Wales Election 2016

Welsh Conservative manifesto: What's in it?

Image copyright Welsh Conservatives
Image caption The Welsh Conservatives' manifesto front page

The Welsh Conservatives launched their assembly election manifesto on Monday - revealing what they'd do across the range of devolved areas.

There are five big policy pledges from the Conservatives - they say they'd protect the NHS by guaranteeing more investment every year, create more jobs by supporting small business and improving infrastructure and reform teacher training and plough more funds directly to schools.

The party would also set a cap on costs and protect £100,000 of assets for those in residential care, and treble free childcare to 30 hours per week.

But the document includes little detail on what each policy would cost and how it would be afforded, although the party says the manifesto is "fully costed".


Health

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Right at the top of the Tories' top five pledges is a promise to protect the NHS by guaranteeing more investment in the health service.

The party says it would increase NHS expenditure in real terms, every year over the next five years. The extra funding would come from a cut in the Welsh Government's budget for university students.

The party says it will prevent hospital closures and any reorganisation during the assembly term, and increase the number of doctor and nurse training places.

Minor injuries units at Colwyn Bay and Tenby, and in the Rhyl/Prestatyn area would be re-established.

The Tories promise to "wage war on Wales' biggest killers" - with specialist plans to "guarantee improved outcomes" for cancer, heart disease, dementia and stroke sufferers.

It would also:

  • Boost spending on mental health services, increasing it each and every year for the next assembly term
  • Protect all existing emergency departments across Wales
  • Ensure at least 75% of ambulances respond to immediately life-threatening calls within eight minutes
  • Introduce a "scores on the doors" hospital rating system
  • Guarantee GP access in evenings and weekends
  • Introduce a prescription charge for those who can afford it
  • Establish directly elected health commissioners for each health board
  • Implement a £400 weekly cap on residential care costs and protect £100,000 of assets for those in residential care

The economy

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One of the Tories big pledges is to create 50,000 more jobs. The Conservatives say they'll do that by supporting small businesses and improving infrastructure.

However, the manifesto does not make clear how the 50,000 figure is arrived at.

The party says it will abolish business rates for all small firms with a rateable value of up to £12,000, and provide tapered relief up to £15,000.

It will remove what it calls "Wales' unfair age cap" on employment support. The Welsh Conservatives want to reform Jobs Growth Wales and replace it with a scheme called Stronger Futures Cymru, which would not have Labour's flagship scheme's age restriction.

The party would introduce a new regional development bank, with localised access to finance for small businesses.

Other policies include:

  • Aiming to deliver universal super-fast broadband and mobile coverage by 2019
  • Backing the City Deal bid for the Swansea Bay City Region

Education

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Another of the Tories' key pledges is to transform teacher training and direct more funds to the classroom.

They would fund schools directly - the party has said it would direct an extra £150m to do this, although this figure is not in the manifesto.

The party says it would transform teacher training, establishing a higher education institution focused solely on initial teacher training and educational research, and a college of teaching focused on continuous professional development.

The Conservatives would scrap regional education consortia "to reduce red tape", introduce modern foreign language learning in primary school and introduce a "student rent rebate" to replace the tuition fee grant.

The party would end the educational maintenance allowance payments, which can be worth £30 a week to students in further education, helping fund school transport and the party's commitments on childcare.

The party also says it would:

  • Treble free childcare to 30 hours a week to ensure affordable and accessible support for families
  • Overhaul the Welsh language in education strategy to include clear targets and to help all children in Wales become confident in communicating in Welsh
  • Introduce mandatory emergency life-saving skills
  • Provide school breakfasts on the same charging basis as school lunches - the Welsh Government currently provides a free breakfast scheme
  • Support the right of head teachers to choose whether pupils take holidays during term time

Transport

The Welsh Conservatives have vowed to "start work on an M4 Relief Road within 12 months of forming a government".

They do not say on which route, however. It is not a surprise, as the party had not come to a view on a route prior to the publication of the document.

The Welsh Conservatives say they'd add a Dinas Powys bypass into the National Transport Plan, and develop plans to secure funding for dualling the A40 to Fishguard.

They also say they'd commission a study into the impact of removing tolls on the Cleddau Bridge.

The party says it would also:

  • Bring forward plans to construct a third Menai crossing
  • Upgrade Cardiff Airport's terminal and secure private investment
  • Create an arms-length body to deliver an "integrated transport system"
  • Back a new smart card travel scheme for use on different modes of public transport

Tax

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The Welsh Conservatives have relished the prospect of income tax devolution - it was always likely to be part of their election pitch in some form, and the announcement that powers will be devolved further solidified that.

It is likely that the powers will be devolved at some point during the next assembly term, and the Welsh Conservatives promise to cut income tax for Welsh taxpayers.

The figures on how much they'd cut the tax are not in the manifesto, although it was announced at the weekend that the party would aim to cut the basic rate of income tax in Wales by 2p in the pound if they win the assembly election.

Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies has already said he wants to use new income tax powers to take 5p off the higher rate and 1p off the basic rate.

There is uncertainty, however over exactly when the powers will be devolved - and there is no time scale for when the changes will come in.

The party says it would freeze council tax and abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers on all properties valued up to £250,000.


Rural Wales and Natural Resources

On flooding, the Welsh Conservatives say they would designate areas of high flood risk as "blue belt" land to prevent irresponsible development.

The party also says it would:

  • Re-establish rural affairs as a senior cabinet post
  • End the use of wild animals in circuses
  • Make the use of CCTV in slaughterhouses mandatory
  • Guarantee local communities the right to bid to take over important rural services
  • Safeguard funding for Young Farmers' Clubs and the Urdd
  • Ensure councils pay fines imposed for failing to meet recycling targets

How will their policies be paid for?

Detailed information on the costings for what is in the manifesto was not available today, although some information was provided by Conservative sources.

Scrapping the tuition fee grant would save £256m - £75m of which would be spent on the rent rebate.

The Tories believe they can save £60m a year from the Welsh Government central administration budget, and £9m to £10m by restricting free school breakfasts to children on free school meals.

Ending EMA could save £24m a year, which would be reinvested to help pay for the Tories' child-care pledge and for school transport.

Meanwhile a 1p tax cut in the basic rate would cost £150m, while it would cost £12m for a 1p cut on the higher rate, we were told.

The party believes there is money available for a tax cut in the last year of the assembly, but given that is beyond the current spending review period there is no indication yet what the Welsh Government's budget will be.


What else is there?

Other standout policies from the document include:

  • Cut ministerial pay by 10%
  • Protect the right to buy for tenants wanting to buy their council home, restoring the full discount
  • Allow council mergers only with the consent of the public
  • Introduce an Armed Forces and Veterans commissioner
  • Establish a Veterans Card, including free bus travel and priority access to NHS treatment
  • Establish a multi-site National Military Museum for Wales

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