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Liberal Democrat Manifesto – A Plan to Save the NHS and Reform Education | Sector Reaction

Liberal Democrats 2024 General Election Manifesto

The Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has now launched his party’s general election manifesto by outlining a plan to save health and care services.

At the heart of the Liberal Democrat manifesto is a £9 billion rescue package to save the NHS and social care. The party says they will be the boldest proposals of any party to tackle the crisis in our health services.

The 2024 Liberal Democrat manifesto is the first in the party’s history to include a dedicated chapter on care. Last week, Ed Davey unveiled plans to introduce free personal care and ensure nobody is forced to sell their home to pay for care. 

In his speech, Ed Davey spoke out about his personal experience of looking after his disabled son, and previously caring for his mother who died of cancer when he was a teenager.

The bold plan to save the country’s health services will include:

  • Giving everyone the right to see a GP within seven days, or within 24 hours if they urgently need to, with 8,000 more GPs to deliver on it.
  • Guaranteeing access to an NHS dentist for everyone needing urgent and emergency care, ending DIY dentistry and ‘dental deserts’.
  • Improving early access to mental health services by establishing mental health hubs for young people in every community and introducing regular mental health check-ups at key points in people’s lives when they are most vulnerable to mental ill-health.
  • Boosting cancer survival rates and introducing a guarantee for 100% of patients to start treatment for cancer within 62 days from urgent referral.
  • Implementing a ten-year capital investment plan for hospitals and the primary care estate to end the scandal of crumbling roofs, dangerous concrete and life-expired buildings
  • Helping people to spend five more years of their life in good health by investing in public health.

The party’s manifesto will include no increases to Income Tax, VAT or National Insurance Contributions. Instead, the party will fund its bold offer on public services by reversing the tax cut given to the big banks, raising £4bn, and closing the loopholes on Capital Gains Tax used by the top 0.1% wealthiest in the country, which would save £5bn. The tax measures would provide an additional £9bn a year for health and social care services.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto will also include a plan to overhaul the water industry and tackle sewage pollution, a dedicated mental health professional in every primary and secondary school and a return to community policing including a new burglary response guaranteed to tackle unsolved crimes. 

During his manifesto launch speech, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said: 

“I am so proud that the Liberal Democrats have put health and care at the heart of our campaign in this general election – and at the heart of our manifesto. There is no doubt that both the NHS and care are in crisis. 

“People are waiting hours in pain for an ambulance to arrive, or weeks to see a GP or an NHS dentist – if they can even find one.

“Tens of thousands of cancer patients are waiting months to start urgent treatment. Months, when every day could make all the difference.

“Hospital roofs are literally crumbling, and the Conservatives have broken their promise to build 40 new ones.

“And talk to anyone in the NHS, and they will tell you: a major cause of the crisis in our health service is the crisis in social care.

“Right now, there are thousands of people stuck in hospital beds: well enough to be discharged, but unable to leave, because the care they need – at home or in a care home – simply isn’t there.

“After years of Conservative chaos and neglect, the scale of the challenge is enormous.

“Our manifesto doesn’t shy away from it.

“We are putting forward a bold, ambitious and fully-costed plan to tackle the health and care crisis from top to bottom.

“Liberal Democrat candidates across the country are ready and able to work tirelessly to achieve it.

“So every vote for the Liberal Democrats at this election is a vote to elect a strong local champion who will fight every day for the NHS and care.”


  • Tackle the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention by:
    • Creating a teacher workforce strategy to ensure that every secondary school child is taught by a specialist teacher in their subject.
    • Reforming the School Teachers’ Review Body to make it properly independent of government and able to recommend fair pay rises for teachers, and fully funding those rises every year.
    • Funding teacher training properly so that all trainee posts in school are paid.
    • Introducing a clear and properly funded programme of high-quality professional development for all teachers, including training on effective parental engagement.
  • Urgently establish a standing commission to build a long-term consensus across parties and teachers to broaden the curriculum and make qualifications at 16 and 18 fit for the 21st century. This will draw on best practice such as the International Baccalaureate and ensure children learn core skills such as critical thinking, verbal reasoning and creativity.
  • Improve the quality of vocational education, including skills for entrepreneurship and self-employment.
  • Strengthen careers advice and links with employers in schools and colleges.
  • Include arts subjects in the English Baccalaureate and give power to Ofsted to monitor the curriculum so that schools continue to provide a rich curriculum including subjects like art, music or drama.
  • Expand provision of extracurricular activities, such as sport, music, drama, debating and coding, starting with a new free entitlement for disadvantaged children.
  • Reform Ofsted inspections and end single-word judgements so that parents get a clear picture of the true strengths and weaknesses of each school, and schools get the guidance and support they need to improve.
  • Implement a new parental engagement strategy, including a regular, published parent survey and guidance for schools on providing accessible information to parents on what their children are learning.
  • Tackle persistent absence by setting up a register of children who are not in school, and working to understand and remove underlying barriers to attendance.
  • Tackle the crisis in special educational needs provision, and help to end the postcode lottery in provision, by:
    • Giving local authorities extra funding to reduce the amount that schools pay towards the cost of a child’s Education, Health and Care Plan.
    • Establishing a new National Body for SEND to fund support for children with very high needs.
  • Give local authorities with responsibility for education the powers and resources to act as Strategic Education Authorities for their area, including responsibility for places planning, exclusions, administering admissions including in-year admissions, and SEND functions.
  • Redirect capital funding for unnecessary new free schools to help clear the backlog of school repairs.
  • Tackle bullying in schools by promoting pastoral leadership in schools and delivering high-quality relationships and sex education.
  • When the public finances allow, give disadvantaged two-year-olds an extra five free hours of early years education a week, as another step towards a universal, full-time entitlement for all two- to four-year-olds.
  • Introduce a Young People’s Premium, extending Pupil Premium funding to disadvantaged young people aged 16-18.
  • Review further education funding, including the option of exempting colleges from VAT.
  • Support the education of children in care, extend Pupil Premium Plus funding to children in kinship care, and guarantee any child taken into care a school place within three weeks, if required to move schools.
  • Safeguard the future of our world-leading universities and the wellbeing of every student by:
    • Supporting science, research and innovation in universities, including continuing to participate in Horizon Europe and joining the European Innovation Council, as set out in chapter 4.
    • Giving higher education institutions a statutory duty of care for their students.
    • Introducing a statutory Student Mental Health Charter and requiring universities to make mental health services accessible to their students.
    • Returning to the Erasmus Plus programme as an associated country, as set out in chapter 9.
    • Establishing a review of higher education finance in the next Parliament to consider any necessary reforms in the light of the latest evidence of the impact of the existing financing system on access, participation and quality, and make sure there are no more retrospective raising of rates or selling-off of loans to private companies.
    • Reporting international student flows separately to estimates of long-term migration.
    • Ensuring that all universities work to widen participation by disadvantaged and underrepresented groups across the sector, prioritising their work with students in schools and colleges, and requiring every university to be transparent about selection criteria.

Sector Response

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges, said:

“The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto shows that they have been listening to us because there are several pledges in line with our asks on post-16 education and skills.

“It’s great to see the promise to review further education (FE) funding, including the option of exempting colleges from VAT and presumably taking into account the pay gap with schools, the extension of the pupil premium to 18, a review of qualifications and the reform of the apprenticeship levy, boosting the take-up of apprenticeships, and expanding Higher National Diplomas and Higher National Certificates. It is also pleasing to see they have retained their commitment to lifelong learning with the £5,000 for adults.

“We have set out five very clear asks for the future government: the introduction of a national skills strategy, a comprehensive offer for everyone under the age of 21, a £35,000 starting salary for college lecturers, 250,000 apprenticeship starts per year for young people and adults in priority sectors, and 100,000 more people a year with the skills needed in digital, health and net zero.  

“We have a strong track record of engaging with, and influencing, all parties on FE and skills policy, and look forward to continuing this with the next government.”

Pepe Di’Iasio, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“It’s really encouraging that there are plans to address some of the biggest challenges facing the education system within this manifesto. Tackling child poverty needs to be a priority for the next government and extending free school meals is an important first step.

“Increasing revenue and capital funding, as well as extending the pupil premium, will help ensure schools and colleges can continue to provide a high standard of education to all of their pupils, in buildings that are fit for purpose. Fair and fully funded pay rises for teachers, and reforming Osted inspections by scrapping single-phrase judgements, will help address the crisis in recruitment and retention.

“The most important thing about this manifesto is the recognition of the need to invest in education, as this is an investment in young people and the future of the country. The next government simply has to correct the mistakes and underfunding of the past.”

Clare Howard OBE, Chief executive of Natspec, has commented on their pledges:

“Natspec welcomes the Liberal Democrats’ Manifesto pledge to end the scandal of crumbling school and college buildings. We would urge them to ensure that this capital funding is extended to specialist FE colleges, many of which have buildings in need of urgent repair. This is a crucial step towards ensuring that students with special education needs and disabilities are also able to receive the high-quality education they deserve in a safe and appropriate learning environment. Natspec member colleges play a vital role in providing tailored education and support to students with some of the most complex SEND, and yet specialist FE has received less than one per cent of the High Needs Provision Capital Allocation in recent years. We cannot continue to be overlooked.

We are also pleased to see the proposal for a new National Body for SEND to oversee funding for those with the highest needs. This part of the current system is particularly poorly managed at the moment. Decision-making by cash-strapped local authorities struggling to balance their budgets is leading to a postcode lottery in terms of meeting the needs of this group of children and young people. The manifesto does not make clear, however, whether the new National Body would oversee the funding of provision for both children and young people with the highest needs. We urge the Liberal Democrats to ensure it covers funding for the full 0-25 age range. Otherwise we risk 16-25 year olds missing out on the specialist FE provision that enables them to transition successfully into adulthood, entering the workforce and living as independently as possible.

We look forward to seeing further detail on these pledges. In particular, we hope the Liberal Democrats will clarify that 16 and 25 year olds and specialist FE colleges are very much in scope to benefit from what appear to be promising proposals.”

Commenting on the Liberal Democrats manifesto 2024, Kate Shoesmith, REC Deputy Chief Executive, said:

“The promise of reform of the apprenticeship levy, a fresh look at the unhelpful salary threshold for immigration and more affordable childcare are the kind of workforce tactics that employers want to loosen the labour market and enable them to get the economy growing.

“Ultimately all Parties should be thinking about how to protect and enhance the dynamism of the temporary labour market as it’s an important backbone of the economy, supporting employers and businesses to grow and people to work flexibly. That means not placing unrealistic burdens on the agency market – agencies carry the cost of paying workers before being reimbursed by employers.  By expecting them to support what would amount to a 20% pay increase for care workers could potentially cripple agencies with high interest costs on borrowing to cover such a significant increase in pay. That needs to be looked at as parties rightly look at how to better recruit and retain more social care workers.

“That said a commitment to tackle late payments by requiring all large government agencies and contractors to sign up to an enforceable prompt payment code would help agencies with this very issue and is very welcome.

“We hope a new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority which sounds like the Single Enforcement Body suggested in the “Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices”, will help government and employers better adapt to the consequences of modern ways of working, including getting a firmer grip on umbrella companies. And there are progressive commitments to tackle the disability employment gap and lift the ban on asylum seekers working.

“Giving a right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months for ‘zero hours’ and agency workers is in line with Mathew Taylor’s recommendations and would allow for a better determination of someone’s working pattern rather than a shorter qualifying period. It is vital that businesses keep the right to reject requests where it is appropriate.

“Sadly on health the Lib Dems claims of agency spend in the NHS as a ‘false economy’ is misplaced. This is because much of the increase in ‘agency’ spend since the pandemic is down to NHS banks and off-framework providers not restricted by the pay caps that most agencies follow.”

NUS UK Vice President for Liberation and Equality, Nehaal Bajwa, said:

“There is a lot to welcome here, and the Liberal Democrats have listened to us, which is great to see. The policies contained in the Liberal Democrat manifesto are a welcome first step; however, for meaningful change, we must go further. We need free education, high quality, green and affordable housing, and commitments on the rights of international students. It is now for the other parties to respond to the challenge and offer students and young people something to vote for. Students are increasingly politicised and angry, and no politician or political party should take us for granted on polling day.”

NUS welcomes the Liberal Democrat’s 2024 manifesto which contains several pledges which will undoubtedly help students and apprentices. But we believe the party’s promises are too vague and need further fleshing out.

NUS welcomes:

  • The Liberal Democrat’s pledge to bring down the voting age to 16
  • Their pledge to abolish the apprentice minimum wage, they are the first political party to promise to do so and we congratulate them on this.
  • Their recognition of the student mental health crisis and promise to do more to address it.
  • Their recognition of the value of international students and the need to take them out of the migration figures.

NUS Liberal Democrat manifesto concerns

  • We are pleased to see them reiterate their pledge to reinstate grants for disadvantaged students, but believe all students should get the grant, with maintenance loans and tuition fees abolished for all, as shown to be cost effective by recent research by the Sutton Trust.
  • On renters the party promises to protect the rights of social renters, but will they pick up the Renters Reform Bill – which was gutted and then dropped by the last government – and reinstate its protections for student renters? Most importantly, will they protect student renters from Section 21 evictions?

Here is the Full Manifesto

Ed Davey. (2024, June 9). In Wikipedia.

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