By Brian O’Flynn, Claire Wilde, Helen Johnson and Georgina Lee

The Conservatives have launched their general election manifesto, with promises including a target to cut net migration, recruit thousands more police officers and reintroduce Help to Buy.

FactCheck takes a look.

8,000 more police officers still won’t restore pre-2010 numbers

The Conservatives have pledged to recruit 8,000 “full time, fully warranted” police officers in England and Wales. We understand the plan covers the next three years.

But our exclusive FactCheck analysis finds that even if they meet that target, we will still have 5 per cent fewer police officers per person than we did before the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

In 2009, we calculate there were around 260 police officers for every 100,000 people in England and Wales.

Under the Coalition and Conservative governments, these numbers were slashed. They bottomed out in 2018, at about 207 officers for every 100,000 people – down a fifth on 2009.

The Conservatives then made a 2019 manifesto pledge to recruit 20,000 more police officers – which they met. But even so – as of September 2023, that still only brought numbers back up to around 242 police officers per 100,000 of the population.

That’s still 7 per cent below the 2009 baseline.

And if they do recruit a further 8,000 officers by 2027 as they’ve promised, this won’t make the ratio much better. Because the population will have grown by then – so we’ll still only have around 246 officers per 100,000 people, based on our analysis using ONS population projections and the latest police workforce data.

So by recruiting 8,000 officers in that three year period, the Conservatives will only be keeping slightly ahead of population growth. Meaning in 2027 we will still be 5 per cent below 2009 policing levels.

How have previous Conservative governments fared against migration targets?

The Conservatives have promised in today’s manifesto to introduce a legally binding cap on net migration – that’s the number of people arriving legally minus the number leaving every year.

In his speech today, Rishi Sunak said he would halve the figure. It’s currently at 685,000, so a reduction by half would mean a target of around 300,000 a year.

This is the fifth election in a row in which the Conservatives have pledged to bring down immigration. But on the previous four occasions, performance has been patchy.

In 2010, David Cameron was elected on a promise to take net migration down to “tens of thousands” – but under his coalition government, it rose to over 300,000.

At the next election in 2015, he admitted there’d been more EU migrants than expected – but reiterated the pledge.

But by the next polling day in 2017, net migration was over 200,000. Then-prime minister Theresa May said she was still aiming for tens of thousands – and while it did fall on her watch, it remained above 100,000.

At the 2019 election, Boris Johnson promised simply that “overall numbers will come down”, but didn’t set a figure. And in his first full year as prime minister, 2020, they did fall. But that was because Covid froze travel worldwide.

As lockdowns eased, net migration soared – even though the UK had finally ended free movement with the EU. In 2022, it reached its highest ever level: 764,000. It’s fallen slightly in the last year, but remains far higher than previous years and well above the ambition of Rishi Sunak’s predecessors.

Which brings us to today. The government spending watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) says that by June 2025, we are likely to see net migration fall to half the level it was in 2022.

But if he were to become the first Conservative Prime Minister this century to keep their net migration pledge, it would still be three and a half times greater than the level David Cameron promised when the Conservatives took office in 2010.

We should say that the last Labour government also presided over a massive rise in net migration – from 48,000 in 1997 to 256,000 in 2010. But those numbers pale in comparison to the current figure.

Was the previous Help to Buy scheme successful?

The Conservative party has just announced plans to introduce a “new and improved” Help to Buy scheme in their manifesto. The aim is to support the construction of new homes, with every purchase matched with an increase in housing supply.

But did the previous Help to Buy policy work?

A Help to Buy Equity Loan was in place in some form or another in England between 2013 and 2023.

It offered buyers an equity loan that they could use to help to buy a new-build home, allowing them to purchase a property with a 5 per cent deposit and receive a loan for up to 20 per cent of the property value (or 40 per cent in London) – interest free for 5 years.

But the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has since said that evaluations of the first Help to Buy equity loan scheme “found that a substantial minority of those who used it did not need its support to buy a property”.

And the researchers also noted that not all of the government subsidy ended up benefitting the buyer – some of it enriched developers through higher sale prices and profits.

One intended benefit of the scheme was to encourage the construction of more new-builds. But the IFS says that while it did increase the number, the effect was short-lived in some parts of the country.

In areas where house building is more difficult, such as London, the subsidy pushed up prices, “with a limited effect on the number of new homes,” the experts write.

By the time the scheme ended in March 2023, Help to Buy had helped more than 375,000 households buy a home with an equity loan. The scheme made the Treasury almost £2bn in profit on those loans.

David Sturrock, Senior Research Economist at the IFS said: “A new Help to Buy equity loan scheme could help potential homebuyers to get onto the housing ladder by reducing the deposit they require and making repayments more manageable in the short-term.”

But he added that “experience from past schemes suggests that some of the subsidy will be captured by developers in the form of higher prices and profits and that some who buy would be able to do so without the scheme”, saying “any new scheme should seek to learn lessons from the past”.