How to vote yourself better off on May 7

Which political party would leave you and your loved ones better off?

After all, the battle for Number 10 isn’t won in TV debates or soundbites, but in our pockets.

Whichever party convinces us they’ll make us better off tends to win our votes, and with all the manifestos now published it’s up to us all to decide.

So we’ve broken down each of the parties’ promises by topics like pensions, tax and energy to help you compare the parties, and make an informed decision when you enter the polling booth on the big day.

Pensions

The Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the SNP all say they’ll keep increasing the State Pension in line with inflation, average earnings or 2.5% - whichever’s highest. This is known as the Triple Lock.

The Tories, Labour, UKIP and the SNP all pledge to protect pensioner benefits such as free bus passes, TV licences and winter fuel payments. But Labour says it will withdraw help with winter energy bills from the richest 5% of pensioners and the Lib Dems will remove eligibility for these kinds of benefits from pensioners in the 40% tax bracket.

All three main parties promise to keep giving pensioners freedom to spend and invest their pensions as they wish.

UKIP will make the state pension age more flexible, introducing a pension age window that will widen over time. The party says it will also fund a “higher standard” of free pensions advice.

Tax

Labour and the SNP would introduce a ‘mansion tax’ on properties worth more than £2m along with a 50p tax rate for top earners.

Both the Lib Dems and Tories say they’ll raise the income tax personal allowance to £12,500 (this is the amount you earn before you start paying tax), while UKIP would end income tax on the minimum wage.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, pledge to remove inheritance tax on properties worth up to £1m by 2017, to link the minimum wage to personal income tax allowance, and to introduce a £50,000 threshold for the 40p tax band by 2020.

Labour, the SNP, UKIP, Green Party, Plaid Cymru, would each abolish the housing benefit under-occupancy charge, otherwise known as the ‘bedroom tax’.

Energy

Labour plans a freeze on gas and electricity bills until 2017 and says it would reform the energy industry.

The Tories wants the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) watchdog to continue its investigation into the energy markets, while encouraging small suppliers to take on the Big Six, who still account for 90% of the market.

The Lib Dems have gone big on energy. Like the Tories they’ll back small suppliers, implement smart meters in every home by 2020 and continue promoting faster switching.

Beyond that, they’ll make energy infrastructure a top priority, investing in smart grid technology, setting new energy efficiency targets for new buildings and offering Council Tax discounts for energy-efficient homes.

UKIP would abolish environmental taxes and levies to bring energy bills down and stop energy firms charging more to those on prepayment meters or who don’t pay via direct debit or use online account management.

The SNP would introduce measures to make energy companies pass on savings from falling wholesale prices to their customers more speedily.

Housing

If you rent a housing association property, the Conservatives plan to let you buy it at a discount.

They also pledge to build 200,000 starter homes for first-time buyers aged under 40.

Labour too will build at least 200,000 new homes a year by 2020, and promise a “fairer deal” for renters. Ed Miliband has also pledged to abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers on all properties worth up to £300,000 for the first three year of the next Labour government.

The Lib Dems go further than this, with a goal to build 300,000 new homes a year and 10 new garden cities. The party also plans a ‘rent-to-own’ scheme where your rent payments buy you a stake in the property.

UKIP pledges to build one million new homes on brownfield sites by 2025, encourage the use of empty properties and use money generated from Right to Buy sales to build community housing.

The SNP, meanwhile, backs investment to build 100,000 affordable homes across the entire UK each year.

The Greens would legislate to stabilise house prices by making property investment and speculation less attractive, for example, by removing landlord tax incentives such as the deduction of mortgage interest as an expense.

Public transport

Labour says it’ll freeze rail fares from 2016 and introduce a fare cap on every route.

 The Tories will freeze commuter rail fares “in real terms” for the whole of the next Parliament while the Lib Dems would ensure rail fares rose no faster than inflation over the Parliament as a whole.

The Green Party wants to re-nationalise the railways and make all public transport more affordable and reliable.

Broadband

The Lib Dems, Labour and Conservatives all pledge to get super-fast (30Mb+) broadband to 95% of country or more by the end of Parliament.

 

What do you think?

In our poll last week, we asked which party you thought you’d be better off under. More than 4,000 votes were cast and the results were clear; 57% of us think the Conservatives would look after our money the best.

But has the campaigning changed your mind? Let us know in this week’s poll.

Read the manifestos in full here:

 Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

* 51% consumers, MoneySuperMarket data, December 2014

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