to read that UKIP intends to withdraw subsidies for wind and solar renewable energy in the UK. UKIP support for the expansion of new nuclear energy flies in the face of any commitment to environmental or sustainable energy policy. The cost of nuclear waste storage and the de-commissioning of existing nuclear plants will place an unaffordable financial burden on future generations let alone the risk to the entire nation should there be catastrophic leaks in the future.
UKIP makes no mention of investing in infrastructure beyond a commitment to fund “essential infrastructure”.
Increasing the tax-free personal allowance to £13,00 will help younger, poorer workers but there are no policy promises on Income Tax. UKIP does however commit to the removal of VAT for “many products and services”.
UKIP’s pledge to maintain all universal benefits for older people, irrespective of wealth, while lowering the cap on all other benefits, suggests that the party has no interest in addressing intergenerational unfairness. The pledge to continue to protect the Triple Lock on the State Pension – which has a current liability of £3.8 trillion – will only add to the juggernaut of debts being passed down the generations.
UKIP appears to have no policy on increasing representative among young people by lowering the voting age and its commitment to leave the EU could severely disadvantage future generations.