SOUTHERN Rail should be stripped of its franchise and replaced by a Government-run company, the Liberal Democrat manifesto has proposed.
The party said the drastic action should be taken as a result of the rail provider’s “severe failings” that amounted to breach of contract.
The Lib Dems would also allow the sale of cannabis, decriminalise the sale and purchase of sex and repeal legislation outlawing legal highs – a move labelled “ignorant” by campaigner Maryon Stewart whose University of Sussex student daughter Hester died after taking GBL in 2009.
Kelly-Marie Blundell, the party’s candidate in Lewes who helped write the manifesto, said the party had a robust plan to raise an additional £6 billion for the NHS through an income tax rise.
The party said the action to remove Southern Rail would be followed by a longer-term plan to find more effective and sustainable ways to manage franchises with greater input from local government.
Ms Blundell said passengers had put up with “too much for too long” and that the election presented an opportunity to end ongoing problems.
Govia Thameslink Railway said its focus was on improving the service to passengers through upgrades to systems and addressing capacity, congestion and punctuality.
Conservative Maria Caulfield said the Liberal Democrats “did nothing” about the service while in the coalition government, pointing the finger at former Lewes MP Norman Baker for overseeing the “disastrous” Southern Rail contract as Transport Minister.
The party also reiterated its opposition to the expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and plans to ban diesel vans and cars by 2025.
Mrs Stewart said the Psychoactive Substances Act, which came into force a year ago after seven years campaigning, protected teenagers who were “duped” into believing legal highs meant safe highs and that repealing it would be a “seriously dangerous step”.
She said: “I can’t even begin to comprehend how anybody who really understood the situation would want to repeal that law to get votes.”
The Lib Dems want to replace police and crime commissioners with accountable police boards made up of local councillors claiming that the PCC roles were elected at great expense in elections with very low turnout – 22.5 per cent in Sussex last year and 15.3 per cent in 2012.
The move has unsurprisingly not found favour with current incumbent Katy Bourne who said a return to the previous local authority structure would be a retrograde step. She said the newly created role offered greater national input, wider influence and commissioning powers, giving the public a “local, accountable and transparent” role.
Councils would benefit from further devolved revenue-raising powers away from Westminster, the ability to raise council tax above two per cent without referendum and levy up to 200 per cent council tax on second homes and “buy to leave empty” homes owned by overseas investors.
But councils would have to meet tough new recycling targets of 70 per cent – currently Brighton and Hove and Lewes languish in national league tables at around a third of the target figure.
There are no promises to abolish tuition fees, as promised in Labour’s manifesto, but a promise to reinstate maintenance grants for the poorest students.
The party vows not go into coalition with either the Conservatives or Labour – leaving opponents to question the deliverability of its manifesto.
Ms Caulfield said: “The Lib Dems’ manifesto promises many things but the only way they can deliver on these is if they get in to Government in coalition propping up Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister.”