The final party conference of the season is underway in Birmingham, as the Conservatives gather in Britain’s second city. The mood at the start of this Conference is definitely muted as delegates, who number more than last year, appear to be genuinely apprehensive of their party’s prospects.
Chancellor George Osborne was the headline of Monday’s session in the main hall. His speech will have endeared him to the majority of those in the hall, but the Thatcherite language of benefits cuts and no new taxes of income or property (the Vince Cable Manson Tax was roundly rejected) will have done little to improve his position with the rest of the country.
Osborne unveiled plans to allow workers in small businesses to become shareholders in their company in exchange for surrendering their rights of appealing unfair dismissal. As an incentive these workers will pay zero Capital Gains Tax, potentially saving the average worker upwards of £5000.
The afternoon session was dominated by Eric Pickles. He swept into Conference and had delegates, some of whom were rural councillors worried about Green Belt development, eating out of his hands. He also made a number of policy commitments, which included:
– freeze council tax for a third year
– double rate-relief for small businesses
– provide councils with further powers to stop garden grabbing
– new powers for local councils to issue emergency stop notices to prevent travellers from abusing the planning system.
Many other speeches were made, both on the main stage and at the lively fringe. For more news of these events, and for commentary of every day at the Conservative Party Conference make sure to check back regularly.