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Liberal Democrat manifesto: A tax rise to fund the NHS and £4 million for Birmingham schools

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron says Theresa May is going to win the election but he wants to be leader of the opposition.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron will ask voters to make him the official leader of the opposition, as he launches a general election manifesto promising a fresh referendum on Brexit, a penny on income tax to fund the NHS and millions for Birmingham schools.

But Mr Farron will rule out any repeat of the coalition government that ran Britain from 2010 to 2015, when the Lib Dems joined forces with the Tories - saying he will refuse to go into coalition either with Theresa May’s Conservatives or Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Instead, he will claim that Theresa May is “on course to win” the General Election on June 8, and ask voters to let the Lib Dems replace Labour as the second-largest party in the House of Commons.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron on board the battlebus following a General Election campaign visit to the Happy Heart Cafe in Solihull.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron on board the battlebus following a General Election campaign visit to the Happy Heart Cafe in Solihull.

Writing in the manifesto’s introduction, Mr Farron will say: “There is a complete absence of real opposition from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.”

And he will urge voters: “Governments without a strong opposition are bad governments. They become complacent and take poor decisions.

“So I am asking you to give me your support to make the Liberal Democrats the official opposition to Theresa May’s Conservative government.”

Lib Dem plans include £7bn to help struggling schools across the country, including extra cash to help ensure pupils from less wealthy backgrounds get the best possible start in life.

Liberal Democrats say their proposal to extend the “pupil premium”, extra funding that goes to schools which teach pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, would mean Birmingham schools receive an extra £4.1 million.

And they would also ensure ensure no schools lose money as a result of a new funding formula.

Under the Conservative government's current plans for a new funding formula, schools in Birmingham will lose £20 million. Theresa May has said the plans are part of a consultation and final decisions have not yet been made.

Flagship policies in the Liberal Democrat manifesto include:

  • A referendum on the final Brexit deal agreed between the UK and the EU - and one of the options on the ballot paper would be to stay in the EU.

  • A 1p rise in the basic, higher, additional and dividend rates of income tax in the next financial year raising around £6bn per year, which will ringfenced to be spent on NHS, care services and public health.

  • A £100bn package of infrastructure investment to help build 300,000 homes a year, improve road and rail links and install fibre-optic broadband across the UK. Liberal Democrats support pressing ahead with the HS2 high speed rail line, and say they will “continue to champion the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine initiatives and invest significant capital resources in infrastructure projects across the north of England and the Midlands.”

The manifesto says that in the long term, Lib Dems want a dedicated “health and care tax” to fund the NHS, possibly created through reforming National Insurance.

The party also supports reversing a number of benefit cuts introduced by the present government - and by the Coalition the Lib Dems were once part of - such as the “bedroom tax”, which cuts housing benefit for some tenants.

And the manifesto pledges £300 million a year to local police forces, which Lib Dems say would reverse the increase in violent crime and increase confidence in the police.

Liberal Democrat target seats in the West Midlands include Birmingham Yardley, held by Labour, and Solihull, held by the Conservatives. These seats both had Liberal Democrat MPs before the 2015 general election.

Lib Dems always face questions about whether they will actually be in a position to carry out their plans, but in previous elections they have sometimes highlighted the possibility of a hung Parliament in which they would hold the balance of power and could become part of a coalition government.

This time, however, Mr Farron is ruling that option out.

He said: “On the biggest question facing all of us, Brexit, which has such huge implications for our young people and our future, Corbyn ordered his MPs to stand down against Theresa May’s government. Where the Liberal Democrats are fighting every step of the way, Labour is holding Theresa May’s hand as she jumps off the cliff edge of a hard Brexit.

“That’s why the Liberal Democrats will not enter into coalition with either Theresa May’s Conservatives or Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.”

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