Tories to put consumers in charge of spending

The Conservatives

People will be put back in control of how public money is spent, decide on tax levels, and sack MPs who abuse their expenses if the Tories win the election, says David Cameron.

In their election manifesto, the Conservatives are promising to give back the “power to the people”.

It includes the introduction of the new Consumer Protection Agency (CPA) to take over the Financial Services Authority’s consumer protection role. The CPA would have powers to define and ban excessive borrowing rates on store cards and introduce a seven-day cooling off period for store cards.

It would also launch Britain’s first free national financial advice service funded through a new social responsibility levy on the financial services sector.

The CPA would also ensure that no one is forced to sell their home to pay unsecured debts of less than £25,000.

Entitled An Invitation to Join the Government of Britain, the Tory manifesto concentrates on replacing state control with social responsibility. This is in stark contrast to Labour that promises an “active reforming government”.

The Tories’ plans include helping people set up their own schools, stopping high council tax increases, letting the public elect police commissioners and sacking MPs who have been convicted of serious wrongdoings.

Communities would be empowered to take over local amenities such as parks and libraries that are under threat, while neighbourhoods would have greater control of the planning system.

Stamp duty will also be permanently cut for first-time buyers and it will be easier for social tenants to buy homes. A new “foot on the ladder” programme would offer an equity stake to good social tenants, which could be cashed in when they move out of social rented accommodation.

Writing in The Times, David Cameron said he wanted to put the public in the driving seat and help them take greater control of their own lives. This, he said, would result in a “more contented country”.

Key tax policies in the manifesto include reversing most of the government’s planned national insurance rises by limiting the rises to those earning more than £35,000 a year.

There are also plans for a £150-a-year tax break for four million married couples.

The manifesto includes eight benchmarks for Britain including ensuring macroeconomic stability, creating a more balanced economy, getting Britain working again and encouraging enterprise.

Under 'getting Britain working again', the Tories would create a work programme for everyone who is unemployed including those on incapacity benefits. All current claimants of incapacity benefit would be reassessed.

The Tories say this would give “unemployed people a hand up, not a hand out”.

The Conservatives also say they would make Britain the “most family-friendly country in Europe” by supporting families in the tax and benefit system, and extending flexible working and parental leave.

They also pledged to scrap Labour’s phone tax.