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Pasties, Caravans, Buzzards and Charitable Donations: A Week of Unfortunate U-Turns

This year the word ‘budget’ struck fear into the hearts of members of the Conservative Party because of the increases they believe are necessary but foresaw the rest of the country resenting. For Conservatives, this week has been one of persistent confusion, ever since the 2012 budget people here have been discussing pasties and static caravans extensively (being from the West Country where tourism is a lifeline) and Mr Osborne’s announcements last week were gratefully received, but should we be concerned about the amount of U-turns the Conservative Party are having to make?

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Osborne should reverse inheritance tax cut not the capping of tax relief on charitable donations

In last year’s budget, George Osborne offered a cut in inheritance tax if people donated to charitable causes, a move aimed at stimulating the floundering idea of the Big Society; the move meant if you qualify to pay inheritance tax but you give 10% of your estate to charity, the rate of that tax is reduced from 40% to 36%.

Fast-forward a year to Osborne’s 2012 budget, in which it was announced that tax relief on charitable donations will be capped at 25% of one’s income or £50,000, whichever is higher.  How are the two policies consistent? One encourages charitable donations with the promise of a reduced inheritance tax bill whilst the other is specifically aimed at warning individuals that such donations should not allow them to avoid paying tax. In keeping with most of the government’s fiscal measures, it’s a mess. Read the rest of this entry

Nick Clegg: voice of opposition?

In a speech somewhat overshadowed by other events, Nick Clegg yesterday made a marked attack on the Conservative policy of a tax break for married couples. Perhaps emboldened by the Prime Minister’s recent actions, backbench Tory MPs have reportedly been increasing pressure for the manifesto policy to be enacted by the Government, a move that would clearly not meet with the Deputy Prime Minister’s approval.

The speech was supposedly designed to lay out Clegg’s political philosophy, but while the contents of the speech went much further than the comments on marriage, it is indicative of his present standing that his political voice is now heard only within the context of the Coalition. The issue at hand is, though, extremely important. Clegg may have entered government seeking Lords reform, changes to party political funding  and a narrowing of inequality, but the austerity agenda to which he has so firmly tied his party will undoubtedly overshadow any of this. The effects of George Osborne’s economic policy will be felt well beyond the Treasury. What Conservatives may feel is merely support for the institution of marriage appears to others just part of a wider symbolic attempt to reinforce the traditional institutions of marriage, the family, the church and voluntary organisations as the role of the state is so brutally undermined. Read the rest of this entry

The Christmas gift in the Autumn Statement

George Osborne once said he wanted to put an end to the mini-budget occasions of the Autumn Statement. It’s safe to say that is another target he has missed. In what seems like an age ago, Osborne announced a slew of figures, accompanied by a smattering of initiatives. Aside from the disappointment over the state of the economy, most of the announcements delivered with much fanfare were underwhelming. Osborne also pulled another trick out of Gordon Brown’s hat and rushed through many of his tough announcements. One that did draw some attention from inside the chamber however, was his plan to give a subsidy of £50 to every customer of South West Water, in an attempt to help those customers with their water bills. So what’s the big deal? Plenty, actually. Click here to keep reading

More power for our politicians

Power. It’s often a term shaped as an accusation, levelled to politicians as their sole motive for wanting to be an MP. “I want to change the world”, is what they’d usually retort back. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you can’t change the world without some sort of power, either hard or soft. Politicians however, are increasingly disproving these stereotypes. For better, or for worse. Click here to keep reading

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