Friday, January 02, 2015

Ed Balls - still working on that credibility thing, I see...

A cup of tea, that will help...
I see that the Shadow Chancellor has written another piece for the Guardian explaining why George Osborne's austerity is bad but Labour's will be so much nicer - the axe will look pretty, as I understand it.

So far, however, the actuality of what Labour might do to reduce the deficit to nil has been, to put it kindly, noticeable only by its lack of content, with the honourable exception of Rachel Reeves, who has proposed a range of changes to the social security system which are not really of the kind that will get Labour activists dancing in the streets. So, with just four months to go before polling day, what has Ed come up with?

This choice is not about whether to get the deficit down. All the main parties are committed to balancing the books in the next parliament – whatever the smears from David Cameron. But only Labour has a plan which is tough and deliverable, balanced and fair. We will cut the deficit every year, and get the current budget into surplus – and national debt falling – as soon as possible in the next parliament. But we will take a different approach to the Tories. We will reverse the £3bn a year tax cut the Tories and Lib Dems have given the top 1% of earners, and put saving our NHS at the heart of Labour’s first budget with our plan to raise an extra £2.5bn a year. We will also scrap the winter fuel allowance for the richest pensioners and cap child benefit rises at 1%. Our review of every pound spent by government is finding savings that can be made in order to better protect frontline services, including £250m in policing and over half a billion in local government. And in the coming weeks my shadow cabinet colleagues will set out further details of the savings they have identified and the reforms they will make.

So, what do we now know? The top rate of tax will, presumably, be increased to 50%. Will it raise £3 billion a year? Well, that rather depends on your stance on the Laffer curve, I guess. But let's say that it does what Ed claims. However, Ed will raise, and spend, a chunk more money on the NHS - he is somewhat silent on how he'll raise the funds, presumably via the mansion tax.

The winter fuel allowance will be scrapped for wealthy pensioners, some of the benefits of doing so  to be eaten up by the bureaucracy of means-testing, I guess. Child benefit will be cut in real terms, taking money away from the poor - I'm not expecting to see that on a Labour leaflet any time soon.

Oh, and that classic, finding savings - shorthand for cutting spending - on policing and local government. And all of this to be done by a bunch of people who, for the most part, failed utterly to do so when they were last in government.

I'm particularly looking forward to Andy Burnham's proposals for reform of the NHS... involving no top-down reorganisations or restructuring...

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