Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Have the Liberal Democrats really cut Income Tax?

Well, yes, of course we have. And it is us - remember, Tory manifesto = tax cuts for rich dead people and those in possession of a marriage certificate, Lib Dem manifesto = tax cuts for lowest and middle earners. As Louise Phillips points out in the Huffington Post, we've managed to achieve that without giving way on Tory plans to cut tax for the rich or the married.

The amount of money you can earn before you start paying tax has gone up by £1000 since the Coalition took office in May 2010, giving basic rate taxpayers around £200 a year back in their pockets and taking 91,000 Scots and almost a million  people across the UK out of paying tax altogether. But do people really know about that?

Just because it's been written on every Lib Dem leaflet (and if it hasn't been on yours, I seriously want to know why), doesn't mean that this huge achievement has permeated the public consciousness. We're not alone. I've just been reading Jodi Kantor's book, The Obamas and she wrote about similar problems experienced by the Obama Administration. America's low and middle earners had no idea he'd cut taxes, either.

The thing is people don't feel richer. Far from it. Although inflation is down from its 5.2% high, prices have risen by way more than incomes, there's been the VAT increase (which Labour would have done, too. No choice after they cocked the economy up as spectacularly as they did) and fuel and energy price hikes to contend with. There's no way people feel like someone's just handed them a couple of hundred quid because it's been swamped.

That money, though, may well have paid for, say, a month's Council Tax, or filled a wee Micra with petrol five times, or a month and a bit of a train season ticket, or a couple of week's groceries. I wonder if we need to show what we have effectively paid for rather than talk about the abstract of money back in your pockets. People just don't feel that there's any there.

We need to get people to think what £200 means to them and to realise they'd have had to find that if it hadn't been for us. And then we need to get them engaged in campaigning for the extra £750 we are trying to win for them if we get the tax threshold raised to £12,500. Getting this petition on the No 10 website to 100,000 signatures would be a start, because that would secure a parliamentary debate on the issue.

People in work have had an extra £200 from us - we need to make sure that they can visualise what we did for them.We've not won that battle yet. I am not yet sick to death of hearing Liberal Democrats talking about it on the tv, although they certainly seem to be making more of an effort. They get extra Brownie points from me if they can do so without using that horrendous phrase "hard working families" or any variation of it.

Do you have any ideas about how we can better promote what we are doing in Government generally?

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