Tag Archives: free TV licence

Tax the rich? Hardship payments for benefit claimants? Sorry Nick – we believed you once before

Nick Clegg: He must have had his forked tongue in his cheek when he wrote the Liberal Democrats' latest list of pledges.

Nick Clegg: He must have had his forked tongue in his cheek when he wrote the Liberal Democrats’ latest list of pledges.

The Liberal Democrats have launched a desperate attempt to win back voters, packing their General Election manifesto with meaningless pledges.

Why are they meaningless? Because the Liberal Democrats, under the same leader (Nick Clegg), made pledges to us before the 2010 election – having already hammered out an agreement with the Conservatives that meant they would not be able to honour those commitments.

There is evidence that teams representing the Tories and Liberal Democrats negotiated what would be in a coalition agreement on March 16, 2010 – and abolishing student tuition fees, a principle Liberal Democrat pledge, was not part of it.

In this light, how can we believe Liberal Democrat plans to push for higher capital gains tax, bringing it more closely in line with income tax? How can we believe they would change tax relief for entrepreneurs, so it does not provide a tax loophole for the super-rich – or even the modest plan to cut tax relief on pensions from £1.4 million to £1 million? And how can we believe they will restrict access to “non-dom” tax status for foreigners living in Britain who do not pay tax on their earnings abroad?

The BBC has an even more hard-to-believe report that the Liberal Democrats will cut the Winter Fuel Allowance and free TV licences for better-off pensioners, in order to pay for a 66 per cent discount on bus travel (in England only) for young people aged 16-21.

This is doubly insulting to our intelligence. Firstly, a concession on bus fares is no consolation for the tripling of student tuition fees in which the Liberal Democrats participated after promising to abolish them instead – and don’t they know that means-testing benefits to discover who deserves them is not a simple matter? It is complex and costly – as Alex Little told us only a few days ago.

This comment of his is particularly apt: “Old Tories are often popping up to say they don’t need their £250 winter fuel allowance. It may be true that they don’t need it, but their motives for mentioning it are so these things will be means tested, the budget will be slashed and then they think they can ask for lower taxes, or more ‘contributory benefits‘ (code for benefits not available to the ‘undeserving’ who’ll need to rely on charity).”

The Liberal Democrats are being more than a little disingenuous with that promise, then.

And does anybody really think the plan to decriminalise possession of restricted drugs for personal use will ever happen? The Liberal Democrats know their performance in the Coalition means they won’t win any elections soon and are hoping to be part of another hung-Parliament alliance. This means they would be sharing public office with one of the other parties who, they state, have “blighted” UK drugs policy with “kneejerk prejudice and the wish to appear tough”. This is another pledge they can make safely, knowing it is never likely to happen.

You’ll notice, also, that the Liberal Democrats say next to nothing about the National Health Service – that foundation stone of British fair play and decency that they allowed the Conservatives to sell off to private companies (in which many of them are shareholders) in order to make a profit from the suffering of the sick.

They will increase its budget in line with inflation so the private companies leeching off of it won’t lose profit. How caring of them.

To cap it all off, Clegg repeated what has become the Liberal Democrat mantra ever since he first used it in December 2012: “Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling people to get on in life.”

It’s the ‘party message script’, you see. Back in 2012, he added: “We will stay the course on the deficit. We will cut income tax bills and help with childcare bills. We will invest in boosting jobs and we’ll reform welfare to get people into work.”

Considering his party’s record on those matters, there is certainly no reason to buy any of what he’s peddling today.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Hypocritical Tories plan attack on pensioners while protecting themselves

Someone's raiding the pensions piggy-bank: Government changes mean the rich will be subsidised by the poor.

Someone’s raiding the pensions piggy-bank: Government changes mean the rich will be subsidised by the poor.

It seems the Conservatives cannot wait to betray their most loyal voting group. If you are a pensioner – beware!

As trailed on Vox Political last November, the Department for Work and Pensions appears to be planning to delete the cold weather payment from its chequebook, along with free bus passes and free TV licences.

We already know that the age at which the state pension will be paid is rising, meaning people will have to continue working for longer before they qualify for the £144/week payment (with a minimum National Insurance record of 30 full years). This is a betrayal of promises made by both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in their document ‘The Coalition: Our Programme for Government’.

Because life expectancy depends on where you live and your social class, this means many poorer people will enjoy only three-to-six years of retirement on average, while richer pensioners get 17-20 years of pension payments. That’s right – rich people even get a better deal from the state pension.

Meanwhile, the taxpayer is being asked to fund three-fifths of the pension scheme for members of Parliament, who qualify at the age of 60 after 20 years’ service (or after 15 years if aged between 60 and 65) and receive an average of £353/week (see House of Commons Library SN6283: MPs’ Pension Scheme – 2012 onwards).

MPs (along with civil servants and judges) will receive transitional protection as the pensionable age rises – meaning they won’t lose out. More than 700,000 working women, on the other hand, have received less than two years’ notice of changes that will deprive them of up to £7,500 per year.

Iain Duncan Smith announced at yesterday’s meeting of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee that he was considering removing benefits that are exclusively for pensioners, in order to bolster his Benefit Cap.

He said: “We need maximum flexibility with the cap. Pretty much all existing ringfences will have to disappear.”

Asked if pensioner benefits would be included in the cap, he said: “These are matters which are still under discussion.”

The Benefit Cap was hailed as a hugely popular policy after its introduction last year, but it is now questionable whether pensioners will be quite so enthusiastic.

Including pensioners’ benefits among those that are capped means they may have to be means tested in the future, as the number of pensioners grows – putting pressure on the £200 billion benefits budget.

The Daily Mirror reported that Treasury sources played down this prospect last night, saying the annual spend on pensioner benefits was dwarfed by other payments. This is disingenuous as the annual spend on pensions is more than on all the other benefits combined. Cutting pensioner benefits and forcing people to work longer before they receive their pensions will deprive senior citizens of billions of pounds.

While changes to pensioners’ benefits are still under discussion, changes to the age at which pensions are paid have already become law.

The hypocrisy of MPs in imposing new rules that disadvantage ordinary people while protecting themselves, judges and civil servants has led to the creation of a petition on the 38 Degrees website, calling for the changes to be reversed.

The petition states: “It is discrimination to impose ‘rules’ that disadvantage one group of people more than another. It is against the law to treat someone less favourably than someone else. How can this Government be allowed to get away with this?

“Because of this broken promise those of us affected are now being forced to work longer and wait longer to receive our state pension, which is an entitlement and something to which we have contributed, all of our working lives.

“These changes will also have a detrimental impact upon employment opportunities for young people. The longer we are being forced to work, the fewer jobs there will be for them. Is this an honourable way to treat people?

“The right to retire with financial security, at the age that has been promised throughout our working lives, has been denied.

“This broken promise is unfair, unnecessary and totally unacceptable. Ministers need to do a u-turn on this mean-spirited move and honour their word.”

The petition currently (February 4) has around 7,100 signatures. If you agree with it, please visit the 38 Degrees website and sign.

And don’t forget to mention it to anyone you know who is coming up to retirement age.

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