Thursday, 9 April 2015

Don't forget to register to vote.

The deadline to register to vote in the general election is 20 April 2015.

With the election champaign in full swing, you might be making your mind up who to vote for on May 7th. But if you've never voted before, moved house in the last 5 years, or never registered, you might not be able to vote in 28 days time.

To ensure you have your vote and your say on May 7th, you need to register to vote. The Government have made this easier than ever with Individual Voter Registration online at

You can use this service to:

  • register to vote
  • update your name, address or other details on the electoral register

Registering takes less than 5 minutes, and must be completed by April 20th.
You’ll need your National Insurance number (from your pay slip), if you have one.

You can also requested register if you have lived in the UK (with the right to vote) in the last 15 years but are now living abroad.
If you're unlikely to be able to vote in person on May 7th, or would prefer to vote by post for any reason, you can also request a postal vote but need to complete a paper application which must reach your local council by 5pm on 21st April.

Monday, 6 April 2015

£825 in your pocket - Income Tax cuts today, a chance for greener taxes tomorrow?

In one of the biggest changes to personal tax in a generation, under this Government is amount you can earn before paying tax has has been gradually and dramatically increased from £6,475 to £10,600 from today. 

This huge change puts £825 of your own money back in to your pocket for anyone earning between £10,600 and £100,000. The lowest earning 3,000,000 workers have be taken out of income tax altogether. 

The Conservatives have made significant steps to cutting tax for the lowest paid, which have also set the path to deliver a key idea of the Cameron modernisation project, shifting the burden of tax away from income and towards consumption - so called 'pay as you burn, not pay as you earn'.

Not only does this help drive consumer behaviour towards greener consumption choices, but also makes it much more difficult, and less desirable, for high earners to avoid tax. As Budget 2015 revealed, the proportion of Government revenue raised from environmental taxes has nearly doubled over the last 5 years.

Having lifted the lowest paid out of tax, there is an opportunity to go much further with greater reductions in income tax across the income spectrum in the next parliament, funded by a shift in the burden of taxation towards 'pay as you burn'.

You can calculate how much you have saved via

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Truth Behind the Jobs Recovery

The headlines are clear - 1.9 million more people in work. That is the message this Government will take to voters over the next 6 weeks - 1,000 jobs created every day under this Government, and pledge to see 1,000 jobs a day under the next Conservative Government.

But many question whether those 1.9 millions jobs are real. So I thought it was worth looking in a bit more detail at not only this Government's record, but that of the last Labour Government as well.

Analysis of employment statistics from the ONS comparing the final 3 months of the previous Government with the latest 3 month period of this Government paints a very clear picture:

  • When Labour came to office in 1997, the employment rate was 70.9%, by April 2010 it had slumped to 70.2% despite 2.6 million more people in work (reflecting boom in population)
  • When the Conservatives came to office in 2010, employment was 70.2%, Today it stands at a record 73.3%, with 1.9 million more people in work.

  • Unemployment grew under 13 years of Labour from 7.2% to 8.0%.
  • In five years of Conservative Government, Unemployment has fallen from 8.0% to 5.7%

  • Inactivity under Labour remained flat over their entire 13 years at 23.6%
  • Under five years of Conservative Government, inactivity has fallen from 23.6% to 22.2%
Making a direct comparison between the performance of this Government and the performance of the last Labour Government, the annual growth rate for employment, employee jobs, self employment, full-time employment, full-time employees was all significantly greater under the Conservatives than Labour:

And as for the charge those jobs are not 'real' 
  • Over 75% of employment growth has come from people in work full-time.
  • Over 70% of jobs are employee jobs i.e. working for a business. 
  • 85.4% of employee jobs created since 2010 are full-time positions - a total of 1.14 million.
And for those still in doubt, questioning the definition of full-time? The ONS who compiled the data define it as: "Full-time defined as employees working more than 30 paid hours per week"
While it is right to say that more people are working part-time, up from 6.6 million in 2010 to 6.8 million today. As a percentage of the workforce employees working part-time has FALLEN from 27% under Labour to 26% under this Government. Under Labour the portion of employees working part-time rose from 25% in 1997 to 27% in 2010.

The percentage of workers on temporary contract has remained stable at 6% of employees through the last 5 years and those who state the reason as "could not find a permanent job" has fallen from 36% in 2010 to 34% in 2015.

The final charge against the Government claim has been that it is unfair to compare 13 years of Labour which ended in recession to 5 years of recovery. A perplexing claim in itself, but even taking the first 5 years of Labour Government after 1997, which inherited a very different economy to that of 2010 (and Labour stuck to Tory spending plans between 1997 and 1999 when the majority of the jobs recovery was made), the current Government out performed Labour with employment growing by twice as much, unemployment down more and a massive cut in inactivity - which Labour failed to reduce:

Friday, 16 January 2015

BBC's #SuperRichAndUs fails maths test

In Episode 2 of the BBC's The Super Rich and Us, in which presenter, Jacques Peretti "investigates how the super-rich are transforming Britain" he makes the rather astonishing claim that
"In reality two thirds of the jobs created since the crash are self employed." (42:30)
Putting aside the overtly political intentions of the show and the one-sided argument put forward, the facts don't support that statement and the entire segment of the show predicated on it.

If we look at the ONS data for the quarter in which employment hit its lowest point during the recession (Jan-Mar 2010) and compare it with the latest data (Aug-Oct 2014), we see that in fact 1.7 million more people are in work today than in March 2010, of which 1.2m of those, two thirds, are in employee jobs. Just 32% of new jobs since the downturn are self employed.

In fact, between March 2010 and October 2014:

  • There are 1,783,000 more people in work
  • Unemployment has fallen by 568,000
  • There are 1,185,000 more company employees, 82% of which are Full Time
  • Self Employment has risen by 581,000
Change in employment types Jan-Mar 10 -Aug-Oct 14

The facts destroy Mr Peretti's claim.

Taking Mr Peretti's assumption, the key question is whether self employment is driving changes in the jobs market rather than economic growth leading to more genuine jobs. As I've shown above that is not the case - 66% of new jobs since the recession are employee jobs, and 82% of those are full time.

If we look further at self employment as a percentage of the workforce, the recent increases in self employment is the continuation of a trend that started in 2001. In late 2001, self employment in the UK hit a historic low of 11.8% of the workforce. Looking just 6 years previous, in 1995 the self employed made up 13.9% of the workforce. Today that figure 14.7%.

An entrepreneurial society should welcome genuine increases in self employment. There is a challenge that only 55% of those self employed are full-time, but we have no indication of how many of those are part time through choice. With many finding appeal in the idea of a 'portfolio career' and the latest cohort to join the jobs market being the most entrepreneurial generation. a boom in self employment should be celebrated, not misrepresented.

Back to school time for Mr Peretti and the BBC.

Lambeth Council pushes up propaganda spending by 300 per cent

Back in November, the latest edition of Labour Lambeth’s propaganda rag dropped through my letter box. I’m not a fan of councils wasting huge sums of taxpayers’ cash to blow their own trumpets and have a record of campaigning against council newspapers.
I’ve also highlighted previously the use of Lambeth Talk to promote the Labour council’s agenda during election purdah.
But this edition was particularly frustrating. The council chose to use it as a mouthpiece to justify cuts in services, carrying their now famous scissors image attacking government cuts.
What price do we, council taxpayers, have to folk out for this?
My recent FOI Request reveals Labour Lambeth spending £210,600 a year of council taxpayers’ money on this pointless publication. That is the equivalent of the total Band D council tax of more than 172 households.
This is before accounting for the time of the communications team in writing copy for the publication.
Lambeth state:
“Lambeth Talk is overseen by a communications officer who edits the magazine and a designer. It also has contributions from the communications team, the wider council and partner organisations. The officers who oversee the magazine also have other responsibilities as well and only spend a percentage of their time working on the production of the magazine.”
Lambeth’s communications team has 15 staff and a budget of £1.25 million.
Perhaps even more shockingly, in a time of council austerity, Labour have chosen to expand the production of Lambeth Talk from four editions a year to monthly publication, while cutting other services.
Labour Lambeth have increased the ‘design, print and distribution costs’ of Lambeth Talk from £86,064.73 in 2011/12 to £191,238.77 in 2013/14, with a budget of £266,520.24 this year. A threefold increase in Labour’s self-promotion budget while, in their own words “Lambeth’s savings challenge means council services will stop and more staff will lose their jobs”.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Can vote / Can't vote. Who decides if I can vote?

Something is going wrong with our democracy.

It may be a little dramatic to say so, but last week the Government took another dangerous step on a slippery slope against a free and fair democracy in the UK.

Secretary of State for Wales, Stephen Crabb, allowed an amendment to the Wales Bill in the House of Lords which will allow the Welsh Assembly to decide if 16 and 17 years old can vote in a future referendum on tax powers for Wales.

Now, I am on the record of being sceptical about the merits of lowering the voting age, but whatever your view of the issue, the idea that the Government of the day can alter the electoral franchise for each election should worry you.

Clearly, following the Scottish referendum there is a debate that needs to be had about the case for votes at 16. A debate I would welcome. But, our stable, free and fair democracy is a threat if we allow politicians to chop and change the eligibility to vote whenever it pleases them.

It was a mistake to grant the vote to 16 and 17 year olds in 2014 Scotland and go on to deny those same people a say over who governs the UK just 8 months later. But it looks as if the Government will allow the Welsh Executive to make that same mistake. 

What we should never do, and what we seem to be taking dangerous steps towards with the Wales Bill, is allowing the Government of the day to set a different franchise for each election - in effect choosing who they allow to vote for their own re-election.

Democracy depends on people having their say, not the government hand picking the voices it will listen to. The franchise is universal and should be fixed as such. If we want 16 and 17 year olds to vote then we should have a proper debate and change the electoral franchise permanently, not mess about allowing politicians to decide the electorate on a whim each time a vote is called.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Why UKIP is wrong to target international aid to fund tax cuts

At their conference in Doncaster, UKIP are setting out their stall for the general election. They will no doubt want the headlines from their £19bn tax cutting promise to be all about helping 'blue collar' workers, but the reality is they plan to balance their books on the backs of millions of the world’s poorest (and even then the IFS says the sums don't add up).


This year, for the first time, the UKs aid budget rose to 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI). This meets a long-standing international commitment to the world’s poorest people, first agreed in 1970 at the UN General Assembly. I'm proud to live in a country, which even whilst running a £100bn deficit, spends a small amount of our income helping those in the world who are in the most desperate need. As the world’s 6th largest economy, surely that is our duty?


We owe more to fellow man-kind than to retreat to a domestic policy agenda that ignore the world around us.


To put the aid budget in context, this year (2014/15) the total UK aid budget is £10.3bn[1] – less than 50 pence a day, per person in the UK. A small price to pay for a mission that in the last 3 years has provided 43.1 million people with access to clean water; helped 10.2 million children, including 4.9 million girls, to go to primary school; reached 11.4 million people with emergency food assistance; helped 85.8 million people to hold their authorities through democratic processes.[2]


Yet UKIP are willing to throw all that away in a cheap and ill thought-out plan for an election giveaway.


British taxpayers’ money, through international development, is helping to build a strong and investable business environments in many developing nations. It is providing security and education to millions of people. Our aid budget is supporting the eradication of preventable disease across swaths of the developing world. It is supporting democracy across the developing world and in doing so underpinning security of our borders at home.


In what they claim will be a patriotic rally against the establishment, UKIP are willing to put at risk.


What matter in politics is your priorities. Unfortunately, UKIP are not only kidding themselves and the country about how to pay for their tax cuts, but risk damaging the UKs hard won reputation on the world stage by pulling back to a little-England mentality.


[1] Budget Red Book, Page 61