By Jonathan Davies
Prime Minister David Cameron today (Wednesday) delivered his final keynote speech ahead of next year's general election at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
If they key policy of Ed Miliband's speech at the Labour Party conference was the NHS, David Cameron's focused on the economy; on income tax and jobs.
Income tax featured heavily in David Cameron's speech. He promised tax cuts that would benefit 30 million people in the UK, across income tax and pensions.
Firstly he reminded delegates that workers will not pay income tax until they reach £10,500 in a few months time. But the Prime Minister also announced plans to raise the the tax-free personal allowance to £12,000. He said that those working 30 hours per week on National Minimum Wage (NMW) will not pay income tax; "Nothing, Zero. Zilch!" he emphasised.
The Conservative leader also appealed to the better-off voters by outlining plans to raise the 40p rate of tax threshold to £51,000, up from £41,900. Mr Cameron promised "lower taxes for hard working people" to 'secure a better future' - the main tag line of the Tory's campaign.
Although he rarely went into specifics about where cuts would be made, it certainly wasn't the NHS; he made it perfectly clear that the NHS' budget would be protected in somewhat of an angry rant at Mr Miliband. He said that for a 'strong NHS, we need a strong economy'.
Mr Cameron conceded that £25 billion of savings would need to be made in the first two years of the next government, but said it would lead to the books being balanced by 2018. And of course, there was the obligatory dig at Ed Miliband's failure to mention to the deficit in his speech.
The Prime Minister promised what he called "full employment". If elected, a Conservative government would get everyone who can work in work. He spoke of apprentices, pointing to the 1.8 million apprenticeships created since 2010. But Mr Cameron also pledged to create three million more apprenticeships in the next government.
Zero hour contracts have been a hot topic in 2014. The highly controversial contracts have led to some saying they should be scrapped altogether. The Conservatives have maintained that they are an important part of employment. But David Cameron should the specific exclusivity clauses in zero hour contracts would be abolished.
The Prime Minister also appealed to businesses, especially SMEs. He said a Tory government would introduce the most competitive taxes in the G20.
He also explained a 'earn or learn' culture would be brought in for young people. He said that no longer would 16-21 year olds be able to leave school and head straight into a life on benefits. Instead, under 21 year olds will not receive benefits unless they are in work or education.
The Prime Minister also address the UK's housing market. He lauded the performance of Help to Buy and announced a new scheme called "Starter Homes". 100,000 new homes will be built in Britain, but will cost 20% less. Mr Cameron said these houses would be specifically for first time buyers under the age of 40, and would not be allowed to be snapped up for Buy-to-Let or by rich, foreign property investors.
We can expect much more detail on certain policies in the coming months and in the lead up to the general election in May next year. But for now, the Conservatives and Labour have laid down their cards on the table ahead of May's vote.
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