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banner Thursday, 1 March, 2001, 12:31 GMT
Lib Dems: An honest alternative

Matthew Taylor is Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman and the MP for Truro and St Austell.
By Matthew Taylor MP

There I was thinking that the traditional pantomime season normally finishes in January.


Both Labour and the Tories pretend you can cut taxes without affecting services. Everyone knows that's not true

But in parliament, at least, it seems it has only just begun. The recent "any tax you can cut, I can cut better"' routine between Gordon Brown and Michael Portillo definitely has a pantomime ring to it.

But before we get too wrapped up in the election campaign trail, Brown has one last Budget to offer.

With a healthy economy, the chancellor knows he can afford spending or tax cuts costing up to 4bn. And the fact is, some real investment is urgently needed.

Sadly, it looks more likely he will try to out-Tory the Tories by offering tax-cut bribes instead.

Cuts from both sides

Labour has actually spent less of the national cake on education, the NHS and pensions than even the Conservatives did in their last years in government.


Our first guarantee is that taxpayers would not be subject to any new stealth taxes

This is because Labour followed Conservative spending plans which meant cuts for Tony Blair's first three years as prime minister.

Recent spending increases as the election approaches have not made up for this. So NHS waiting lists are longer, most class sizes larger, and pensioners got just 75p-a-week in their pension increase last year.

Michael Portillo would like to cut spending even more. By a lot more. Just imagine the cuts that would mean.

Both of them pretend you can cut taxes without affecting services. Everyone knows that's not true. We need to bring down the curtain on this pantomime.

No stealth taxes

It's time for a straightforward, honest approach. This week the Liberal Democrats announced our alternative Budget, which proposes just that.

Our first guarantee is that taxpayers would not be subject to any new stealth taxes. Partly this is since we explain exactly how we would pay for our policies.

But we go further. Put simply, we believe that people who are paying taxes should always know where they stand.


The price? Just 1p on basic rate income tax, costing a typical person just 2 a week to deliver vastly better education for all

We will make sure that every taxpayer knows what taxes they are paying, and any tax changes.

We'll tell you exactly where your taxes go, too. We'll set it all out in a simple notice to every taxpayer, every year.

Better services for all

So what would the Liberal Democrats do in the Budget? Guarantee high quality education for a start. Cutting class sizes to an average of just 25, training more teachers and abolishing unfair tuition fees for students.

The price? Just 1p on basic rate income tax, costing a typical person just 2 a week to deliver vastly better education for all.

For the NHS, we can guarantee 3,300 more training places for Doctors, 11,400 more for nurses - and the funding to employ them in order to cut waiting times once and for all.

Plus free care for elderly patients so that no one has to sell their home to pay for their long-term care.

Pensioners will also get a big increase - at least 5 a week over inflation, in addition to the governments plans, rising to 10 for over 75s and 15 more for over 80s. And there will be 6,000 more police on the beat.

The cost? Just a small increase in tax on those lucky enough to earn over 100,000 a year.

Individually, no one will pay much more. Even someone earning 100,000 a year would pay just 5 a week more.

But put together it would transform our schools, hospitals and pensions, and end once and for all the stealth tax pantomime.

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See also:

26 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Lib Dems demand 'budget for health'
05 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Tax takes centre stage
27 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Think tank calls for NHS tax
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