Ed Balls speaks at the Labour conference in Brighton last year. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Labour targets Osborne's 24 tax rises

The party says "It’s the same old Tory con – giving with one hand while taking away much more with the other."

One of the main messages that George Osborne will aim to send in his Budget tomorrow is that he believes in cutting taxes. Having increased the personal allowance to £10,000 (despite David Cameron arguing that the measure was unaffordable during the first 2010 leaders' debate) from £6,475 in 2010, he will attempt to claim ownership of this Lib Dem policy for the Conservatives when he announces that it will rise to at least £10,500 next year. The Chancellor will frame this as his response to the "cost-of-living crisis" (without using those words).

But as Labour has highlighted tonight, he also has a record of raising taxes. The party has issued a list of 24 levies increased by Osborne since 2010, including VAT, income tax age-related allowances ("the granny tax"), capital gains tax and inheritance tax. It calculates that taxes have risen by £24bn so far this parliament, with a further £3bn of increases to follow in 2014/15.

A party spokesman emphasised to me that Labour is "not opposed" to all of the tax rises (not least because some of them are progressive) but that it wanted to remind people that Osborne has "put taxes up significantly". The opposition wants voters to remember measures such as the VAT rise, rather than just the hike in the personal allowance, the key point being that most are worse off once all tax and benefit changes are taken into account. Here's the accompanying statement from shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie:

“We need a Budget that tackles the cost-of-living crisis which has left working people £1,600 a year worse off under the Tories.

“George Osborne wants to take credit for increasing the personal allowance, but hopes people forget his 24 Tory tax rises including the VAT hike. While millionaires have been given a huge tax cut the truth is millions of hard-working people have seen their taxes go up.

“It’s the same old Tory con – giving with one hand while taking away much more with the other. The VAT rise alone has cost families with children an average of £1,350 over the last three years. And the 24 Tory tax rises don't include the cuts to tax credits which have hit millions of working families.

“A Labour Budget this week would cut taxes for 24 million people on middle and lower incomes by introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax.

“We’d get young people off benefits and into work with a compulsory jobs guarantee, freeze energy bills, expand free childcare, get more homes built and cut business rates for small firms. We’d also reverse the £3 billion tax cut for the top one per cent of earners to get the deficit down in a fairer way.”

The Tories will no doubt cite Labour's attack as further evidence that it the party is unwilling to take the "tough choices" required to reduce the deficit (forecast to be £111bn this year). But Osborne's record will also increase the demands from his own side for some relief to be offered in the Budget.

Here's the list of 24 tax rises released by Labour.

The 24 Tory Tax Rises


1.    VAT increased – to 20 per cent from 2011


2.    Income Tax age-related allowances frozen and eligibility restricted (“Granny Tax”) from 2013-14


3.    Income Tax higher rate threshold cut to £42,475 in 2011-12


4.    Higher Income Child Benefit Charge introduced 2013


5.    National Insurance Contributions rates, limits and thresholds increased in line with CPI rather than RPI from 2012-13


6.    Income Tax higher rate threshold frozen at £42,475 in 2012-13


7.    Insurance premium tax increased – from 2011


8.    Capital Gains Tax increased – to 28 per cent for higher rate taxpayers from June 2010


9.    New Beer Duty introduced on high strength beers from 2011


10. Duty on hand-rolling tobacco increased by an additional 10 per cent from 2011-12


11. ISA subscription limit uprated in line with CPI rather than RPI from 2012-13


12. National Insurance Contributions changes to contracting-out rebates from 2012-13


13. Capital Gains Tax annual exempt amount frozen, 2012-13


14. Stamp Duty Land Tax increase to 7 per cent on properties over £2 million from 2012-13


15. VAT increases on a range of items, including caravans, sports drinks, and listed buildings from 2012


16. Duty on tobacco increased by RPI + 5 per cent in 2012


17. Income Tax higher rate threshold cut to £41,450 in 2013-14


18. Capital Gains Tax annual exempt amount increased in line with CPI rather than RPI from 2013-14


19. Income Tax cap on reliefs introduced from 2013-14


20. Pension tax relief restricted from 2014-15 21.


21. Income Tax higher rate threshold Increase capped at 1 per cent in 2014-15 and 2015-16


22. Capital Gains Tax annual exempt amount increase capped at 1 per cent, 2014-15 and 2015-16


23. Inheritance Tax threshold frozen in 2015-16


24. National Insurance Contributions ending of contracting-out rebates from 2016-17

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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The government needs more on airports than just Chris Grayling's hunch

This disastrous plan to expand Heathrow will fail, vows Tom Brake. 

I ought to stop being surprised by Theresa May’s decision making. After all, in her short time as Prime Minister she has made a series of terrible decisions. First, we had Chief Buffoon, Boris Johnson appointed as Foreign Secretary to represent the United Kingdom around the world. Then May, announced full steam ahead with the most extreme version of Brexit, causing mass economic uncertainty before we’ve even begun negotiations with the EU. And now we have the announcement that expansion of Heathrow Airport, in the form of a third runway, will go ahead: a colossally expensive, environmentally disastrous, and ill-advised decision.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, I asked Transport Secretary Chris Grayling why the government is “disregarding widespread hostility and bulldozing through a third runway, which will inflict crippling noise, significant climate change effects, health-damaging air pollution and catastrophic congestion on a million Londoners.” His response was nothing more than “because we don’t believe it’s going to do those things.”

I find this astonishing. It appears that the government is proceeding with a multi-billion pound project with Grayling’s beliefs as evidence. Why does the government believe that a country of our size should focus on one major airport in an already overcrowded South East? Germany has multiple major airports, Spain three, the French, Italians, and Japanese have at least two. And I find it astonishing that the government is paying such little heed to our legal and moral environmental obligations.

One of my first acts as an MP nineteen years ago was to set out the Liberal Democrat opposition to the expansion of Heathrow or any airport in southeast England. The United Kingdom has a huge imbalance between the London and the South East, and the rest of the country. This imbalance is a serious issue which our government must get to work remedying. Unfortunately, the expansion of Heathrow does just the opposite - it further concentrates government spending and private investment on this overcrowded corner of the country.

Transport for London estimates that to make the necessary upgrades to transport links around Heathrow will be £10-£20 billion pounds. Heathrow airport is reportedly willing to pay only £1billion of those costs. Without upgrades to the Tube and rail links, the impact on London’s already clogged roads will be substantial. Any diversion of investment from improving TfL’s wider network to lines serving Heathrow would be catastrophic for the capital. And it will not be welcomed by Londoners who already face a daily ordeal of crowded tubes and traffic-delayed buses. In the unlikely event that the government agrees to fund this shortfall, this would be salt in the wound for the South-West, the North, and other parts of the country already deprived of funding for improved rail and road links.

Increased congestion in the capital will not only raise the collective blood pressure of Londoners, but will have severe detrimental effects on our already dire levels of air pollution. During each of the last ten years, air pollution levels have been breached at multiple sites around Heathrow. While a large proportion of this air pollution is caused by surface transport serving Heathrow, a third more planes arriving and departing adds yet more particulates to the air. Even without expansion, it is imperative that we work out how to clean this toxic air. Barrelling ahead without doing so is irresponsible, doing nothing but harm our planet and shorten the lives of those living in west London.

We need an innovative, forward-looking strategy. We need to make transferring to a train to Cardiff after a flight from Dubai as straightforward and simple as transferring to another flight is now. We need to invest in better rail links so travelling by train to the centre of Glasgow or Edinburgh is quicker than flying. Expanding Heathrow means missing our climate change targets is a certainty; it makes life a misery for those who live around the airport and it diverts precious Government spending from other more worthy projects.

The Prime Minister would be wise to heed her own advice to the 2008 government and “recognise widespread hostility to Heathrow expansion.” The decision to build a third runway at Heathrow is the wrong one and if she refuses to U-turn she will soon discover the true extent of the opposition to these plans.

Tom Brake is the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton & Wallington.