Friday, 4 March 2016

FOI reveals true scale of Labour hypocrisy as public sector funds 85% of 'cost cutting' advertising

The hypocrisy of Labour-run Lambeth council continues this month as a series of new posters appear across the Borough bemoaning cuts in the council’s government grant. At the same time, council leader Cllr Lib Peck states in the £250,000-a-year taxpayer funded Lambeth Talk:

“There’s nothing like the January bills to emphasise the post-Christmas pinch. The pressure on Lambeth Council’s funding is considerably more than a pinch – more like a throttling, with 56 per cent of our main funding cut….”
Cllr Peck goes on to claim that the council is:
“…always looking for new ways to use our resources and assets wisely.”
Well here’s a tip, Lib – cut the propaganda rag and taxpayer-funded political ads.
I’ve written before about the huge waste of cash that is Lambeth Talk, and Lambeth’s repeated claims about the cost of their cuts posters being just £600, ignoring the opportunity costs of Lambeth not selling on their ad space. But a new Freedom of Information request has revealed how Lambeth Labour are taking taxpayers for an even bigger ride.
The council have always claimed that advertising revenues off-set around 25 per cent of the cost to taxpayers of the monthly magazine, and that in recent years that advertising revenue has risen, nearly doubling this year to £54,319.
However, as Lambeth’s response to my FOI shows, a whopping 85 per cent of advertising in Lambeth Talk that is designed to offset the cost to taxpayers is in fact from other public sector bodies and 13 per cent is the council’s own advertising. Private enterprise has no interest in advertising in Lambeth’s unnecessary propaganda rag, so the council have resorted to pushing taxpayers money round in circles in an attempt to cover up their scandalous waste of residents’ money.
Let’s hope Lambeth Labour will follow colleagues in Tower Hamlets and finally take the axe to Lambeth Talk.

First published on Conservative Home (03/03/16)

Monday, 31 August 2015

CONSERVATIVE LONDON MAYORAL SELECTION

YOU DECIDE - LONDONERS INVITED TO HELP THE PARTY CHOOSE ITS CANDIDATE


The Conservative Party is holding an online primary to select its candidate for the 2016 London Mayoral Election. Anyone in London who is on the electoral roll can register to vote to help the party choose who will stand for the Conservatives in the election next year.

The current Mayor of London Boris Johnson was selected as the Conservative candidate in 2007 using a primary and the party is again giving all Londoners the opportunity to be involved in the process.

Four candidates have been shortlisted to stand in the primary. Andrew BoffZac GoldsmithStephen Greenhalgh and Syed Kamall .

Voting will take place online during September following an official hustings, with the result announced at the end of September, ahead of the Conservative Party conference. 

The election for Mayor takes place on Thursday 5th May 2016.


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Is Corbyn a gift for the Liberal Democrats? #ToriesForCorbyn be careful what you wish for

There are two big ‘ifs’ in this political equation, (i) if Labour are actually fool-hardy enough to reject the idea of pragmatic politics in favour of permanent protest by electing Jeremy Corbyn as leader, and (ii) if the Lib Dems have the fight to get back in the game.

Putting aside that the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader would be a disaster for the Conservative Party, not the great gift the #ToriesForCorbyn would have you believe, a Corbyn victory could be a gift for our old coalition colleagues in the Lib Dems.

An extreme left-wing Corbyn Labour opposition not only risks allowing the Conservative Government to drift back to an unelectable comfort zone on right, it also runs a very clear risk of a loony-left Government come 2020. The old adage that Government’s lose elections, oppositions don’t win them exists for a reason.  

In dragging Her Majesty's Official Opposition to the unionised fringes of the left wing extreme, Corbyn would undoubtedly attract a gaggle of new lefty-lovies, but in doing so he will abandon the centre-ground on which almost every election has ever been won. The instant Conservative poll bounce that would likely should not be seen as a reason for our party to make the same mistake and abandon the centre, we would do so at our peril. Yellow Peril.

Having just evicted 49 Liberal Democrats MPs from Parliament, moving away from the centre ground would leave a gaping hole through which they could return and challenge us. Not only could our old coalition friends rebuild with their ever reliable tricks in the inevitable by-elections that will test our tiny majority, but in the 2020 marginals as left-wing liberals who abandoned the party in favour of Labour come looking for a new home as they escape the socialist ideology of Corbyn Labour. There may yet be a second Liberal surge.

Even if, as I hope we do, we take this opportunity to make a true One Nation Conservative claim to the centre ground, Labour’s own leftward plunge has opened a gap on the British political spectrum, on which any savvy Lib Dem strategist should be setting up tent. The centre-left, arguably the place they have always felt most comfortable, is looking like fertile territory for a party in need of an identity.


So let’s be careful what we wish for and not allow #ToriesForCorbyn to give the ultimate prize to the Liberal Democrats. 

Sunday, 2 August 2015

The NHS: leading the way in transparency for taxpayers

My article for Conservative Home with Cllr Jonathan Glanz.

Earlier this month, the government announced a significant but under reported change in the way the NHS in England will issue prescription medicines. From next year, medicines that cost more than £20 per pack will have the indicative cost, alongside the words “funded by the UK taxpayer” printed on the pack.

This is a welcome and bold move. It takes another step in the direction of empowering people and providing them with more information about the public services they use. We have written before about the importance of users of all public services better understanding the cost and value of those services. Not only does this help greater understanding of the politics and economics of public services, is also gets over the something-for-nothing culture that often prevails.



It would be madness not to look at the £14.4 billion cost of prescription drugs to the NHS, which rose 7.6 per cent last year, at a time when the NHS needs to find £22 billion of efficiency savings over the next five years. These savings need to be made even while NHS spending as a whole is protected and will in fact rise by £10 billion.

In an article in September 2012, we argued:

To rebalance the economy and restore a rational state, the Government needs to act boldly and remind taxpayers just what it is they are paying for… following a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Ben Gummer MP, Osborne took the next baby step in the transparency agenda and adopted individual tax statements… but tax statements are only one side of the coin… What is also needed is a personalised statement of services to be issued alongside your tax statement… to break the cycle of dependency and deliver a smaller State, we need everyone to be more connected to what we get and what we pay for it.”
The move by Jeremy Hunt to inform patients of the costs of medicines dispensed on prescription is another very welcome step along that pathway to better transparency and understanding. Let us also take this opportunity to remind ourselves why this is needed. As it stands, we are expected to deliver a budget deficit of £69.5 billion in 2015/16, that is spending £1,000 more than we raise in taxes – this year alone – for every man, woman and child living in the UK. With Government departments needing to find 40 per cent savings in order to plug that gap and deliver balanced books, we need to bring public opinion with us when cutting the size of the state. The easiest way to do that is to show people exactly what it costs.

And there is plenty of evidence to support the case. In Wales where prescriptions are free, Paracetamol – which costs as little as little as 23 pence over the counter – is prescribed on the NHS at the rate of more than 1 million prescriptions a year. In fact, doctors in Wales wrote more than 74 million prescriptions for free medication last year. The statistics published by the Welsh Government reveal that the number of prescription drugs being issued is now 52 per cent higher than a decade ago. This is a scandalous waste of public resources. Simply reminding people (and doctors) of the cost to their purse and those of other taxpayers would have a behavioural impact on demand that could reduce demand by at least 20 per cent.

Take another example, there have been numerous studies on the cost of pathology tests and how simply changes to request forms or making doctors aware of the cost of tests dramatically reduces the number of unnecessary tests carried out. Replicating this across all public services is a sensible approach to reduce waste and manage costs.

In making this simple change, Jeremy Hunt is seeking to tackle the level of prescription waste, which costs the NHS £300 million a year. He is beginning to broker a new deal between the citizen and State and in so doing will reaffirm the value of public services received.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Osborne should raise fuel duty by 50 per cent next month

Yesterday I wrote a piece for Conservative Home on fuel duty, reproduced below:

The days and weeks after an election win are critical for any Government. Five weeks in to the first Conservative Government in 18 years, the narrative looks dominated by Europe.
That is a narrative that can only last two years at most, but as George Osborne prepares to deliver his first Conservative-only budget on July 8, there is a once in a parliament opportunity to be bold and set a clear direction of travel which can shape the economic narrative over the whole parliament.
The Chancellor should act now to shift the burden of tax from income to consumption, setting a course for a radical reshaping on the tax debate that embeds fairness, efficiency and environmentalism at the core of our economic plans.

In his Budget of 2011, the Chancellor announced a long overdue plan to scrap the fuel duty escalator introduced by Gordon Brown and cut fuel duty in order to help hard pressed families. Inflation was running at close to five per cent and it was the right time to act.
Huge credit must go to the brilliant campaigning by Robert Halfon in putting an end to the escalator, and ensuring the Conservative Party in government acts in the interest of hard-working Britons.
In place of the escalator – which saw fuel duty rise by a penny a litre above inflation – the Chancellor introduced higher charges for oil companies who were benefiting from bumper prices: the so called fuel duty stabiliser.
Announcing the change in his Budget speech, George Osborne said:
“We can introduce a Fair Fuel Stabiliser. From tomorrow the supplementary charge levied on oil and gas production will increase from 20% to 32%… That will raise £2 billion additional revenue. But… if the oil price sustains a fall below $75, and we will consult on the precise figure, we will reintroduce the escalator and reduce the new oil tax in proportion.”
This was not a new idea. In fact it was a proposal he first made in 2008 as Shadow Chancellor, when as part of his justification he highlighted the need to stabilise the price of carbon and encourage investment in new low-carbon technologies: “In the case of fuel duty this works mainly by encouraging a long term shift towards lower emission vehicles and alternative methods of transport that do less damage to the environment.”
But what has happened? An unforeseen fall in the global oil price led to changes in the North Sea tax regime to support investment in new fields, but now oil has traded below $70 a barrel since September and there has been no increase in Fuel Duty. It looks like the fair duty stabiliser has been abandoned.
With the UK expected to be the fastest growing economy in the G7 for the second year running, employment at record levels and inflation tipping into negative territory, there is an opportunity now to be bold in championing workers by cutting the jobs tax.
So in his first all-Conservative Budget, the Chancellor should consider a hefty rise in Fuel Duty to fund a tax cut for working people.
one pence per litre hike in petrol and diesel duty raises £250m a year. For every penny hike in Fuel Duty you could raise the point at which we start to pay National Insurance by £104.
A 24 pence rise would allow the NI threshold to rise to match the Personal Allowance, taking around three million of the lowest paid out of this tax.
To ensure such a rise does not penalise communities who have little choice but to depend on their car, an adjustment can be made to the Rural Duty Relief Scheme.
Not only does such a change in taxation demonstrate our commitment to ensuring work always pays, taking the lowest paid out of the Jobs Tax meets our manifesto pledge to prioritise the lowest paid for tax cuts.
It is also delivers the Conservative plan, championed by Cameron in opposition, to shift the burden of tax from income to consumption. Doing so is greener and fairer, and more effective in raising tax and tackling avoidance.
It is also electorally essential. More than a million votes going to the Green Party in England and Wales at the General Election – 171,000 of those in London where we will need second preference votes to win in May 2016.
Now is the time to step up to the challenge and wrestle the environmental mantle back from the left by delivering ‘green’ policies in an economically Conservative manner.
With petrol prices down from their peak at over 140 pence a litre and currently averaging 116 pence per litre, the Chancellor could put fuel price back to where they were when he cancelled future rises by abolishing the escalator and deliver a £300 income tax cut to workers across Britain.
Post-election, riding high in the polls, this is the time to make bold decisions.

Monday, 22 June 2015

£12bn of welfare cuts can be matched with £12bn of tax cuts


Emerging from the General Election with a somewhat unexpected majority, the Chancellor now has two tasks in hand – the most talked about is finding £12bn of welfare cuts, but an equal priority for a Government wishing to create a “high wage, low tax, low welfare" economy must be to deliver tax cuts to low and middle income workers.

Perhaps the Coalition Government’s most popular tax policy was raising the personal allowance which will have given the majority of low and middle earner a tax cut of £825 a year. At the election, the Conservatives pledged to go further, pledging a “Tax Free Minimum Wage” and a personal allowance that would, by law, rise every year in line with incomes. This is a commendable aim, based on the Government delivering above inflationary increases to the NMW, reaching £8 by 2019, and a £12,500 Personal Allowance.

The cost of delivering a £12,500 allowance is roughly £12bn.

Giving workers £12bn of their hard earned money back, while at the same time seeking to find £12bn of savings in welfare. This should be a sign of joined up Government, not coincidence.

However, where Governments have failed in the past is to cut their cloth at the same (or faster) rate than they wish to cut taxes. Gordon Brown created a complex system of Tax Credits that are near impossible to unfold in any straight forward manner, he chose to do this rather than cut the taxes of same people who funded his spending sprees to allow him to take with one hand and give away with the other wasting our money on Government machinery along the way.

With the recent increases in the Personal Allowance – and those proposed over the next 5 years – allowing people to keep more of their own money, there is a diminishing need to continue the supply of Tax Credits to State-subsidise wages. But unless we reform both tax and welfare at the same time and in near equal measure, we will never be able to successfully remove the give-and-take welfare of the Tax Credit system.

In taking this step, which reduces the tax base – both in number of taxpayers and revenues – the Government must also make inroads into working welfare. According to the Treasury, about 4.5 million families received child and working tax credits in 2013-4, around 70% of those families are in work. Tax Credits which cost £28.6bn last year, and are forecast to rise to £35.4bn by 2018/19. That is a massive subsidy to employers of workers on the low pay.

I am instinctively a low tax Conservative. Whenever and wherever we can, we should seek to cut tax on income, especially those on the lower pay. Equally, in a globalised world where shifting income out of the grasp of the tax man is ever easier, I favour moving the burden of tax away from income towards consumption, as both a more effective way of raising revenue and reducing avoidance loopholes, as well as driving behaviour change for social, economic or ecological reasons


With the need to cut £12bn of welfare and £12bn of taxes the Chancellor is presented with a unique opportunity. If he fails to take on the challenge head on an unwind Gordon Brown’s disastrous legacy of Tax Credits, he will almost certainly come to regret it.  

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 www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.

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 https://www.conservatives.com/howmuchwillyousave