Baroness Liz Barker writes… Reasons to be cheerful

As the nights draw one can become a bit miserable. So here is my list of reasons to be cheerful (Part V):

  • Tax: people earning less than £10,000 pay no income tax
  • Banking levy: the people responsible for the financial mess being made to help with the clear up
  • Social Care: £2 billion to fund long term care
  • Green Investment Bank: £1 billion in cash plus the proceeds of future asset sales to fund investment in offshore wind farms and other projects
  • Carbon Capture Storage: A £1 billion investment in a ‘carbon capture’ scheme, to take the carbon emissions from a power station and store them deep underground
  • Child Tax Credits: Available to families earning under £41,329 from April and under £23,275 from 2012, will go up by £30 in 2011 and £50 in 2012, at a cost of £560million a year by 2014
  • Sure Start: Budget protected  in cash terms
  • Childcare for two-year-olds: From 2013, disadvantaged two-year-olds will be entitled to 15 hours or more of childcare paid for by the taxpayer a week
  • National Scholarship Fund: £150million a year by 2014, to help pay for higher education for poorer children
  • Museum Charges:  Entry to museums in Britain still free
  • Regional Growth Fund: £1.4 billion over three years, with the aim of pumping money into areas of the country especially hard-hit by cutbacks in the size of the state
  • BBC: A realistic deal in exceptional circumstances securing a strong independent BBC for the next six years

All these are commitments in the Comprehensive Spending Review which would not have happened if Liberal Democrats had not been in government making them happen. Sure, there are elements of the CSR which we don’t like and will have to put up with. Some we will contest, as members of a true coalition should.  However the next time someone on the doorstep gives you a load of nonsense about Focus leaflets being unnecessary because there is a coalition, or when Guardian columnists, desperate to camouflage Labour’s past and current deficiencies, resort to disgusting insults, throw this back at them:

  • Restoring the link between pensions and earnings
  • £140 flat rate per week pension which will benefit women in particular
  • 100,000 Green Deal workers employed to upgrade and insulate Britain’s homes.

All achieved because of Liberal Democrats in government and all strong reasons to elect Liberal Democrats, not Tories, in Oldham East and Saddleworth and in the Scottish, Welsh and local elections in 2011.

We are not, never have been and never will be, a sub-set of the Tories. We are Liberal Democrats doing what we can, given the mess which Labour left, to make life better for everyone, particularly the less well off, and it is time to start telling people.

Baroness Liz Barker is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords

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37 Comments

  • Simon McGrath 11th Nov '10 - 10:38am

    It’s a great list of real achievements. But I think taking people who earn less than £10,000 out of income tax is still an aspiration. I think the budget raised the threshold by £1,000 to £7,475 as a first move in the coalition policy.

    Pity Labour have left us with an £150bn deficit or we could move quicker on this.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 11th Nov '10 - 10:44am

    Keep whistling in the dark.

    This Tory government’s policies are already proving to be as damaging and divisive as those of the last Tory government.

    And the Tories, who have no mandate for these policies, are only able to push them through because 57 LibDems, who were elected on quite different policies, have signed up to a pernicious “coalition agreement”. The sooner they do to that what Clegg has done to his pre-election pledge on tuition fees, the better for all concerned.

  • We expect Liberal Democrats to lie but the lie that the £150bn deficit was Labour’s fault is the most egregious lie of all.

  • “Social Care: £2 billion to fund long term care”

    Not ring-fenced and not enough to keep pace with demand. Yep, that’s a really good one.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 11th Nov '10 - 11:14am

    “However the next time someone on the doorstep gives you a load of nonsense … throw this back at them:”

    I’m afraid that’s rather indicative of the mindset the party seems to be getting itself into.

    But I was always told to waste as little time as possible on ANTIs when canvassing. So perhaps it would be better just to yell “Get a life, you Labour troll!” and briskly depart (remembering to shut the garden gate where applicable, of course).

  • Here is how I would answer on the doorstep.

    •Tax: people earning less than £10,000 pay no income tax

    Excellent on income tax, although you forgot to mention it isn’t happening yet and the cut backs that affect those lower earners are being brought in sooner. You also neglect to mention the VAT hike which will hurt both individuals and businesses such as mine where VAT is not applicable for all elements.

    •Banking levy: the people responsible for the financial mess being made to help with the clear up

    Far less then it should be and the Tories also had it in their plans. The bankers are most responsible for the problems not just in the UK but the wider westernised economies and concerted action by these nations would have led to a higher and better levy they could not avoid.

    •Social Care: £2 billion to fund long term care

    In line with reductions I’m not sure this is enough (or even new money) but am willing to wait and see.

    •Green Investment Bank: £1 billion in cash plus the proceeds of future asset sales to fund investment in offshore wind farms and other projects

    Good start but ignores the green projects whose funding was cancelled.

    •Carbon Capture Storage: A £1 billion investment in a ‘carbon capture’ scheme, to take the carbon emissions from a power station and store them deep underground

    Excellent and overdue.

    •Child Tax Credits: Available to families earning under £41,329 from April and under £23,275 from 2012, will go up by £30 in 2011 and £50 in 2012, at a cost of £560million a year by 2014

    Not sure this will replace the money these families will lose particularly if higher inflation leads to higher interest rates and therefore mortgages.

    •Sure Start: Budget protected in cash terms

    Should read a reduction in Sure Start funding of 2 – 5 % (RPI) each year. That said the Tories hate Sure Start so at least it is something.

    •Childcare for two-year-olds: From 2013, disadvantaged two-year-olds will be entitled to 15 hours or more of childcare paid for by the taxpayer a week

    That’s great for children not yet born, what about the current crop of 2 year olds.

    •National Scholarship Fund: £150million a year by 2014, to help pay for higher education for poorer children

    Who will still end their education with a massive debt (however it is to be paid back). The same children’s parents may have voted for MP’s who pledged to vote against a rise in fees. The pledge did not allow wriggle room for sweetening the pill with a relatively small subsidy.

    •Museum Charges: Entry to museums in Britain still free

    As it should be, and has been for many years.

    •Regional Growth Fund: £1.4 billion over three years, with the aim of pumping money into areas of the country especially hard-hit by cutbacks in the size of the state

    Effectively reducing the current funding given to RDA’s.

    •BBC: A realistic deal in exceptional circumstances securing a strong independent BBC for the next six years

    A deal conducted in too short a time scale using threats to the organisation regrding the over 75’s TV license. Good deals are rarely negotiated in such a short time period, particulalry as it was not meant to be part of the CSR.
    Also the integration of the WOrld Service does potentially have an impact in impartiality which should have been publically discussed.

    I note you neglected to mention the Pupil Premium which I had considered a real win, I suppose that may be because Osbourne gave it with one hand and then pinched most back with another. In my view a cynical Tory policy to keep the Lib Dems on the back foot and give Labour more ammunition to attack them and not the Tories.

    In short if it were a school report some good work unfortunately spoiled by elements of sloppiness and occaisional but damaging dishonesty. To improve and make the grade come examination time the pupil needs to remember the good work of previous terms and stop being so easily led by dishonest and damaging elements within the classroom.

  • It would be good if either LibDem politicians knew what government policy was, or stopped lying to the electorate.

  • Sorry to add, before being accused of being a Labour Troll, I have voted for all three parties in the past and have deserted the Tories and Labour due to spin and dishonesty and voted for Nick “no more broken promises” Cleggs party at the last election.

    Unfortunately it appears the same disease seems to be affecting some in the Lib Dems. If the moral heart of the party can regain control and those that still have great respect both inside and outside of the party begin to exert more influence then I may yet vote Lib Dem again. I am heartened by those within the party who are reflecting on current failures but disheartened by those on this site who feel that people, like me, who voted Lib Dem should allow ourselves to have been lied to without commenting.

    I do not comment on Labour or Tory blogs as I didn’t vote for them.

  • •Tax: people earning less than £10,000 pay no income tax

    This is an aspiration – rather like scrapping tuition fees. It may not happen!

    •Banking levy: the people responsible for the financial mess being made to help with the clear up.

    The bankers bonus tax, if honoured, would have raised approx. £3.5 billion. The banking levy, if honoured, will raise less than £2 billion.

    •Social Care: £2 billion to fund long term care.

    It’s not extra funding. It’s coming from existing budgets.£1 billion is coming from the NHS budget.

    •Green Investment Bank: £1 billion in cash plus the proceeds of future asset sales to fund investment in offshore wind farms and other projects

    In order to meet the targets, the minimum required from government was put at £4billion. It remains to be seen how much will be raised from asset sales. It’s a start – but not a very encouraging start.

    •Carbon Capture Storage: A £1 billion investment in a ‘carbon capture’ scheme, to take the carbon emissions from a power station and store them deep underground

    After it was announced E.ON pulled out of the scheme, leaving only one company in the running for the £1 biilion. It’s not clear what to me happens now.

  • .
    WHO are you saying was responsible for the “mess?”

    We are Liberal Democrats doing what we can, given the mess which Labour left,

    Banking levy: the people responsible for the financial mess being made to help with the clear up

  • Europhile EUphobe 11th Nov '10 - 11:45am

    @ Liz “All these are commitments in the Comprehensive Spending Review which would not have happened if Liberal Democrats had not been in government making them happen.”

    I wonder which the public consider the most serious to break: “a promise” or “a commitment” . Answers please on a small postage stamp using two words if the answer is “a promise”; or on a sheet of A3, with a small font and lots of self justifying sub clauses if the answer is “a commitment”.

    Don’t make me laugh. The leadership have totally messed things up, and we will be left on our own (probaly literally after the next election) to rebuild again from scratch. Here comes another 60 years of heartache.

  • @RichardSM

    “Who’s responsible for the mess”. Perhaps if you rephrase to Who are responsible for the mess it would help.

    Labour are rightly blamed for the defecit prior to the economic crisis, Gordon famous rules started to be bent and distorted to meet Gordon’s aspirations to out reform Blair. Once the crisis started I have to say they took the right course of action. Remember the Tories inability to come up with a course of action regarding Northern Rock.

    Therefore split the defecit down these lines and we start to be able to aportion blame correctly.

    Pre crisis = Labour mismanagement
    Post = Mainly worldwide event (with some Labour mismanagement regulation etc thrown in)

    Then you have to look at the alternative options that were put forward at the time of Labours budget or PBR statements. It is here that the Lib Dems have a slight advantage over both Labour and the Tories. That said I wish they’d both stop talking about fixing the roof while the sun was shining as a reading of Hansard in the years running up to the crisis shows that all parties would be in trouble now (the Lib Dems slightly less so) had they been in power.

    It all really comes down to honesty and geting rid of the spin that has infected politics since Blair.

  • Liz, there is a real problem in the Lib Dems with upper middle class people who see ‘programs’ to ‘help the poor’ as a salve to their liberal conscience. What is needed is a genuinely liberal progressive system which instead of offering help only to a discrete bunch called ‘the diadvantaged’, gives support to everyone, but is gradually tapered away as they earn more. Unfortunately, the Tories have completely outwitted the Lib Dems. Paying for HE for ‘poor children’ helps to put a justifying gloss on raising tuition fees, but it does nothing to help those who come from hard working families just above your definition of ‘poor’. The disgraceful truth is that a graduate who earns an average of £35k pa over their career will pay well over £1000 every year for 30 years in this new stealth tax, whilst those who earn 100k or with mummies and daddies who can afford to pay it off for them, will pay less, because they won’t pay interest. £150m a year for ‘poor children’ does not make it all ok! Clegg, Lamb, Cable, need to think again. This policy is a disgrace to our party.

  • It is easy to cherry pick the little bits of good news but the reality is this Tory Government is presiding over a sea change in the mind-set of the welfare state and the nature of economic and social mobility in this country. The CSR has doomed 500,000 jobs with the support and connivance of business who promise that given lower taxes and lower spending and lower beauracracy those jobs will be created in the private sector. Yes Fire-fighters come and flip our flame grilled burgers, social workers come and work the tills at Marks and Spencers, Nurses come and stack the shelves at ASDA. Is this what you want? Is this what any of the Lib Dem voters wanted when they put a cross on the ballot last May. The demonstration in London yesterday should be a wake up call to everyone with a smattering of social concience, The Bullingdon Boys are using the 2008 banking crisis to finish Thatcher’s vision of “No Society” Nick Clegg and 56 other Lib Dem MPs are giving them political cover and they are goiung to pay a heavy price at the ballot box.

  • David Evans 11th Nov '10 - 1:06pm

    @steve_way

    If you look at it logically “Labour are rightly blamed for the deficit prior to the economic crisis” is like saying Gordon was driving the car ever faster up the hill, saying things were wonderful. Vince – one of the passengers – said “we are going to crash” and Gordon ignored him. The fact that most nations were in a race and this led to the crash, doesn’t make it the world’s fault, it is still people’s fault. Human beings caused the problems; almost all top level bods in banking and finance, supine regulators, etc etc. But Gordon was the driver, because he wanted to be the driver and he believed he was that good. He wanted the credit and he basked in the glory.

    Saying that after the creash he helped some of the injured with a bit of elastoplast (and in terms of the size of the mess we are in, elastoplast is the right metaphor) and so got it right, is swallowing Labour’s self justifying narrative “hook, line and sinker”.

  • What’s with the first “reason” on tax? It’s totally bogus.

    The present personal allowance is £6,745, going up to £7,745 in April 2011. It usually goes up by £500 or so each year anyway, so the Lib Dem policy “victory” is really just an increase in the PA of five hundred quid.

  • Grammar Police 11th Nov '10 - 1:41pm

    @ Paul B – usally goes up by £500 a year does it? Not sure what planet you’re living on?

    2004/05: £4,745
    2005/06: £4,895 (up £100)
    2006/07: £5,035 (up £140)
    2007/08: £5,225 (up £190)
    2008/09: £6,035 (up £810)
    2009/10: £6,475 (up £440)
    2010/11: £6,475 (up £0)
    2011/12: £7,475 (up £1000)

    So the “average” is £280, and that’s only as high as it is because of the one off large increase in 2008/09 – would be about £100 less than that if that year had been a similar amount.

  • Grammar Police 11th Nov '10 - 1:42pm

    Now who’s reasoning is “bogus”?

  • Grammar Police 11th Nov '10 - 1:43pm

    (first one is a typo – £150).

  • @David Evans
    I think you really need to look at Hansard and also re-read my post. Far from absolving Labour from blame I think they undoubtedly mismanaged the economy. However, even were they to have taken every single piece of advice from Vince Cable the defecit would still be massive.

    We have the largest financial sector in Europe, in part because when faced with the challenges of Frankfurt in the run up to the Euro we kept a lower degree of regulation. We should also accept that all parties wanted to retain this sector at that size. Therefore when a crisis is based upon that sector we were going to suffer worse than other countries.

    Now we can debate the continuing demise of both low and high manufacturing (not helped by ditching forgemasters and the nimrod projects), the rise and fall of the customer service industry and the effects of globalisation on it and many other factors which I believe made us so susceptable. This will not change the facts that blaming Labour for the whole defecit is wrong and will be seen by more and more people to be wrong if it remains the justification mantra of the coalition.

    I believe Gordon Brown was right in the majority of his handling of the financial crisis. That doesn’t excuse his back stabbing dishonest, incompetent and deservedly short premiership and I will never seek to do so. I believe he was wrong in not reducing spending earlier, but I am probably speaking with 20/20 hindsight.

    Look at the responses to the Budgets and PBR’s over the Labour years. We can accept Labour were wrong without trying to re-write history so that either of the other parties were always right.

  • So it went up by about £300 quid on average in recent years, rather than £500. It did go up by £810 in one year, and £440 the next. I did say “five hundred quid or so”.

    So it is still absolute tosh to claim that people earning less than £10k pay no income tax, as the Baroness does. The current PA for people aged under 65 is £6,475 and that increases to £7,475 in about 6 months time.

  • Bank levy 0.04% They are laughing and patting fat wallets full of their new bonuses, while the rest of us pay with our jobs, education, health, welfare etc. Shame!

  • @Grammar Police

    It seems your reasoning is a little bit “bogus”. As I have said in other discussions, in terms of the percentage increase, and real terms increase, the coalition increase is less than the ’08/’09 increase. And when taken in conjunction with other coalition measures, such as the VAT hike, and the cuts in tax credits, the increase is greatly diminished.

  • Simon McGrath 11th Nov '10 - 6:09pm

    Annc – but it is the tax and NI on Bankers bonuses which is paying for the education,welfare etc. If bonuses go up the Govt gets around 63%

  • Emsworthian 11th Nov '10 - 6:39pm

    Almost all of the ‘achievements’ boil down to recycled money, aspirations or already claimed by the Tories. Meanwhile we are about 16% of the government benches getting 60% of the flak. The Tories
    idea of partnership is we front the bad news while they make themselves scarce. The Tories round my way
    are chuffed to bits while the LD’s are unavailable for comment. The baroness should try coping like the people
    she’s supposed to speak up for. Roll on all elected House of Lords,

  • Theres a real problem with Lib Dem communications if a member of the House of Lords gets the very first point in her list of ‘achievments’ completely wrong…. can someone get a grip please!!

  • David Evans 11th Nov '10 - 7:32pm

    @ Steve Way

    I’m not sure why you think I need to look at Hansard because, in itself, it is of little importance in the mass of evidence telling Gordon Brown he was being criminally reckless (as were many others), but in the UK he was the main man in a so called Labour Government, you may have expected him not to trust financiers. Vince’s comments were very astute but were only one part of a mass from other independent commentators, and the lessons of history (if you are interested. for a potted guide try “The Downwave” by Beckerman for a look into the Long Wave, or for one written closer to the times try Galbraith’s “The Great Crash”).

    The fact is not only was he dazzled by his own rhetoric, and so chose to decry Vince’s message in parliament, but he closed his mind to everyone else who might disagree with him as well.

    Sure “We have the largest financial sector in Europe” so it needed very careful management. Brown failed.
    I don’t accept that all parties wanted to retain this sector at that size – it was clearly dangerously unstable to the economy. Some people deluded themselves into believing we had a sophisticated “post industrial service economy”. Their and Gordon Brown’s feet of clay will be clear to all over the next 20 or so years.

    We can indeed debate the continuing demise of both low and high manufacturing; the rise and fall of the customer service industry and the effects of globalisation on it and many other factors which you believe made us so susceptible. Gordon Brown, the man who claimed to have saved the world missed all the warnings!

    All that happened was he was there when the crash happened. To give him credit for going round with the elastoplast at that time is to ignore the facts. He believed his own publicity – “no more boom and bust” etc etc.

    I’m glad you believe he was wrong in not reducing spending earlier, but it was so much more than that. The highest level of personal endebtedness in the Western world; massive budget deficit; perpetual redefining of the golden rule – remember he didn’t claim to have 20/20 hindsight – he claimed to have 20/20 foresight.

    Finally, I would suggest that unless some of us have the courage to call the crisis for what it was, instead of trying to rationalize the blame away from those culpable, we will never learn from history, and in another 60 to 80 years it will all go wrong again.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 11th Nov '10 - 9:07pm

    And no animals were hurt in the making of this Party Political Broadcast!

  • toryboysnevergrowup 11th Nov '10 - 9:10pm

    Of course the Bank Levy will be more than covered by the tax relief which is being allowed on their losses, which the tax payers had to step in and cover. Don’t believe me – go and look at the RBS accounts which have c£7bn of recognised and unrecognised deferrred tax assets in repsect of losses.

  • @David Evans
    The reason Hansard is so important is that it shows what the other Political parties were advocating at the time. Whilst any number of political / economic commentators and authors may have predicted the crisis, the people now claiming Labour should have “fixed the roof while the sun was shining” were not among them. As I said at the outset Vince Cable (who until recently I held in the highest regard) came the closest but still would not have avoided the majority of problems.

    I do not have a problem with individuals shouting I told you so when they did, it’s the politicos trying to rewrite history that annoy me.

    I’m afraid you are wrong about the financial sector, not a single party wanted to reduce it’s size. They may have wished other sectors to grow in proportion of GDP but not at the expense of the financial sector. There were some interesting questions in the commons when the european central bank was created where MP’s from all parties were concerned that the city of London could lose it’s position as the center of finance in europe with organisations relocating to Frankfurt.

    As for personal indebtedness this is a result of a lack of restraint from the banks as much as it was a matter of regulation. When I first applied for a mortgage I was able to get 3 times my salary and 1 times my wifes. Obtaining a credit card was like an interogation with the gestapo and even an overdraft required a face to face meeting with the bank manager. Until recently I could get a mortgage of up to 7 times income, a credit card of up to £20K and bank accounts seem to come with an overdraft as stanndard (I didn’t take the mortgage or the card!). To my knowledge the regulations haven’t changed, the banks got greedy, and we all (as a nation) got greedier too. Add in store cards and the selfish society model championed by both Thatcher and Blair then it was indeed a recipe for disaster which I think all share some blame for.

    Finally you seem to feel as if I am an apologist for Labour or Gordon Brown to repeat my words of earlier I do not “excuse his back stabbing dishonest, incompetent and deservedly short premiership and I will never seek to do so”. I think they are pretty unambiguous.

    I would just prefer it if the new politics had a bit less spin and a few more facts in it…

  • patricia roche 12th Nov '10 - 9:34am

    the elections will decide reasons to be cheerful

  • Sorry Liz but this list shows naivety, complacency or that you are simply out of touch. Some things are plain daft how you can you claim that something already existing – free museums are something ” which would not have happened if Liberal Democrats had not been in government making them happen”. Bizarre.

    In my area, Sure Start is already preparing for actual cuts, we have lost significant funding to schools most recently the cutting of sports money – has been really valuable in a deprived area, local waiting lists are rising, several local centre run by charities are preparing for closure. I am afraid setting out in a rather casual way a list of measures that are not quite as significant as you believe is close to being offensive.

  • charliechops1 14th Nov '10 - 5:48am

    Plasters on a very angry and painful rash. The Coalition can produce lists of minor acts of amelioration of Government policies. Good on you. But the original sin is to cooperate in Coalition cuts. They bear down on the poor and far outweigh sweeties. Lib Dems should enjoy their brief spell of Ministerial glory but plan for the inevitable change in vocation.

  • @ Steve Way

    Thanks for the clarification Steve. The problem I see with Hansard is that it only tells you what politicians were saying in parliament, and nothing about what they were saying and doing elsewhere or what others were saying. As a result, you only get a partial view, which can be misleading if you are using it to justify a claim that certain people were not saying something – my recollection is that several were, perhaps only a few, but they were using things other than parliament to get their message across. In particular, Vince has a long pedigree on this; he was very active outside parliament well before that, being a patron of the Save Our Building Societies campaign, a long
    way back, when Mrs Thatcher was letting the genie out of the bottle. Perhaps I should have been a bit clearer in what I was trying to say.

    Re shrinking the size of the financial sector in the UK, you may well be right in that people were not saying it in words of one syllable, but to increase the size of manufacturing etc, would inevitably lead to a reduction in Finance, due to the limiting factor of the pool of available talent. Indeed the Finance sector’s apparent success was responsible for the problems in manufacturing, research etc. In my daughter’s year at University, a majority of her friends (science graduates) that I spoke to were aiming to go into the City. If only one of them had instead found a way to make the internal combustion engine 0.01% more efficient, they would single handedly have added more to the sum of human prosperity, than all those who went into the City put together.

    Re Personal indebtedness, there were many factors – lack of restraint from the banks was key, as was naive personal recklessness, and short sighted politicians. But regulation is the long stop, and the move to Basel 2 Capital Adequacy requirements allowed Banks to re-model their problems away. A good regulator with a long memory would have realized that, the trouble is that the influence of those who lived through or suffered from the last crash had finally died away and all the new “Alpha males and females” in Financial services were allowed to run riot. Stopping bubbles forming (or at least getting too big) is a key aspect of regulation. Not just allowing ever more cash to be shovelled onto the economic bonfire.

    In actual fact, I don’t think you and I are too far apart in our analysis of the situation, perhaps I do give more weight to the extent to which individuals rather than parties reacted to the forming bubble. However, in no way do I don’t feel you are an apologist for Labour or Gordon – it’s just that I am even more damning of the man and the consequences of his delusions.

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