18 November 2017   |  Last Updated 15-05-2015 02:09

      Wednesday 15, April 2015

      GENERAL ELECTION 2015: What policies could influence your vote?

      AS THE major political parties launched their manifestos this week ahead of next month’s general election, they have all predictably pledged a great deal to influence voters.

       

      ELECTION: What will your vote be influenced by?
       

      With promises on the economy, health, education and immigration amongst other issues, there is simply something that would hypothetically please everyone in each manifesto.

      So which policies could influence voters the most in this election?

      Well if the reoccurring appearance of abolishing the ‘Bedroom Tax’ and creating more apprenticeships is anything to go by, surely they could have an impact on who becomes Prime Minister.

      So let’s have a closer look at the two policies to decide.


       ‘The Bedroom Tax’

       

      The coalition’s removal of the spare room subsidy under their changes to housing benefit in April 2013, has led to many protestors claiming the government had imposed a ‘bedroom tax’ on social housing claimants.

      This was because tenants now face a 14% cut in their housing benefit if they are deemed to have one spare room in their property, or a 25% cut if they have more than two ‘under-occupied’ rooms.

      Whilst tenants have been offered a downsize in property, as the coalition looks to free up living space for overcrowded families, many have resisted this proposition because of their home attachments.

      Subsequently thousands of people, across the country, now protest weekly against the ‘bedroom tax’ with Maria Brabiner, a 49-year-old from Salford, usually at the front of them – despite no longer being affected by it.

      Having appeared on Channel 4 and BBC’s The One Show as a figurehead protestor, Ms Brabiner, who only had to pay ‘the bedroom tax’ for four months, has never stopped fighting against this policy because she believes ‘it’s the nastiest, evilest and most vicious piece of legislation ever’.

      “The bedroom tax deliberately targets the most vulnerable in society and I believe it’s worse than the poll tax, because at least that had exceptions,” said Ms Brabiner, who no longer claims housing benefit having gained full-time employment shortly after the cuts were introduced.

      “That’s why I still protest because even though I’ve been very fortunate with the bedroom tax, something has to be done about it.


      FIGHT: Maria won't give up until the bedroom tax is abolished.
       

      “This will be the main policy that will influence those who have been affected by the bedroom tax, because it’s like turkeys aren’t going to vote for Christmas.

      “But I know people who haven’t been affected by the bedroom tax, who have seen me go through it, and they are shocked by it, so they’ve been influenced by this policy because they are disgusted by the government’s actions.”

      The Labour Party, along with the Greens, the SNP and UKIP, plan to abolish this policy if they win the election on 7 May, and Labour councillor Charlie McIntyre, of the Broughton ward in Salford, thinks the Bedroom Tax will also have 'a big influence’ on voters.

      “The people who are being held accountable for that extra room are becoming the most vulnerable,” said Cllr McIntyre.

       

      “Not only are they having to pay the additional fee in their housing benefit, their other benefits are being cut also.

      “So I think the bedroom tax will be hugely influential in this election because it is absolutely abominable and the amount of people that must be suffering is tragic.”

       

      However, Conservative councillor John Hudson, who represents Saddleworth South in Oldham, disagrees.

      “There are a lot of people who I sympathise with if they have been on the end of a wrong decision," said Cllr Hudson.

      “But I’m sure there are a lot of people who have benefited from this policy, so equally I am pleased about that.

       

      “Unfortunately this topic has become a red herring though, just so people can play the card that the Tories are the ‘Nasty Party’ and it’s a load of rubbish.”

      Influence Rating: 6/10


      Apprenticeships

       

      The apprenticeship scheme has been ‘a great success story’ under the outgoing Tory-led coalition with over 2.1 million trainee positions having been created in the last five years.

      So, unsurprisingly, many parties have now jumped on the bandwagon with this approach to tackling unemployment as it is surely set to influence the younger generation and small business owners, like Clive Symons, a 40-year-old from Oldham.

      Mr Symons, who owns CDL Micro in Saddleworth, is one of many employers across the country now taking on apprentices and he believes it is ‘a great concept’.

      “It’s a good thing to have because it works really well on both sides,” said Mr Symons, who has been recruiting apprentices for the last six months.

      WORKPLACE: Mr Symons’ business CDL Micro, which is based in Greenfield, Saddleworth.
       
      COMPUTER APPLIANCES: The industry that Mr Symons and his apprentices are in.

      “Apprentices can bring fresh ideas and a fresh pair of eyes to your business and they can provide a younger outlook on things, which is always handy as you look to further your business like I am doing.

      “I want to expand without a massive outlay so apprenticeships are a good option for me and in turn to them because they’re getting a qualification out of it as well.
        

      “So it’s a good concept as it brings on the youth of today.”

      Derek Heffernan, a Liberal Democrats councillor for Saddleworth North, couldn’t agree more with the success of apprenticeships, however he feels the credit will go towards the wrong party and this could be an influential factor.


      “It will favour the Tories,” said Cllr Heffernan.

      “They will take the praise, like they have done for everything else which was Lib Dem policy but there’s nothing we can do because we are the junior party in the coalition.

      “I just hope people, in the build-up to this election, will realise that this is a Lib Dem policy, and it has been for a long time.”

      But Cllr Hudson refuted these claims: “It’s rather fanatical with these Liberals.

      “When something is good they take the plaudits, but if something goes wrong it’s the Conservatives’ fault.

      “You’ve got to understand that there were over 300 Conservative MPs in Parliament and only 50 or so Lib Dems, so how does that work?”

       

      One of the major talking points over apprentices is that they aren’t paid enough with their hourly rate currently at £2.73, and this has been raised by the Labour Party.

      But Cllr Hudson added: “We have to be practical and decide on whether it is affordable to raise it.

      “Yes it would be a loveable aim, I can’t imagine anybody who wouldn’t want to increase it, but it’s how fast you can grow and how practical it is to do it.”

      Influence rating: 7.5/10


      So there you have it on those policies, but which ones will influence your vote?

      LET US KNOW BELOW...

       

      By Liam McCallion
      (Twitter: @LiamMcCallion23)

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