The NHS and Ed Milliband’s Election Campaign Launch

Labour would cap the amount of profit private firms can make from the NHS in England, Ed Miliband has said as he launched the party’s election campaign.

He pledged to halt the “the tide of privatisation” he claims has taken place in the health service since 2010 and ensure a “proper” level of funding.

Ed MilibandPrivate firms will have to reimburse the NHS if they exceed a 5% profit cap on contracts, he told activists.

The Conservatives said the move was an “ill-thought through gimmick”.

Speaking at the site of the 2012 London Olympics in east London, Mr Miliband placed the NHS front and centre of Labour’s campaign and claimed the election is “neck and neck” and “may come down to the wire”.

Much more at: Election 2015: Labour to cap private profits in NHS

“Don’t bet on ‘pledges’ before the election being implemented after the election”

Budget 2015: some of the things announced

The Chancellor has presented his Budget to Parliament – here’s a summary of what was announced.

The Budget, March 2015. The UK had the fastest growth in the G7 in 2014

The UK economy had the fastest annual growth among G7 economies in 2014, and the strongest annual growth since 2007. At the end of 2014, employment had reached its highest ever level, unemployment has been falling in every region across the UK, and inflation is at a record low.

But risks still remain and there is still more to do to support businesses and boost productivity.

Read the Budget document in full.

2. Debt will be falling as a share of GDP in 2015-16

Debt will be falling as a share of GDP from 2015-16. This is a year earlier than forecast at Autumn Statement.

By 2014-15, the deficit is forecast to have fallen by half, from 10.2% at its peak in 2009-10, to 5% in 2014-15.

In 2018-19, the government will have a surplus (will raise more in taxes than is being spent) of £5.2 billion.

Access the Treasury’s set of Budget infographics , explaining some of the key announcements.

3. The tax-free personal allowance is being increased in April 2017, to £11,000

To make work pay and ensure families keep more of the money they earn, the tax-free personal allowance – the amount people earn before they have to start paying tax – will rise to £10,800 in 2016-17, and £11,000 the year after.

The increases to the personal allowance from £6475 in 2010, to £11,000 in 2017-18 will save a typical taxpayer £905.

To make sure the full benefits of the personal allowance increase are passed on to higher rate taxpayers, the government will also increase above inflation the point above at which higher earners start paying 40% tax. It will increase by £315 in 2016-17, and by £600 in 2017-18 – taking it to £43,300 in 2017-18.

4. A new Personal Savings Allowance will take 95% of taxpayers out of savings tax altogether

From April 2016, a tax-free allowance of £1,000 (or £500 for higher rate taxpayers) will be introduced for the interest that people earn on savings.

If they are a basic rate taxpayer and have a total income up to £42,700 a year, they will be eligible for the £1,000 tax-free savings allowance.

If they are a higher rate taxpayer and earn from £42,701 to £150,000, they’ll be eligible for a £500 tax-free savings allowance.

Access the Treasury Personal Savings Allowance one page explainer factsheet.

5. Introducing the Help to Buy ISA – every £200 people save towards their first home, the government will put in an extra £50, up to a maximum bonus of £3000

The government has already helped people to buy a home with Help to Buy, which allows people to purchase a home with just a 5% deposit.

The government is now going further. To help first time buyers save for a deposit, it is introducing a Help to Buy ISA.

People will be able to open an ISA, save up to £200 a month towards their first home, and the government will boost it by 25%. That’s a £50 bonus for every £200 people save, up to £3000.

Access the Treasury’s Help to Buy: ISA one page explainer factsheet.

6. People will have complete freedom to take money out of an ISA and put it back in later in the year

ISAs are being reformed so that instead of being able to put up to £15,240 in the 2015-16 tax year into an ISA in total, people can take out their money and put it back in within the same year, without losing their ISA tax benefits – as long as the repayment is made in the same financial year as the withdrawal.

7. £1.25 billion for children’s’ mental health services

An extra £1.25 billion will be spent on mental health services for children and new mums – helping more than 110,000 people.

8. Cancelling the fuel duty increase scheduled for September

Fuel duty will be frozen again; since 2011, the government has cut and frozen fuel duty, saving a typical motorist a total of £675 by the end of 2015-16.

By the end of 2015-16 fuel duty will have been frozen for five years, resulting in the longest duty freeze in over 20 years.

9. Cutting beer duty for the third year in a row

There will be another penny off a pint, a 2% cut for spirits and most ciders, and a freeze on duty on wine.

10. Up to five million pensioners will be given the freedom to sell their annuity for a cash lump sum

From April 2016, people who already have an annuity will be able to now effectively sell it on, so that they too can benefit from the pension freedoms announced at last year’s Budget.

Currently, people who have bought an annuity are unable to sell it without having to pay at least 55% tax on it. From April 2016, the tax rules will change so that people who already have income from an annuity can sell that when they choose and will pay their usual rate of tax they pay on income, instead of 55%.

11. Charities will be able to claim more gift aid on small donations

The amount of small donations charities can get an extra 25% top up payment on in gift aid without needing any paperwork is increasing from £5,000 to £8,000 a year.

The government expects 6,500 charities to claim in full the higher new cash boost of £2,000 a year – nearly double the current amount.

12. Farmers will have more time to average their profits for income tax

This extends the period from two to five years, and will give farmers additional security as they typically have volatile profits due to uncontrollable factors such as the weather.

13. We will abolish the annual tax return

Millions of individuals will have the information HMRC needs automatically uploaded into new digital tax accounts. Businesses will feel like they are paying a simple, single business tax – and again, for most, the information needed will be automatically received.

14. Support for all regions across the UK

Working with Transport for the North, the government will look at rolling out better roads, quicker journeys and improved rail connections between the major cities of the north, as part of the government’s plan to build a Northern powerhouse.

The government is also giving even more powers to local areas, with a new devolution deal for things like transport, business support and skills for West Yorkshire, and more planning powers for London.

Ten Enterprise Zones across the country are also being supported to go further to create growth and jobs.

The government is also working on a Cardiff city deal and opening negotiations on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon.

15. Making sure banks pay their fair share

The government is increasing the rate of the bank levy (one of the taxes that banks pay) from 1 April 2015.

This will raise an additional £900 million a year.

16. Increased support for the oil and gas sector

The oil and gas sector provides highly-skilled jobs, energy security and makes a significant contribution to the UK economy.

To encourage further investment in the North Sea, the government will introduce a new Investment Allowance and reduce the supplementary tax charge on oil and gas companies further, from 30% to 20%, from 1 January 2015.

The rate of Petroleum Revenue Tax paid on older oil and gas fields will also be reduced from 50% to 35%.

These changes are expected to increase oil production by around 15% by 2019, and drive £4 billion of new investment over the next five years.

17. Faster broadband and better mobile networks

The government is investing up to £600 million to deliver better mobile networks, and is announcing a new ambition that ultrafast broadband of at least 100 megabits per second should become available to nearly all UK premises in the country.

18. Introducing postgraduate research loans

Loans up to £25,000 will be available for postgraduate PHD and masters research students.

The government will also conduct a review into how the government can strengthen its funding for postgraduate research.

19. Further investment in science and innovation

Future economic success depends on future science success. The government is investing £140 million in world class research on the infrastructure and cities of the future, and £40 million in research into what is known as the Internet of Things. This is the next stage of the information revolution, connecting up everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances.

The government is also launching a new UK research initiative into the future potential of digital currency technology, supported by a £10 million increase in funding in this area.

20. The government will consult on a tax relief for local newspapers

Local newspapers are a vital part of community life, but they’ve had a tough time – so the government is announcing a consultation on how to can provide them with tax support.

“And 12bn in welfare savings to come!!”

MPs in smoking vote had links to tobacco firms

Matt Dathan writing in The Independent 12/03/15 about the back-hand interests of some MPs.

One in four of the MPs who voted against introducing plain cigarette packaging have declared links to tobacco industries in the past, analysis has shown.

At least seven other MPs who abstained on the vote have also accepted gifts and hospitality from tobaccco firms since 2008, including Philip Hammond, The Foreign Secretary. A majority 254 voted in favour of the controversial measure.

CigarettesA majority of Tory MPs, 181, defied the Government’s position by either voting against it or abstaining.

The Register of Members’ Financial Interests revealed that out of the 104 Tories who voted against, 22 have received hospitality tickets from tobacco firms and another, former cabinet minister Ken Clarke, is a former director of British American Tobacco.

Two of the three Labour MPs who opposed unbranded packaging also have declared tickets donated by Japan Tobacco International, which owns Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut cigarettes. The vast majority of gifts came in the form of Chelsea Flower show tickets, worth up to £1,600.

“What price a favour one wonders?”

NHS Tax Dodgers ‘Sacked’

The NHS has sacked 79 bureaucrats after a government probe into tax-dodging.

The Treasury have revealed today that the suspects who were employed in 2013 – 2014 could not prove they were “meeting their tax obligations”.

The TreasuryTwelve staff at the Department for Environment, two at the Office for National Statistics and one at the British Library have also been fired.

Also, the Ministry of Defence has been fined £1million and the Department for Health £470,000 for failing to follow Treasury’s advice on “off payroll” wages.

Many public sector employees and contractors ask for wages to be paid to so-called service companies that can help them avoid tax.

Treasury Secretary Dannny Alexander, who led the probe, said: “People cheating the tax system is no different than people cheating the benefits system. It’s plain wrong.”

Hawkes. S 2015 The Sun 05/03/2015 P.6

“One asks the question – Of the 79 sacked, were any responsible for tax evasion tactics that held criminal accountability and have they faced court proceedings and has the loophole of using ‘service companies’ been closed?”

£5BN Government Waste – Absolutely ‘Ludicrous’

Careless government departments have created a £5billion black hole in taxpayers money, figures have revealed.

It was squandered on a number of gaffes, according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

Money ImageThe Ministry of Defence was the biggest offender with £3bn losses. Its blunders include blowing £4million on Sea King helicopters that are no longer used and £7million on scrapped upgrades to armoured vehicles.

Elsewhere, education bosses lost £1.2m because a school payment went into the wrong bank account. And a cancelled Department of Work and Pensions online benefits programme cost £27million.

The figures, revealed in Whitehall accounts, will embarrass the government. Jonathan Isaby from the Taxpayers’ Alliance said: “Many of these losses are simply ludicrous. ”

“Iain Duncan Smith pontificates about the money he’s allegedly saving with welfare reform, he should be put in charge of stopping these unaccountable losses.”

Autumn Statement 2014 – Things you should know

A summary of what was announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement to Parliament – 2014.

1. The UK has the fastest growth in the G7 and the deficit is forecast to be halved – but there is still more to do

The UK has the fastest growth in the G7, there are more people in work than ever before, and the deficit is forecast to fall by a half by the end of 2014-15. But there are still difficult decisions ahead to continue to lower the deficit and to cut debt.

Access the Autumn Statement document in full, or all our infographics that explain some of the key measures.

2. Stamp duty will be cut for 98% of people who pay it – only the highest value residential properties will pay more

Under the old rules, you would have paid Stamp Duty Land Tax at a single rate on the entire property price. Now, you will only pay the rate of tax on the part of the property price within each tax band – like income tax.

Under the old rules, if you bought a house for £185,000, you would have had to pay 1% tax on the full amount – a total of £1,850. Under the new rules you don’t start paying tax until the property price goes over £125,000, and then you only pay tax on the price of the property within the tax bands over that price.

Under the new rules, you’ll pay nothing on £125,000 and 2% on the remaining £60,000. This works out as £1,200, a saving of £650.

This will make the system fairer, and means stamp duty will be cut for 98% of people who pay it.
Access the stamp duty factsheet  which explains the policy in more detail. You can also access a infographic which gives some examples of how the new system will work.

3. The tax-free personal allowance is being increased by a further £100 in April 2015, to £10,600

The personal allowance – the amount you earn before you have to start paying income tax – will be increased again from £10,000 to £10,600 in 2015 to 2016.

Typically, someone earning between £10,600 and £42,385 will be £825 better off by 2015-16 as a result of increases in the tax-free personal allowance since 2010.

Even while making difficult decisions to fix the economy, since 2010, the government has cut income tax for 26.7 million taxpayers.
Read the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement speech in full.

4. Children will be exempt from tax on economy flights

This will apply for under 12s on flights from 1 May 2015, and for under 16s from 1 March 2016 – saving an average family of four £26 on a flight to Europe and £142 on one to the US.

The government expects these changes should be clear to consumers, and will consult on making sure that the tax is displayed on ticket prices.

5. Spouses will inherit their partner’s individual saving account (ISA) benefits after death

Currently, if someone passes away they can’t pass on their ISA to their spouse, even if they have saved the money together. 150,000 people a year lose out on the tax advantages of their partner’s ISA when their partner passes away.

From 3 December 2014, if an ISA holder dies, they will be able to pass on their ISA benefits to their spouse or civil partner via an additional ISA allowance which they will be able to use from 6 April 2015.

The surviving spouse or civil partner will be allowed to invest as much into their own ISA as their spouse used to have, in addition to their normal annual ISA limit.

6. £2 billion for the NHS to do more

The government is providing £2 billion of additional funding for frontline NHS services in England in 2015-16. This is part of a multi-year £3.1 billion UK-wide investment in the NHS.

£1 billion will fund advanced care in GP practices over four years in England; this has come from fines collected by the Financial Conduct Authority from five banks for failures in foreign exchange trading.

In England, at least £15 million will go to research in dementia, £150 million over five years will be invested to support young people with eating disorders. £200 million will go to develop new ways of caring for patients. £1.5 billion will go to local NHS services next year.

A 0-2 year old early intervention pilot has also been announced to prevent avoidable problems later in life. The government will work with four pilot local authorities to draw on the success of the Troubled Families programme.

7. Business rates will be cut and capped, with extra Help for the High Street

To support small businesses in local communities, the ‘high street discount’ for around 300,000 shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants will go up from £1,000 to £1,500, from April 2015 to March 2016.

This is in addition to doubling Small Business Rate Relief for a further year which means 380,000 of the smallest businesses will pay no rates at all.

The government will also continue to cap the annual increase in business rates at 2% from April 2015 to March 2016 – this will benefit all businesses paying business rates.

Finally, the government will extend the transitional arrangements for smaller properties that would otherwise face significant bill increases due to the ending of ‘transitional rate relief’.
Access a infographic on full employment , and the government’s long term economic plan.

8. No more employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) on apprentices under 25

To make it cheaper to employ young people, from April 2016 employers will not have to pay National Insurance contributions (NICs) for all but the highest earning apprentices aged under 25.

This is in addition to the announcement made at Autumn Statement last year that employers won’t have to pay NICs on under 21s from April 2015.

These are part of the government’s wider ambition to have the highest employment rate in the G7.

9. Loans for postgraduate masters

From 2016-17, income-contingent loans will be available for postgraduate taught masters courses in any subject for those under the age of 30.

The loans, of up to £10,000, will beat commercial rates.

This will mean that more people will be able to take advantage of postgraduate courses, including those from low income backgrounds.

10. £5.9 billion sustained investment in science

This will make sure the UK remains the best place in the world for science and research, and includes £95 million to take the lead in the next European mission to Mars.

£235 million will also go on a new science research centre called the Sir Henry Royce Institute in Manchester and £20 million will go towards a research centre on ageing, in Newcastle.

11. Long term plans for infrastructure

This includes £15 billion on roads, nearly £6 billion funding for local road improvements, and over £2.3 billion towards over 1,400 flooding and coastal erosion protection schemes.

12. The government is clamping down on tax avoidance by multinational companies

Currently some large multinational companies divert profits abroad through complicated business structures, such as the so-called ‘double Irish’, in order to avoid paying taxes. The government is introducing a new tax to counter this.

The ‘diverted profits tax’ will apply to a company’s profits that have been diverted from the UK through complex arrangements such as these, and will apply to both UK and foreign multinational companies.

So if a company conducts a lot of activity in the UK – sales, for example – but can avoid paying corporation tax by moving profits generated in the UK to other countries through the manipulation of the international tax rules, the UK will now be able to tax those profits at a rate of 25%.

This will be introduced from April 2015.

13. Banks will increase corporation tax payments

Some banks made large losses during the financial crisis, and subsequent misconduct and the costs associated with mis-selling scandals. These losses are now being used by banks to eliminate corporation tax payments on current profits.

It is unsustainable that some banks will not be making corporation tax payments for another 15 to 20 years. So from 1 April 2015, the government will therefore restrict the amount of banks’ profits that can be offset by carried forward losses to 50%, increasing their contribution to public finances through their tax payments.

14. Creative sector tax reliefs will be extended to children’s TV

Following on from the success of the film, high end TV, animation, video games and theatre tax reliefs, a new children’s TV tax relief will be introduced from April 2015.

This will counteract a decline in investment in children’s TV in the last decade. Eligible companies will be able to claim 25% of qualifying production spending back through the relief.

The government will also consult on introducing a new orchestra tax relief in April 2016.

15. A further £7 billion announced to build a Northern Powerhouse

This money will be spent on connecting up the North to create a powerhouse by investing £6 billion on roads to reduce jams, introducing new modern trains and 20% more capacity to end overcrowding, developing HS3 to make east-west travel faster, and doubling the number of northern cities to benefit from the government’s superfast broadband programme. Funding will also go on building the North’s strengths in science, with major new science investments across the North.

16. Search and rescue and air ambulance charities will be eligible for VAT refunds from 1 April 2015

From 1 April 2015, search and rescue and air ambulance charities will be eligible for VAT refunds, in recognition of the vital role they play in providing support to the emergency services.

The government will also meet the costs the hospice sector faces from VAT.