In response to our discussion paper on youth issues, we received submissions from 118 CPF groups representing 144 constituencies and at least 1,449 members across the country, an increase of over 15 per cent compared with our previous discussion. This number included 21.5% students under 25, 6.9% non-students under 25 and 15% aged 25-40.
We asked a number of provocative questions to elicit key insights from the Party. These questions spanned three important areas: how Conservatives can appeal to the next generation, reform of higher education funding and reform of housing and rental markets. What follows is an overview of the key points raised.
Section One: Appealing to a new generation
1. Suggestions for how to make the Conservative Party once again the party of young people spanned Party structure, vision and values, presentation and messaging. They included:
- Relaunch the Young Conservative Movement.
- Offer a coherent vision, which is confident, optimistic and hopeful.
- Promote our beliefs and values.
- Regain influence in values-generating institutions such as universities, schools and social media.
- Promote policies and our achievements on issues that matter to young people.
2. To restore the faith of younger people through Brexit:
- They must see the benefits of Brexit before the 2022 election. Its advantages need to be expounded more. It is essential that we are quickly able to sign trade agreements with non-EU countries. Ensure that withdrawal does not impact on travel and work opportunities within the EU.
- We must demonstrate a stronger commitment to issues such as the environment, the vulnerable in society and non-university vocational opportunities.
- Deliver policies that benefit young people before the next election.
- Establish an open, transparent and fair, national clearing-house for apprenticeships, just as we have UCAS for university places.
- Launch a 100-year Youth Bond to turbo-charge the housing strategy and to exploit many embryonic technologies.
3. To signal that we are the party of the next generation, the three most frequently mentioned policy suggestions were:
- Improve funding and extent of apprenticeships and vocational qualifications.
- Free up the planning system and incentivise firms to build more affordable houses and flats in areas where people most need them, including low-cost units with shared facilities for young people.
- Reform of the student loan system.
A total of 92 different policies were proposed, all of which have been submitted to the CPF Chairman, the Party's Vice-Chairman for Policy, and the Prime Minister's Policy Unit for consideration.
Section Two: Reform of higher education funding suggestions included:
- More transparency and accountability on university costs.
- Require universities to publish detailed annual reports like listed companies.
- Publicise assessments of teaching quality and dropout rates in universities.
- Allow realistic variation in the costs of different universities and courses.
- Pay universities on the basis of jobs found or loans repaid by their graduates.
- Introduce a tiered fees system, like the Australian system.
- Immediately abolish the 6% compound interest rate on university loans.
- Rename the loan a “graduate contribution”.
- Establish an independently administered charitable Further Education Fund.
- Adopt imaginative approaches to repayment.
- Introduce a graduate levy scheme.
- Introduce a Further Education Bond.
- Place greater emphasis on apprenticeships and ensure they offer real training.
Section Three: Reform of the housing and rental markets suggestions included:
- Enable small builders to compete with the large firms.
- Relax planning laws so more houses can be built.
- Increase social housing and encourage shared ownership.
- Make mortgages more accessible for young people.
- Build more affordable apartments in larger towns and cities.
- Universities should not be able to admit anyone they cannot house.
- Landlords should not be allowed to rent out substandard housing.
- Consider the Canadian model of tax-free savings for housing.
- Adopt the German model of tenancy rights.
We look forward to publishing a formal response in due course.