What would you do with a £60 a month budget break?
The level at which people start paying income tax in this country is too low. People on low incomes pay far more of their income in tax than higher earners. This has got to end.
As the Liberal Democrats’ former Treasury Spokesman I have long argued the case for raising the level at which people start paying tax. I campaigned for it as the top priority in our 2010 manifesto. On the doorsteps people told me they liked the idea but they doubted we could deliver it.
Now it is actually happening. In the Coalition Government’s first budget we raised the threshold by £1,000. By April we will have taken 1 million people out of tax and cut income tax for 23 million people by up to £330 a year.
We are now committed to accelerating the progress towards that £10,000 threshold in next week’s budget, increasing the take home pay of every standard rate taxpayer by £60 per month.
Why do we think this is so important? Quite simply it is about fairness. Liberal Democrats in Government are having to take tough decisions clearing up Labour’s mess. We are doing the right thing but we know that people on lower and middle incomes need some extra help. Wealthier sections of society must pay their share and first call on the proceeds of taxes on high earners should go to help those less well off.
At the same time the economy needs stimulus. A tax cut on this scale may encourage people who are understandably cautious to spend some of this extra money which in turn would help jobs and growth. What would you do with an extra £60 a month?
The coalition Government has already given the biggest ever boost to the state pension, which will go up by £5.30 a week next month. Liberal Democrats in Government have ensured that pensions will always go up by whichever is the greatest of prices, earnings or 2.5% so, never again, will a derisory increase of 25p be introduced.
But the needs of working people need to be catered for too.
In the long run, I want to raise the threshold further so that people on the minimum wage pay no tax at all.
However, right now, as fast as we can make it, Liberal Democrats are delivering in Government what was our top campaign priority at the last election.
Green Investment Bank boost to Scotland’s future
I am delighted the Government have decided to locate the headquarters of the new Green Investment Bank in Edinburgh. The Bank is a Liberal Democrat idea to provide funding for new low carbon energy, sustainable waste management and other environmental projects.
Locating the bank in Edinburgh will help it to plug into the UK’s second biggest financial services sector and will ensure the bank is fully aware of Scotland’s potential in this area.
Ironically, this announcement came on the day that Edinburgh based energy company AF-Mercados UK warned that breaking up the UK market would pose a danger to investment in renewable energy in Scotland.
Much of Scotland’s potential in the low carbon energy field will depend on the contribution from UK consumers. Put simply, spreading the cost across 60 million people, is far more achievable than spreading it among 5 and a half million.
Fuel costs are bound to go up but the Green Investment Bank backed up by a range of other measures is designed to ensure that the UK meets its carbon reduction targets, improves security of supply and creates jobs in new technologies.
North East needs infrastructure action now
Local people are watching with frustration as we inch painfully slowly towards the final go-ahead for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route. The Scottish Government can conveniently blame the legal logjam for this, but that does not explain why the North East has only received 1 per cent of infrastructure spend in Scotland over the past few years.
Indeed, with the AWPR mired in delay, the Government could have decoupled the A90 Tipperty upgrade and the Inveramsay Bridge and brought forward the Haudagain and Third Don Crossing. The trouble is the money has been diverted elsewhere – especially the new Forth Bridge and other central belt priorities.
The SNP Government has been in power for 5 years yet for our area many of the infrastructure improvements remain in the future even beyond the life of the current administration.
I know better than most that it takes a long time to bring projects to fruition but it really is time we saw action.
I know that Aberdeenshire Council have done their bit by bringing forward plans to a very tight deadline and that is how the Government were able to confirm their contribution to new academies in the Mearns and Ellon. However, it is Aberdeenshire Council who have provided the lion’s share of funding for these projects and they have also taken full responsibility for building the new Alford Schools Campus.
Substantial funding for development of broadband across Scotland has come from the UK and Scottish Government and the industry. It is not yet, however, clear how this will be taken forward.
It is crucial for the North East economy both in terms of high tech industries and the needs of rural areas that we get a fair share of this investment. Again Aberdeenshire Council and our local enterprise initiative ACSEF are ready to go but await leadership from Government.
Too much centralisation is damaging to the unique and vital interests of the North East, which must be allow to press for its own priorities.
It really is time we saw some action for the North East from the Scottish Government.