Lib Dems' manifesto calls for greater local role for community and voluntary groups

The Liberal Democrats' manifesto ahead of July's general election is calling for charities and community groups to have a greater role in the running of local services.

This includes giving local environmental groups a place on the boards of water companies as part of measures to crackdown on pollution.

Delivering care, support for survivors of domestic abuse, supervising offenders and helping refugees are other areas where the party’s manifesto calls for greater voluntary sector involvement.

Among a package of measures to improve support for care users is the roll out of digital platforms to develop “networks, relationships and opportunities, connecting with care workers, friends and family, voluntary groups and more”.

An overhaul of probation and supervision of offenders in the community is also being called for so that there is “greater coordination between the prison service, probation service providers, the voluntary and private sectors and local authorities” with a view to “achieving savings in the high costs of reoffending”.

The manifesto also suggests local charity involvement in support for refugees through “community-sponsorship projects” that would look at “rewarding community groups who develop innovative and successful ways of promoting social cohesion”.

In addition, the Lib Dems manifesto want to ensure there is “community-based and specialist support” available for survivors of domestic abuse.

Restoring aid budgets

Another pledge made is to return international development spending to 0.7% of national income. This had been reduced under the Conservative government.

The Lib Dems also want to re-establish “an independent international development department”, which was merged into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office under the Conservatives.

“We welcome the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to restoring the UK aid budget to 0.7% of Gross National Income with its primary focus on poverty reduction, alongside re-establishing an independent international development department and putting sustainable development goals at the heart of the UK’s international development policy,” said Gideon Rabinowitz, director of policy and advocacy at NGO group Bond.

“Any incoming government should commit to urgently increasing the UK aid budget and target places where it is most needed, with a key focus on poverty alleviation in lower-income countries.”

Scrapping anti-protest laws

The manifesto also lays out plans to scrap curbs on peaceful protest brought in by the Conservative government’s 2022 Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.

The manifesto pledges the Lib Dems would look at “restoring pre-existing protections for both peaceful assembly and public safety, and immediately halt the use of live facial recognition surveillance by the police and private companies”.

Rabinowitz said Bond is “encouraged” by Lib Dems commitments to reverse draconian anti-protest laws and restore pre-existing protections for both peaceful assembly and public safety”.

He added: “Protest is an essential part of democracy and in recent years these laws have created a hostile environment towards UK civil society.”

‘Victimless’ tax rises

A focus of the manifesto is paying for increased spending in areas including health and social care by tax hikes for energy companies, banks and tech firms.

“Many of these tax rises are intended to look ‘victimless’,” said Institute of Fiscal Studies director Paul Johnson.

However, he warns “there are clear risks that their package of tax measures would not raise the £27bn a year that they claim”.

Lib Dem policies around public health, including restricting junk-food advertising and making blood pressure checks more accessible, are welcomed by King's Fund chief executive Sarah Woolnough.

"However, for a party focused on preventing illness, it is disappointing to see the Liberal Democrats fail to commit to the phased smoking ban proposed by the current government," she added.

"The smoke free generation law would be a real game changer for the nation’s health and should be a priority for any government wanting to prevent illness."

In launching the manifesto Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said: “This election is about more than a change of government.

“We must transform the very nature of British politics itself, so that we can fix the health and care crisis, get our economy back on track, end the appalling sewage scandal, and give people the fair deal they deserve.”

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