Lib Dems announce bold new policies on housing, education and policing
By Alan Bullion
Britain is an incredibly divided country, and the Liberal Democrats want to rebuild an open, tolerant, outward looking Britain. As a party we must think big and be radical and forward-looking.
Brexit is sucking the life out of Westminster. Urgent attention needs to be given to the NHS and social care, the housing crisis and homelessness, schools and policing, national defence and much else.
A soft Brexit is significantly better than a hard Brexit, but begs the question: why bother to leave the EU in the first place?
As Lib Dem leader Vince Cable says, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn is letting down the working class. You cannot speak up for the poor and be complicit in making the country poorer. You cannot claim to love the NHS knowing that Brexit will starve it of cash. You cannot be an advocate of strong rights at work, and stand by while your country walks away from the organisation which has most stood up for workers.
We are committed to increasing diversity both within the party and across politics as a whole. A Liberal Democrat economy would be one which welcomes entrepreneurs, which rewards profitable, risk-taking companies, which embraces new technology and which sees active government.
We would tax pollution and unearned wealth, while promoting work, innovation and environmental protection. And on tax we are the party, unlike Labour, which will be honest with the public with that spending on our priorities.
Local authorities and housing
Councils should be given the power to increase tax on second homes. Local authorities should be able to impose an increase of up 500% and increase the stamp duty surcharge on additional properties to 5%.
High levels of second home ownership can have a hugely detrimental impact on local communities across the country. This too often leads to the unacceptable decline and closure of key local services like schools, bus services, shops and Post Offices.
It's absolutely vital that we have in place the measures which will keep our communities thriving and ensure that Kent remains both a vibrant and beautiful county to live and work in for everyone.
Local authorities will be given other powers to tackle empty housing: greater access to borrowing for local authorities, strengthened powers to bring empty homes back into use and the power to direct the use of otherwise unwanted public land. Alongside measures to allow local government to abandon Right to Buy and to require that profit from council house sales is invested in new social housing.
Having a place to call home is a basic human right. In the face of a national housing crisis we are failing as a country to fulfil that right. It is clear that the private sector cannot be relied upon to deliver affordable homes for those struggling to get on the housing ladder.
Overhaul of school inspections and testing
Regulator Ofsted should be abolished and replaced with a new Inspector of Schools. The new body will focus on pupil welfare, promotion of equality of opportunity and teacher workload, sickness and retention, as well as attainment. SATs will be abolished for KS1 and KS2.
These reforms represent a culture change in the way we run our schools. The current over-emphasis on high-stakes testing has lead to a system which overlooks many important elements of the development of a child. Ofsted only encourages this and is in our view too broken to be fixed.
Parents want to know their children's well-being is looked after and that they are receiving a broad education, which equips them for adult life, including creativity and the arts, SRE, financial literacy and first aid skills.
Party of policing - upholding law and order
The police are critical to protecting freedom and promoting social justice. The Liberal Democrats should not place themselves in opposition. Properly regulating policing only promotes civil liberties.
The police should receive an extra £300 million, with a greater emphasis on community policing.
Government must fix railway franchising
Liberal Democrats have passed an emergency motion calling on the Conservative government to fix rail franchising.
The motion calls on the government to bring in sanctions and bans for companies that substantially breach the terms of their contract. It would also allow public sector bodies and mutual groups to bid for franchises, including staff and passengers.
This is the third time in 11 years that the East Coast franchise has failed. Meanwhile passengers on Southern and Great Northern have faced lengthy disruption to services.