Lynne Featherstone writes… Lib Dem action on tax helps to ease the cost of living

International Development minister Lynne Featherstone writes a monthly column for one of her local newspapers. Here is the latest one…..

There are so many perks of living in Haringey – vibrant high streets, good transport links, wonderful parks and views – to name but a few!

But on the downside, our bin collections, roads and other public services are notoriously bad. Haringey Council – which is run by Labour – has been rated the worst in London.

Week in, week out, Haringey Labour seem to lurch from one crisis to another. They failed to meet their own targets for making our local roads safe, and allowed £3.7 million to be spent on bonuses which could have been spent on repairs to local homes.

This just isn’t fair on local residents or the hard working officials and frontline workers at the Council. We all deserve a Council that is run efficiently, and directed to spend taxpayers money on the things that matter most.

Despite the poor services, under the previous Labour Government the average Council Tax bill in Haringey increased by a whopping £474. Year on year, Council Tax for Haringey residents increased way above the rate of inflation.

Constantly rising Council Tax did not help individuals and families with the cost of living – particularly after the recession began.

The Liberal Democrats, however, are taking steps to help with the cost of living. Addressing spiralling Council Tax bills is one of these steps.

Since the Liberal Democrats entered Government in 2010 – Council Tax for Haringey residents has been frozen. This is due to successful local Liberal Democrat campaigning, and the Government giving extra cash to any Council if they do not increase Council Tax.

This protects residents from the kind of arbitrary tax rises we saw under Labour.  A typical Band D Council Tax bill in Haringey will be £229.63 less from April 2014 than if Labour’s increases carried on as before.

The Liberal Democrats in Government have also secured a £700 tax cut for all workers.

In April, the personal tax allowance (the amount of your salary you can keep before being taxed) will rise to £10,000.

This means that almost 90,000 residents will get to keep an extra £700 of their pay-packet this year. This is a flagship Lib Dem policy – it was on the front of our 2010 manifesto and it has been delivered in Government. We’re now campaigning to make it an £800 tax cut.

This is real Lib Dem action to bring the cost of living down for local residents. The Tories alone would not have done this. In 2010, David Cameron said ‘we couldn’t afford it.’ Labour had 13 years in Government to bring in policies like this – and they failed to do so.

There is still so much work to do. The economic crisis has taken its toll on many in Haringey, and we are only just beginning to see signs of recovery.

But these measures, Council Tax freezes and the £700 tax cut for all workers are designed to help with the cost of living, and they wouldn’t be happening without the Lib Dems in Government.

* Lynne Featherstone was the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green from 2005 to 2015, and served as a minister in both the Home Office and Department for International Development. She blogs at www.lynnefeatherstone.org.

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15 Comments

  • “In April, the personal tax allowance will rise to £10,000…This is a flagship Lib Dem policy – it was on the front of our 2010 manifesto and it has been delivered in Government.”

    Barely – you’re admitting it took 4 years to start a policy that was on the front of the manifesto and agreed with the Tories on day 1. If you count that as a success, I’d learn a little modesty about it; from a voter perspective having 5 years to implement and then doing it just prior to an election is going to make people very cynical.

    Maybe you could of done something whilst Rome was burning rather than timing the changes to be introduced just prior to your collective job evaluation?

  • Pedants’ Corner – Chris B – “could HAVE done…”, not “could OF done”.

    Boasting about this as helping the lower paid is just not on. Think about it – people are losing both in-work benefits and benefits in kind through public services which have been cut. Those who have unequivocally gained are further up the income scale.

  • So are we to take it then that the Liberal Democrats no longer support localism, preferring to see local government funding distributed centrally rather than voted for locally, and local councils “directed” where to spend their funds?

  • Stuart Mitchell 24th Jan '14 - 7:56pm

    “under the previous Labour Government the average Council Tax bill in Haringey increased by a whopping £474”

    Bogus stat alert!! Lynne is actually treating the 1997/98 increase as having happened “under Labour”, but of course Labour did not take office until May, so the 97/98 increase actually happened under the Tories. Why do politicians always have to over-egg the pudding in this way?

    “The Liberal Democrats in Government have also secured a £700 tax cut for all workers.”

    Um, no. Many workers do not earn enough to qualify – most of them women.

  • JRC The party has lost its way on local funding etc ever since it dropped Local Income Tax (along with Charles Kennedy). It has struggled ever since, and I doubt if it will make a recovery till those mistakes are acknowledged, along with more recent tax and public spending mistakes. Another leadership error, that it cannot be “serious about Government” without going along with centralisation.

  • Liberal Neil 25th Jan '14 - 8:45am

    ChrisB – The policy hasn’t just been implemented towards the end of the parliament, it has been implemented in stages year by year. So as of last April it was a £600 a year income tax cut for basic rate taxpayers which rises to £700 this April.

  • Chris Manners 25th Jan '14 - 1:56pm

    “Also, you over-egg things when you say that “many workers do not earn enough to qualify (for the £700 tax cut)”. It’s some rather than many. ”

    Er, right, thanks.

    http://www.leftfootforward.org/images/2010/10/Distributional-impact-of-tax-and-benefit-measures-to-be-in-place-by-2014-15.jpg

    “Of course what you should have pointed out (as I have done, repeatedly) is that it is NOT a £700 tax cut. It is a £700 Income Tax cut.”

    You might do. Your government never do.

    Raising the tax threshold is a very inefficient way of helping poor families.

  • Stuart Mitchell 25th Jan '14 - 2:55pm

    @Simon Shaw
    “I think you have your stats wrong.”

    Simon, do you just instinctively contradict everything I say here, or do you actually think any of this stuff through first? My stats are completely correct. See here :-

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/185713/Band_D_time_series_text3.xls

    Band D Council tax in Haringey:
    1996/97: £710
    1997/89: £746

    2010-11: £1,184

    So Lynne is clearly using 1996/97 as her baseline (since 1184 – 710 = 474). But she is wrong to do so, because the 1997/98 rate was set when the Tories were still in power, so it is 1997/98 she should be using as her baseline. Get it? By using 96/97 as her baseline, she is saying that the 97/98 increase happened “under Labour”, which is wrong.

    “If 1997/98 were used as the “base” year against which the £474 increase was calculated then that would be fair and correct.”

    No, you completely misunderstand. 1997/98 is the figure Lynne SHOULD be using as her base year. It’s because she isn’t doing this that I described her figure as bogus, which it is. You’re a local councillor – surely you are aware that 1997/98 council tax rates were set prior to Labour taking office in May 1997?

  • Stuart Mitchell 25th Jan '14 - 3:46pm

    @Simon Shaw
    “No I din’t “completely misunderstand”.

    Since you said my stats were “wrong”, but have now grudgingly admitted they are right, you obviously misunderstood somewhere along the line.

    “Your problem was that you didn’t explain yourself clearly in your earlier quote.”

    Apologies. When I stated that “Lynne is actually treating the 1997/98 increase as having happened ‘under Labour’,”, I assumed it would be obvious that I was saying she was using a point prior to 1997/98 as her baseline. I realise now that I should not have expected you to be able to work that out for yourself.

    “the correct figure for the Haringey Band D Council Tax increase under the Labour government is ‘only’ £438.”

    Which is markedly less than what Lynne Featherstone is claiming. And let’s not bother with any sort of context such as the fact that cumulative inflation was over 40% during Labour’s time in office (i.e. the increase wasn’t that big in real terms), or that Haringey actually imposed one of the lowest council tax rises of any London borough during the period.

  • Stuart Mitchell 25th Jan '14 - 3:52pm

    @Simon Shaw
    “Also, you over-egg things when you say that ‘many workers do not earn enough to qualify (for the £700 tax cut)’. It’s some rather than many. Of course what you should have pointed out (as I have done, repeatedly) is that it is NOT a £700 tax cut. It is a £700 Income Tax cut.”

    You misunderstand again. Many workers don’t earn as much as £10,000 so will not be receiving even a £700 income tax cut.

    When Lynne says: “The Liberal Democrats in Government have also secured a £700 tax cut for all workers.”

    What she should in fact be saying is: “The Government has secured a £700 income tax cut for all workers earning at least £10,000.”

    It’s a typical example of a politician exaggerating in a way that makes her look dishonest.

  • Stuart Mitchell 25th Jan '14 - 8:16pm

    @Simon Shaw
    “Just for the record, Stuart, I only ‘instinctively contradict’ what you say when it is wrong or misleading.”

    What did I say that was wrong then Simon? You have already admitted that I was correct to say that Lynne’s figure was wrong. I honestly can’t understand why you’ve posted four responses attacking me for stating what you now acknowledge is a fact.

    You may think a 17% increase in real terms spread over 13 years is a huge deal – I don’t, especially when you consider that real wages increased by more than that. I believe decent public services are worth paying for – an idea that the Lib Dems used to believe in also, not so long ago. And compared with the energy price hikes your party supports, it’s piffling.

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