Page last updated at 19:30 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 20:30 UK

Election: Parties battle over family and crime plans

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
The leaders have been criticised for not giving more detail about likely cuts

Labour have attacked their rivals' plans as a "coalition of cuts for children", while the Tories said "big government" had failed to fix Britain.

After much debate on the possibility of a hung parliament, the biggest parties have tried to shift focus onto policy.

Labour said only they would protect child trust funds and tax credits while the Lib Dems called for nurses to get more power to protect NHS services.

But all three parties were criticised for lack of clarity on likely cuts.

In other election developments on Tuesday:

The latest opinion polls continue to suggest no single party is on course to win an outright majority, and point towards a hung parliament.

A Populus poll for the Times suggests the Conservatives are on 36%, up four points on last week, the Lib Dems down three points on 28% and Labour down one on 27%.

Meanwhile, a YouGov daily tracker poll for the Sun puts the Conservatives on 33%, Labour on 29% and the Lib Dems on 28%.

Speaking to first-time voters on BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat, Tory leader David Cameron said it was a "tight contest... but I absolutely think we can still win this election but we're going to have to have a great last 10 days to do that".

Cuts questions

Election coverage has been dominated by talk about post-election scenarios, but, on the campaign trail in Stirling, Labour leader Gordon Brown said he was "frustrated" that big issues like jobs, the minimum wage and the NHS were "not being featured on television and in the newspapers".

Balls: Labour making tough choices

BBC News Channel chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said the parties said they wanted to talk about policies but were still reluctant to spell out where they would make cuts or raise taxes to address the deficit.

In a report on Tuesday, the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies said no party had come "anywhere close" to making clear where the axe would fall.

Mr Brown said the government had put forward a "detailed" plan to reduce the deficit, while Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said the UK faced "painful choices" on tax and spending in order to bring down borrowing.

The Tories suggested Labour were "hiding the truth" about their intentions, while Nick Clegg said all the parties needed to go further in spelling out details.

Mr Brown also turned his fire on Conservative and Lib Dem policies on child tax credits and child trust funds - the two parties have said they would scale them back for wealthier families, while the Lib Dems say they would axe the child trust fund altogether.

He said he was "angry" about the plans, and urged the opposition parties to spell out how many people would lose out as a result.

'Toddler tax'

At a Labour press conference, ministers Lord Mandelson, Yvette Cooper and Ed Balls outlined their family-friendly policies, and warned of the prospect of a "toddler tax" should the Conservatives win the election, with nurseries in England being allowed to charge "top-up fees".

The Tories say nurseries are currently closing on a daily basis because of a lack of funds and they would allow the fees as a short-term solution, but say a review is needed of long-term funding.

Cameron on 'broken society'

But the Labour ministers argued if the Tories and Lib Dems were to hold the balance of power, their policies would amount to a "coalition of cuts for children" - Mr Clegg dismissed the attack as "a wonderful sound bite but absolutely meaningless in substance".

Asked why they were raising National Insurance and cutting university budgets, but keeping the £250 child trust fund voucher, which also benefits wealthy families, Ed Balls said it was a "mistake to ghettoise the welfare state" and it was a "good thing" to give all families some support.

In south London, Mr Cameron defended his depiction of British society as "broken", and shared a platform with former Eastenders actress Brooke Kinsella, whose 16-year-old brother Ben was stabbed to death in 2008.

'Claptrap'

Emphasising his party's "big society" theme, he said there had been a "moral failure of the big government approach" to dealing with society's problems.

He said a "whole stew of violence, anti-social behaviour, debt, addiction, family breakdown, educational failure, poverty and despair" affected millions in Britain.

He pledged to bring "common sense and rigour" to government - "with a government focused on making life difficult for wrong-doers, and easy for those that want to do right by themselves, their family and their neighbourhood".

On a later visit to Bolton Mr Cameron met Helen Newlove, who has campaigned against alcohol-fuelled youth crime since her husband Garry was kicked to death by a gang of teenagers in August 2007.

We need to change the way power flows in the NHS. You should be telling us how to run it, not the other way around
Nick Clegg

Home Secretary Alan Johnson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the idea of a "broken society" was "claptrap", and the Conservatives were "telling lies" about crime as statistics showed violent crime was falling.

In a speech to the Royal College of Nursing's annual conference, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said politicians had a duty to say how they would "protect and improve" the NHS in the face of the anticipated public sector spending cuts.

He said the NHS was a "precious inheritance" but there was a "black hole in the public finances" and a new, different approach to allocating money within the health service was needed.

The Lib Dems would devolve power to patients and staff, he added, and cut bureaucracy as the NHS was currently "over-centralised".

"It is only the skills, innovation and ideas of the nursing staff of our health service that can protect it from the cuts you fear," he said.

"We need to change the way power flows in the NHS. You should be telling us how to run it, not the other way around."



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