Tories kick off conference with policy pitch to younger voters

2 Oct 17

The Conservatives kicked off their conference yesterday with a policy pitch designed to appeal to younger voters, specifically students, first-time buyers and private renters.

An additional £10bn to expand the Help to Buy scheme was announced along with changes to the student finance regime that will see the repayment threshold raised.

Help to Buy was launched by former chancellor George Osborne in 2013 in a bid to help more people access home ownership by offering them government-backed equity loans. However, the policy’s detractors say it does nothing to tackle restricted housing supply.

A tweet from the Conservatives issued yesterday said:


Sam Bowman, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, lambasted the attempt to revive the policy as like “throwing petrol on a bonfire”.

He said: “The property market is totally dysfunctional because supply is so tightly constrained by planning rules, and adding more demand without improving the supply of houses is just going to raise house prices and make homes more unaffordable for people who don’t qualify for the Help to Buy subsidy.”

On student finance, the party confirmed that the fee cap would remain at £9,250 per year and, more significantly, said repayments would begin when graduates started earning £25,000 a year, up from the current level of £21,000 a year.

In an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday, prime minister Theresa May suggest the level of debt students were accruing was worrying to them and their families.

“So we will look at [student finance] again, but we are saying we are going to raise that threshold at which you start to pay which means for those who are able to take full benefit of that it will be £30 a month more money into graduates’ pockets and we will scrap the intended increase in the level of fees.”

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of trade body Universities UK, welcomed the attempt to respond to students’ money concerns.

“Raising the loan repayment threshold will put extra cash in the pockets of many graduates starting their careers.”

“Universities UK would like to see the government going further by reintroducing maintenance grants for those most in need and reducing interest rates for low and medium earners.  We also need to do more to reverse the worrying decline in the numbers of part-time and mature students.”

In his speech to conference yesterday, communities secretary Sajid Javid announced a package of measures to protect the rights of tenants in the private rented sector. These included requiring landlords to register with an ombudsman scheme and all letting agents to be regulated as well as incentivising landlords to tenancies of at least 12 months.

Javid said: “For too long, tenants have felt unable to resolve the issues they’ve faced, be it insecure tenure, unfair letting agents' fees or poor treatment by their landlord with little to no means of redress. We’re going to change that.” 

  • Vivienne Russell
    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and

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