Nick Clegg and today’s FT – by Gareth Epps

Today’s news that the Liberal Democrats have reviewed the pledge to cut the overall burden of taxation is timely and welcome.

It was obvious that financial pressures were disproportionately hitting those on the lowest incomes, even before the start of the recession. Labour’s 10p tax fiasco showed by public reaction that hitting the poorest is not only no way to achieve a fair society – it offended the public as a whole.

Liberals should applaud a commitment to tax the lowest paid, less. That commitment must go hand in hand with measures that promote equality; as we recently confirmed, extending access to further and higher education, as well as committing to invest in vital infrastructure works that create jobs, are the right answers in the teeth of a financial crisis. Those commitments cannot be lost amid the well-trailed squeeze on public finances.

Neither, however, can Liberal Democrats avoid facing up to a financial squeeze that looks inevitable regardless of the colour of the carpets in Number 10 in 2010. The early thinking is promising. There is no shortage of waste within the public sector, and social Liberals cannot be too unhappy about the areas Nick Clegg has earmarked in his interview with the FT. What is now needed – as far as it is possible – is clarity of an approach that protects the most critical elements of our public services, in order to avoid the obvious attack from the Left that a review of public spending – even if that means scrapping Trident – is in some way an attack on those core services.

Today’s statement also helps by putting right what appeared to be a fudge; that statement of wider, unspecified tax cuts last Autumn rapidly looked hard to achieve. Nick Clegg has sharpened the focus of the Liberal Democrat message, and done so in a way that strengthens our position as the only party committed to greater equality and social justice.

Gareth Epps is leader of the Lib Dem Council Group in Reading and the candidate in Reading East

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4 comments on “Nick Clegg and today’s FT – by Gareth Epps
  1. David Allen says:

    “Today’s news … is timely and welcome”.

    Hmm, agree 50%. But even the Tories got there faster…..

  2. David Heigham says:

    Tax redistribution towards more gren taxes and less tax for people at the bottom is possible at any time. Lower taxes in total are a question of “When?”. The answer now is when we have paid down some of the extra debt that Gordon Brown’s careful stewardship has piled on the public sector; and when value for public spending has recovered to the levels that were current before Gordon Brown went on a spending spree.

  3. Gareth Epps says:

    David Allen – I don’t think the Tories have got anywhere on tax! Their position changes on a weekly basis – but, of course, theirs is based entirely on opportunism. David Heigham’s comments are on the button – fairer taxation is possible at any time, given the will to do so.

  4. Richard Coe says:

    I don’t think lower taxes are possible given the current demographics without cutting services and condemning ordinary people to hardship. Private pensions are going down the pan, youngsters stay on in full time education longer and life expectancy, including during the high dependency final years is rising.

    Consequently the proportion of the population which is dependent is increasing relative to that which is working and the cost of providing high quality education / training or social care is also accelerating. At the same time the service sector of the economy dominated by the public service are Labour intensive and have the smallest potential to displace labour with capital.

    If wages in these services are to keep pace with other sectors in the long run, which they must in order to recruit staff, then the proportion of national income devoted to the public service will inevitably grow.

    Growing Government is in fact the long term trend throughout history.The only way to curtail the long term growth in public spending would be to go back to earlier, harder social values, which were prepared to see the poor and old go hungry and sick in the street. Some tories believe in this – I can’t.

    No serious member of the public service can be happy with waste, every pound wasted means fewer operations, less books in school more unsolved crime, the waste genie is not going to solve this problem. WHat we are actually going to see is poorer pensioners, less well off and more heavily taxed workers. Until we work out how to close the tax loopholes and havens to the mega rich, who currently opt out of paying their fair contribution to society, whilst taking more than their fair share of the benefits we will never solve this problem.

    The level of wealth and income equality is great, this and not public sector waste will deliver the real knock out blow. The question is this – should the Duke of Westminster enjoy his wealth and income because a thousand years ago his forebears came over with the conqueror to oppress us and a bit later on they married really well? What shall we do with the money? Who shall we help today, tomorrow and on?

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