Political manifestos under scrutiny

PLEDGES made by the main political parties ahead of the general election are a mixed bag for rural communities, says the Rural Services Network.

The Rural Services Network analysed manifestos published by the three main political parties ahead of the election on 7 May.

Network research director Brian Wilson assessed pledges contained in the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem manifestos against the Rural Services Network's own election manifesto.

The full analysis can be downloaded here.

"Policies can be viewed as helpful for different reasons," said Mr Wilson.

"In many cases the extent to which policies would actually benefit rural communities or businesses is going to be dependent on rural proofing and, hence, their subsequent design and delivery."

He added: "There is certainly some evidence that the 'asks' in the RSN manifesto have influenced policy thinking, though of course we would have liked to see more."

All of three party manifestos had a lot to say about house building and affordable housing.

"It has become a hot topic," said Mr Wilson.

"While the particular rural dimension to housing affordability is not explicitly recognised, some of the policies proposed match RSN asks or would help address rural concerns."

All three parties intend to protect the Winter Fuel Payment for pensioners, which RSN sees as critical. In two cases, this protection does not extend to higher rate taxpayers.

But not all rural issues receive the attention that the RSN believes they deserve.

"It is perhaps disappointing that local transport is not widely featured as a high priority in the manifestos. It seems fair to say the exception to this is the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

"Only one of the three party manifestos refers directly to funding allocations to local authorities.

"That is the Labour manifesto which is quite vague in referring to fairness, but this could be seen as implying a larger share for northern cities."


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