Plans to build 300,000 homes a year and a £2.8bn-a-year expansion of childcare will be at the heart of the Liberal Democrat manifesto at next May’s general election.
Nick Clegg will today unveil an 80-page pre-manifesto document including 300 policies. Housing and childcare would be top priorities for his party in negotiations with the Conservatives or Labour if there is another hung parliament.
The Lib Dem plan would trump Labour’s pledge to build 200,000 homes a year by 2020 and make housing a key election issue. Mr Clegg’s party wants to set up a Housing Investment Bank to streamline public funding and attract private investment, and to set up a ministerial task force to ensure the target is set.
The housing policy will be proposed by Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president, and Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, when the draft manifesto is put to the Lib Dems’ annual conference in Glasgow next month.
Mr Farron said: “We can and must choose to build a new generation of homes for those on ordinary salaries. Central to this is the need for consistent and committed action at all levels – a long term strategy - to tackle the biggest issue of our generation.”
On childcare, the Lib Dems would “guarantee” the extension of 15 hours a week of “free” provision to all two-year-olds for 38 weeks a year. At present, this is limited to 40 per cent of two-year-olds, based on parental income. This would cost £800m, funded by scrapping the Conservatives’ planned tax break for married couples.
It would be the first step towards the Lib Dems’ long term ambition to phase in 20 “free” hours a week to all children between the ages of two and four, and to all children between nine and 24 months when both their parents work. This would cost £2bn a year.
The second stage would extend the 15 hours of childcare to all children between nine and 24 months to “close the gap” between the end of parental leave and the current provision.
The third and final phase would be increasing the offer to 20 hours a week, starting with four-year-olds and then extending it to younger children.
Jo Swinson, the Lib Dem Business Minister, said: “This is a ultimately a fundamental difference in values. Lib Dems want to help all families with childcare support and nursery education right the way through from the end of parental leave to the start of school. The Tories are more bothered about helping only some couples through a married couples’ tax break.”