Lib Dems promise tax to boost schools

22 Mar 01
The Liberal Democrats are once again relying on a pledge to add 1p to the basic rate of income tax to woo voters, promising to fund improvements in education and bridge the Budget deficit they claim Labour is creating.

23 March 2001

Following Labour and the Conservatives' line, the party chose to focus on public services for its last spring conference before the expected general election.

Treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor accused the government of using its 'war chest' to fund tax cuts rather than boosting the public sector. 'For every pound spent on hospitals, there's £12 on tax cuts,' he told the conference on March 16.

'Weeks before a likely general election and Chancellor Gordon Brown announced £13.5bn worth of tax cuts. Their words are always louder than their actions.'

He claimed that reversing last year's 1p cut in income tax would fund the party's education policy and avert a likely Budget deficit in 2002.

'Our education plans will cut average class sizes to just 25, abolish tuition fees and provide more teachers, books and equipment. You can't get something for nothing… but our plans for education are affordable.'

The tax hike would raise an extra £3bn a year and cost the average taxpayer around £2 extra a week.

Taylor's onslaught forms part of a concerted campaign to undermine Labour's public sector spending record. The Lib Dems claim that total government spending in 2000/01 will be lower than any year of the last Tory government.

According to the party's figures, spending on pensions has fallen to 5.3% of national income compared with 5.4% under John Major's Tory government, while spending on education has fallen to 4.9%, compared with 5% in 1996.

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy led the party's push on public services with pledges on free long-term care for the elderly, an extra £5 a week for the basic state pension and more resources to fund an extra 6,000 'bobbies on the beat'.

'There is something else underpinning our approach,' Kennedy said. 'A passionate belief in the value of public service. A belief in the importance of the work that Britain's health and education professionals do and a determination to let them get on with their work.'


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