I'm asked regularly by those who are not natural supporters of the Conservatives "What has the Coalition done for us?" As we all battle through these tough financial times with the uncertainties which come with EU financial chaos & economic slowdowns, the Coalition is continuing to make real changes to the UK through strong leadership. I thought I would try to answer this question to help those who ask me what has been done. This is pretty impressive list of achievements.
Top achievements in 2011:
1. Steering Britain through the global debt storm.
The Government’s credible deficit reduction plan has ensured UK market interest rates on government debt have fallen to record lows and below Germany’s for the first time in years. Our country is a safe haven in the sovereign debt storm, keeping interest rates low for businesses, homeowners and families.
2. Cutting income tax for 25 million people.
On top of the rise in the personal allowance from April this year, the personal allowance for under 65s will increase by a further £630 to £8,105 in 2012-13. The combined impact of this increase and the increase announced at last year’s Budget, will benefit 25 million individuals by up to £326 a year in cash terms and means that a total of 1.1 million people will be lifted out of income tax altogether (HM Treasury, Budget 2011, 23 March 2011).
3. Freezing Council tax for the second year running.
Following the council tax freeze in 2011-12, the Government will provide one-off funding to local authorities to help them freeze council tax again in 2012-13 (HM Treasury, Press Release, 3 October 2011).
4. Biggest increase in the State Pension since 1948.
In April 2011, the Government introduced its triple lock which ensures that State Pensions will be uprated by earnings, prices or 2.5 per cent – whichever is highest. This means that from April next year, the basic state pension will rise by £5.30 per week – the biggest cash rise since 1948.
5. Cutting fuel duty, saving 10p per litre compared to Labour.
We are cancelling the planned 3p duty increase for January and ensuring fuel duty from August 2012 will be only 3p higher than it is now. Together with the cut in fuel duty at the last Budget and the scrapping of Labour’s fuel duty escalator, this means that from April 2011 fuel duty will be 10p per litre lower than it would have been under Labour (HM Treasury, Autumn Statement, 29 November 2011).
6. Introducing a permanent levy on the banks.
On 1 January 2011 the Government imposed a levy on the balance sheets of UK banks and building societies, and to the UK operations of banks from abroad. It is expected to raise £10 billion over the lifetime of this parliament, raising £2.5 billion a year – more than Labour’s one-off bonus tax (HM Treasury, Press Release, 1 January 2011;March Budget, 23 March 2011).
7. Getting credit flowing to small businesses and creating Enterprise Zones.
At the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced the Government’s credit easing policy to get £20 billion of cheaper funding to small businesses. The Government’s Merlin agreement with the banks will increase bank lending to small businesses by 15 per cent this year (HM Treasury, Autumn Statement, 29 November 2011). The Government has also introduced 24 new Enterprise Zones across the country, including in areas affected by potential job losses at BAE which will benefit from up to 100 per cent business rate discount, simplified planning regulations, new superfast broadband, allowing business rates growth to be retained by the local authority and reinvested in the local area, and the potential to use enhanced capital allowances with a strong focus on manufacturing.
8. More doctors, fewer managers, less bureaucracy.
Since the General Election, there are now 3,500 more doctors and 5,500 fewer managers working in the NHS (NHS Information Centre, Provisional Monthly NHS Hospital and Community Health Service Workforce Statistics in England, 22 November 2011). We are cutting NHS bureaucracy by £4.5 billion over the course of this Parliament and reinvesting every penny into frontline patient services (Department of Health, Health Bill Impact Assessment, 8 September 2011).
9. Better access to cancer drugs.
We have introduced a £200 million per year Cancer Drugs Fund which has already given over 5,000 patients access to the life-extending cancer drugs they need (Department of Health, Press Release, 27 October 2010).
10. Capping Housing Benefit.
We have taken steps to end Labour’s something for nothing culture by capping Housing Benefit from April this year. This stops the abuse under Labour where one family alone could get over £100,000 in Housing Benefit to live in areas that the hardworking families paying these bills could not afford themselves (HM Treasury, June Budget 2010).
11. Cutting billions in Whitehall waste.
In 2010-11 we cut £3.75 billion of central government waste - £550 million more than expected - including reducing spending on consultancy; on temporary staff; on marketing and advertising; on IT projects; on renting property; on major projects; and by renegotiating contracts with key suppliers (Cabinet Office, Press Release, 1 August 2011).
12. Bringing back the weekly bin collection.
A £250 million fund is being provided to help support councils deliver a weekly collection of household waste and enable councils to invest in schemes and projects that will benefit the environment (DCLG, Press Release, 30 September 2011).
13. The largest ever increase in the Child Tax Credit.
In April this year the Child Tax Credit increased by £225 – the largest increase ever. Next April it will go up by 5.2 per cent, a further increase of £135 (HM Treasury, Autumn Statement, 29 November 2011).
14. New directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners.
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act creates directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners. These will ensure that the police are held to account
democratically at the ballot box, not bureaucratically by Whitehall. The taxpayer
will see better value for money as Commissioners, responsible for precept, will
focus relentlessly on driving up efficiency and shedding bureaucracy. Commissioners will reinforce the police’s link to the people they serve without interfering with their operational independence.
15. Many more good school places.
The first ever Free Schools – 24 of them – opened just 16 months after we came to power and by December more than a thousand schools had become Academies (DfE, Press Releases, 28 August 2011 and 4 October 2011).
16. Tough new powers on school discipline.
The Education Act, which received Royal Assent in November 2011, will help teachers raise standards and gives them new legal powers to root out poor behaviour. This includes a power for schools to search pupils without consent for any dangerous or banned items and the removal of restrictions that prevent schools from issuing detentions to pupils without providing 24 hours notice (DfE Press Release, 15 November 2011).
17. New Housing programme to get people onto the ladder and get Britain building.
In November 2011, the Government launched its ambitious Housing Strategy to break the cycle in which the lenders won’t lend, the builders can’t build and the buyers can’t buy. This will allow those hard-working families who play by the rules to own a decent home of their own. The Strategy will receive £400 million of funding and will target those schemes that have stalled through lack of development finance. This will help to unlock the construction of 16,000 homes and support up to 32,000 jobs (DCLG Press Release, 21 November 2011).
18. Standing up for Britain in Europe.
The Prime Minister was clear before the EU summit on 8-9 December that he would protect the national interest. He said we could only agree a new treaty if certain modest, reasonable and relevant safeguards were obtained. We couldn’t get those safeguards. A treaty within a treaty without safeguards wasn’t right for Britain, so we said no.
19. Introduced an EU Referendum Lock.
Our European Union Act ensures that in future the British people will have their say on any proposed transfer of powers from the UK to the EU. If in the future a change to the EU treaties that moves powers or areas of policy from the UK to the EU is proposed, the Government will have to get the British people’s consent in a national referendum before it can be agreed.
20. Leading international efforts to support the Libyan people in their hour of
need, preventing the massacre of thousands of innocent civilians by Colonel
Gaddafi and his troops and supporting their wish to elect their own, democratic
government (FCO Website).
I hope that this impressive summary gives a clear picture of the hard work and strong leadership which David Cameron and the coalition are giving for our country through these hard times.