Labour exposes Osborne's tax cut for bankers

New figures from the party show that 643 bankers earning more than £1m a year will receive an average of £54,000 from the cut in the 50p tax rate.

After a week dominated by welfare cuts, an area where public opinion favours the coalition, Labour is hoping to regain the political advantage tomorrow when the 50p tax rate is officially reduced to 45p. Polls have consistently shown that the public, including Conservative voters, are overwhelmingly opposed to the move and an increasing number of Tory MPs (such as Jesse Norman and Robert Halfon) recognise that the decision inflicted permanent damage on their party's brand. 

Labour has dubbed tomorrow "Tory Millionaires' Day" after calculating that the UK's 13,000 income millionaires will receive an average tax cut of £100,000 a year (nearly four times the median salary of £26,500). Now the party's number crunchers have produced some equally potent stats on the gains that the top earning bankers will make. Labour has calculated that 643 bankers, working in the UK's five major banks and earning more than £1m a year, will receive a combined tax cut worth at least £34.6m per year - an average of £53,775 per banker. Millionaire bankers in the state-backed RBS and Lloyds are set to get a tax cut of over £7.5m per year - an average of £63,686 each. In addition, the 40 highest paid senior bank executives will receive a tax cut worth almost £4m - an average of £99,694 each.

Chris Leslie, the shadow financial secretary to the Treasury said:

People on middle and low incomes, who are paying more in higher VAT and seeing their tax credits and child benefit cut, will be totally appalled at the size of this government's tax giveaway to highly paid banking executives.

While the average family will be £891 worse off this year because of tax and benefit changes since 2010, it cannot be right for David Cameron and George Osborne to give a huge tax cut to millionaires this weekend.

Forcing millions to pay more while millionaires pay less is the act of a government that is totally out of touch and consistently stands up for the wrong people. Bankers are getting a bonus from David Cameron and George Osborne, while Britain's families pay the price for their economic failure.

For Osborne, who was careful in the Budget to emphasise that the banks would not benefit from the reductions in corporation tax, the figures are a political headache. The Chancellor's consistent line is that the 50p rate was ineffective because the rich avoided it (in fact, as I explained here, it raised £1bn in its first year and would have gone on to raise more) but to most voters that sounds like an argument for clamping down on avoidance (as the coalition claims it is doing), not for cutting taxes for the highest earners. 

People walk past the Royal Bank of Scotland building in London. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.