Matt Dyer's blog: 6 May - Manifesto analysis
06 May 2015
Matt Dyer is managing director at Leaseplan
The campaigning is at fever pitch. The newspapers and television are full of speculation and the pollsters can't agree on who's going to win either.
One minute Lord Ashcroft has Tories 6 points in the lead and then the next Populus has Labour nipping 3 points ahead. In the end, it will probably end up being Betfair that calls it correctly. The one things that remains certain is the uncertainty.
Regardless of who's handed the keys to Number 10 and tasked with forming the next Government - be it single party or coalition - my concern remains how this will effect drivers. UK drivers are looking to the next Government to invest in the road infrastructure, tax fuel responsibly and ultimately make driving in the UK a better and more affordable experience.
In the Spring Budget there was a welcome freeze on fuel duty, as well as company car tax and some encouraging news on low emission vehicles. But the longer term outlook for drivers is hard to predict. However, we have poured through the manifestos to take a look what the political parties have said (or not said) related to drivers. Given political realities, any resemblance between promises and subsequent legislation may of course be entirely coincidental or non-existent.
The three main parties have all made statements on transport in their manifestos - with the Tories even going so far as to put their transport plans in the first section of their manifesto, and tying it in with their "economic plan for you and your family".
And, although no manifestos ever provide fine print on the detail (or costings) of proposals, there are a surprising number of specifics. On the roads, there is a promise to spend £15 billion - adding 1,300 lane miles and fixing 18 million potholes between 2015 and 2021. A number of upgrades are also specified for key highways. There are also plans to invest £500 million over the next parliament with the ambition of making "almost every car and van" zero emission by 2050, and £200 million to make cycling safer.
Labour promises to reform public transport and criticises the rises in rail and bus fares under the Coalition, although includes no pledge to reverse them. HS2 would go ahead, and there would be a "swift decision" on airport expansion though no indication of what the decision would be. There are also practically no specifics on road policy in Labour's manifesto.
One reason for that, however, is that the party plans to transfer £30 billion of funding to English city and county councils, in what it calls the "biggest devolution of power" in a hundred years. This will include transport policy, so that "local bodies can integrate trains, buses, trams and cycling into a single network".
The Lib Dems list many of their transport policies in their section on strengthening the economy and plan to devolve transport (as well as housing and other infrastructure) finance to local authorities, which makes the relative lack of detail on individual projects understandable.
They would introduce a Zero Carbon Act to bring all net greenhouse gas emission to zero by 2050 - a more ambitious plan than the Tories' aim to get vehicles to that point in the same timescale. There's also a promise of investment in ultra-low-emission vehicles (though no detail). Most of their specifics on car use fall in the environment section and deal with promoting greener vehicles.
There are plans to review MoT testing, a legal requirement for Low Emission Zones, and targets for improving cycling and green vehicles - including nationwide introduction of hydrogen fuelling. They also pledge to continue and extend their fuel discount scheme for remote areas and those where fuel costs are significant.
At Leaseplan, we believe that drivers are critical to our continuing economic recovery and my hope is that the next Government recognises the vital role they play in making the UK one of the fastest growing economies in the developed world. I very much hope that whichever political party is next in the driving seat views drivers as more than just source of tax revenue.
Matt Dyer is managing director of Leaseplan UK