Council tax to go if Lib Dems win

CHARLES Kennedy staked his party's electoral chances on a local income tax and a new rate of income tax for top earners as he launched the Liberal Democrat manifesto for May 5's General Election,Mr Kennedy, still bubbling with pride from the birth earlier this week of his first child Donald, called his party's tax and spend plans socially progressive.

By Graham Dines

CHARLES Kennedy staked his party's electoral chances on a local income tax and a new rate of income tax for top earners as he launched the Liberal Democrat manifesto for May 5's General Election,

Mr Kennedy, still bubbling with pride from the birth earlier this week of his first child Donald, called his party's tax and spend plans socially progressive.

The Liberal Democrats claim that under a local income tax, which would replace council tax, 50% of people would pay less, 25% would pay more and 25% would remain at the same level.


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Around £6million pensioners would be exempt from the tax, but people in a typical Band D property earning in excess of £40,000 - or a couple on just over £20,000 each - would be worse off.

"The global sum that is raised under our proposals on local income tax is no more than the total sum that is presently being raised by council tax, full stop," said Mr Kennedy.

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"But not less and we are not saying less. But the Institute for Fiscal Studies for is acknowledging the fact that under our progressive local income tax proposals, what will happen is 50% of people will find themselves better off, 25% of people will find themselves having to pay that bit more - related to their capacity to pay and 25% face no change.

"That is an honest proposal to put in front of people."

The Liberal Democrat manifesto is 20 pages long and called The Real Alternative and promises tax cuts for 15 million families.

If elected, the Lib Dems would fund 21,000 extra teachers, 10,000 more police officers and an extra £100-a-month pension for the over-75s.

"Today the Liberal Democrats are setting out our positive programme for the Government of Britain. It is a programme based on fairness and opportunity, dignity for older people, real opportunity for our children and a fair deal for families," said Mr Kennedy.

"It is a fully costed and affordable programme to create a fairer Britain - the Liberal Democrats are the real alternative at this Election."

Launching into what he calls the ineffectiveness of the Conservatives since 2001, Mr Kennedy said: "Over the course of the last parliament, the Liberal Democrats have been the real opposition - over issues like Iraq, student top-up fees, the council tax and compulsory identity cards - while the Conservatives have either lined up with Labour or flip-flopped.

"Our manifesto sets out a vision of a Britain with quality local public services - good schools and good hospitals, a strong stable economy, a Britain that celebrates diversity and provides the opportunities for each individual to make the best of their talents, a greener Britain that lives up to its responsibilities to future generations - cleaner energy and less pollution."

Highlights of the manifesto:

Free local care for the elderly and those with disabilities, funded from proposed 50% top rate of tax on incomes over £100,000.

Free eye and dental checks, fewer prescription charges.

Faster diagnosis for serious conditions, with more tests and scans available in GPs surgeries and pharmacies.

Abolition of student tuition and top-up fees with funding from the new higher tax rate. Maintenance grants for poorer students.

Scrap Labour's £1.5 billion Child Trust Fund and use the cash to fund 21,000 more teachers, cutting infant class sizes from current maximum of 30 to an average of 20 and junior class sizes to an average of 25.

Before and after school provision extended from 8am to 6pm for all children.

3,500 Children's Centres completed by 2010.

Abolition of the identity card scheme to pay for 10,000 more police on the streets and an extra 20,000 community support officers.

Major late night venues to contribute to the cost of extra policing.

Make the tax system fairer and simpler. Only one proposed tax rise to 50% on incomes over £100,000 a year. This to affect just 1% of taxpayers and pay for the abolition of student tuition and top-up fees, free personal care for the elderly and disabled, and lower local taxes.

Axe council tax in favour of a local income tax based on people's ability to pay, benefiting 15 million families and saving the typical household £450 a year.

Raise starting point for stamp duty from £120,000 to £150,000, taking 150,000, mainly first time buyers off the threshold.

Introduce a War Powers Act requiring Parliament's authority before a government takes Britain into war.

Reform House of Lords to be mainly elected and introduce a more representative electoral system.

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