Up to 15 million workers will be offered three days’ paid leave a year for volunteering under a Conservative government, David Cameron has said.
The move, which will affect the public sector and large firms, comes alongside a Tory pledge to extend the real-terms freeze of some rail fares until 2020.
Labour said the volunteering pledge was a “re-announcement” from 2008.
It said fares had risen by 20% since 2010 and the freeze was “unbelievable”.
In other election news:
- Labour say they will protect neighbourhood policing in England and Wales and ensure that forces won’t have to cut officer numbers.
- The Conservatives say their rail fare pledge will cost “in the low hundreds of millions” but Labour question whether it can be delivered
- The Lib Dems pledge a new scheme to help young working people borrow up to £2,000 from government to put towards a tenancy deposit.
- A UKIP candidate was forced to apologise after she appeared to question the cost to the NHS of treating British people who are HIV positive.
- Three opinion polls published on Thursday give Labour a lead, ranging from three to six points, while two others put the Conservatives ahead by one
Under the Conservatives’ volunteering plans, a new law would be passed requiring public sector employers and companies with more than 250 employees to give staff up to three days a year to do voluntary work.
Employers would cover the cost.
The BBC’s Mark Easton said the prime minister’s announcement was a reminder of the Big Society theme from the 2010 election “which many had thought had been binned”.
Our home affairs editor said a number of employers, including the CBI, had welcomed the move but some firms “may baulk at the idea of having to organise and pay for the policy, while schools, hospitals, emergency services and other public bodies may struggle to buy in cover for front-line workers from shrinking budgets”.
- Eliminate the deficit and run an overall surplus by the end of the parliament
- Aim for full employment where “anyone who wants a job is able to get a job”
- Use money saved in reducing the benefits cap to fund 3 million apprenticeships
- Triple the number of start-up loans to businesses to 75,000
Mr Cameron said the proposal was “the clearest demonstration of the Big Society in action” and represented a “double win”.
He added: “It’s good for our economy, as it will help create a better, more motivated workforce. And it’s good for our society too, as it will strengthen communities and the bonds between us.”
But Labour pointed out he had made a similar pledge in 2008, while leader of the opposition, in relation to the public sector.
“Since then this has become just another broken promise with volunteering falling under the Tories,” Labour’s civil society spokeswoman Lisa Nandy said.
She added that there was “no sense” of how the public sector could fund the pledge, saying: “If just half of public sector workers took this up it would be the time equivalent of around 2,000 nurses, 800 police and almost 3,000 teachers.”
Mr Cameron is also due to announce that the freeze on regulated rail fares at the level of inflation – which has been in place for the last two years – would continue throughout the next Parliament if the Conservatives win power.
Regulated fares cover about half of all tickets sold, including season tickets and off-peak intercity returns.
The Conservatives said the move would save the average rail commuter about £400 between now and 2020, and would cost “in the low hundreds of millions”.
But Labour’s shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said the plan was “unfunded, uncosted and frankly totally unbelievable”, and that fares had risen by an average of 20% since 2010.
Another policy pledge on Friday comes from the Liberal Democrats, who are targeting young workers who are still living with their parents.
The party’s “Help to Rent” scheme would allow under-30s to borrow the cash for a deposit from the government, to be paid back within two years.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “It’s simply unfair that thousands of hard-working young people still have to live in the same bedroom they lived in when children.
“When you get your own job, you want to stand on your own two feet, have your own space, and not have to rely on the bank of mum and dad.”
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