£2.5bn education pledge from Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats pledge an additional £2.5bn for education in England in their manifesto…

As the 7 May draws closer, the pledges and promises from the political parties are coming thick and fast. Yesterday, the Greens announced their manifesto, which included curbing privatisation of the NHS and free public transport. A full breakdown of where the money is coming from to pay for this is expected to be presented in the coming weeks, which should put many voters unsure of the Greens ability to deliver what is promised at ease.

The Liberal Democrats have undoubtedly had a tough ride with voters, many of whom felt let down during the last five years after the party reneged on a number of promises. Nick Clegg’s party have a difficult road ahead of them to gather votes, and with only three weeks left on the campaign trail it is hard to see how they can pull it out of the bag.

According to the BBC Election tracker, the Lib Dems have remained around the 8 or 9 per cent mark. Worryingly for the party is the fact they have been consistently less popular than the UK Independence Party, who have floated around 14 to 18 per cent, and are only just ahead of the Greens, who have stayed between the four to six per cent mark.

As part of their strategy, the Liberal Democrats are set to focus on boosting funding for education. According to the party, an extra £2.5bn funding will ensure spending is protected “from cradle to college”. The funding is the equivalent of 70,000 teachers and 10,000 learning support assistants. The party said the move goes beyond the commitments made by other parties. However, whether this will do anything to change the mind of voters is unclear. It’s not, after all, the first time Clegg has made promises about education. Although last time he not only failed to deliver on the promise to maintain tuition fees, but he sat by while they were hiked up significantly.

In his education pledge this time Clegg said once the deficit was eliminated in 2017-18 funding for two to 19-year-olds would increase in line with economic growth. The figures also take into account growing pupil numbers, meaning the amount per child would still be protected over the course of the parliament.

The Conservatives countered this by stating their coalition partners offered “uncertainty for parents”. The Tories plan to protect the budget for five to 16-year-olds in cash terms. This will ensure funding increases with pupil numbers, but not in line with inflation or economic growth.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Labour accused the Lib Dems of breaking their promises while in government. However, politicians in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and Labour hardly have the best record for being on good behaviour while in power. The party seemingly has the weaker policies in regards to education, as they will ensure the budget for 0-19 year-olds increases in line with inflation, but not in line with increases in pupil numbers or the economy.

The main priorities of the Lib Dems will be to balance the budget fairly. This will be done through a mixture of cuts and taxes on high earners. Tax-free allowance will be increased to £12,500, while the NHS will see £8bn investment. The Lib Dems will also push for better mental health services that are in line with the care available for physical health.

Clegg is expected to say: “The manifesto has one simple ambition and word at its heart – opportunity.

“It’s a very old, liberal idea, the idea that everybody should be able to live out their life to the full regardless of the circumstances of their birth, regardless of the income of their parents, regardless of where they come from.”

UKIP is also set to launch its manifesto, which will include a pledge to employ 6,000 former army veterans in the police, prison service, and Border Agency. The party is also expected to announce a spend of two per cent of national income on defence.

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