April 1st - Budget chill

April 1st approaches and we are about to feel the full chill of the present Prime Minister's last Tax-con budget.

Cheers from the Labour benches greeted the trailed reduction of the middle band of income tax to 20p in the pound.  Few realised as Chancellor Brown spoke that the compensatory removal of the ten pence starting tax band would hit so many and so hard. That little time bomb explodes with effect from the start of the new financial year.

From All Fools Day a significant number of the least well paid in my constituency will find themselves paying not less but more in tax. Low paid NHS workers will pay more.  Part-time teaching assistants will pay more. Our soldiers, sailors and airmen fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan will pay more.  Others who have taken retirement on modest occupational pensions will pay more. That is the precise consequence of this measure which Chancellor Darling did not address in his most recent and uninspiring budget. Saying that "If you fill in a form some of you may get some of the money back" is not an answer. Taking away people’s money and increasing their dependence upon the State tells us a very great deal about the wind of change that has blown through Downing Street in the past year.

Taken with all of the other income tax changes in the budget and even after adjustments to tax credits 5.3 million low income families are going to be left worse off.  That works out at an average of 8000 people for each parliamentary constituency and those areas such as East Kent still suffering from high levels of social deprivation like East Kent will be amongst the hardest hit.

I have already received a number of letters from people who have worked out in advance how much more tax they will pay and I suspect that as the measures bite and the bills roll in that trickle may turn into a very significant number.

I do not look forward to that correspondence because I know that each and every envelope will contain a tale of varying cost and hardship but I believe that it is important that people do let MPs know of the practical effects of the measures that are block-voted through parliament by a government with too large a majority.

The only change will be brought about, I suspect, by a change in administration at the next General Election but I undertake to make sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is aware of the strength of feeling on this issue and of the views of those that have taken the trouble to write to me by post or e-mail.

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