Lib Dems pledge end to council tax

LAUNCHING the Liberal Democrats' election manifesto yesterday, Charles Kennedy promised a Government headed by himself would scrap council tax and replace it with a local income tax.

By Graham Dines

LAUNCHING the Liberal Democrats' election manifesto yesterday, Charles Kennedy promised a Government headed by himself would scrap council tax and replace it with a local income tax.

He dismissed the Conservatives' offer of billions of pounds in tax cuts funded by reductions in the size of government as "fantastical" - and in stark contrast, Mr Kennedy announced tax increases, with a new 50% rate of income tax on every pound earned over £100,000, about 1% of the population.

This would fund the party's flagship policies of abolishing university tuition and top-up fees, introducing free personal care of the elderly and the transition from the council tax to local income tax.


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"People are not stupid," said Mr Kennedy. "People know that you can't get something for nothing.

"Figures have got to add up and I don't think that they will feel later today, or over the coming weeks, that the Conservatives' figures remotely add up, or have any credibility to them whatsoever.

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"With us, they will be presented with a straightforward package which will have a price tag attached, and we will invite them to decide."

Mr Kennedy said the Liberal Democrats would re-direct around £5 billion a year of Government money from low to high priority areas - reducing Whitehall bureaucracy, and axing programmes such as the Child Trust Fund, the identity card scheme, and the final stages of the Eurofighter programme.

He said the voters would not be "taken in" by Michael Howard's tax cutting programme and once again argued that the Liberal Democrats were the only effective opposition to Labour.

He pointed to Lib Dem opposition to the war in Iraq and plans for a national identity card scheme, pledges to cut school class sizes, the provision of more nursery places, an end to means-testing for pensioners, a £100-a-month increase in pensions for those aged over 75, and 10,000 more police on the streets.

Mr Kennedy ruled out Lib Dem support for a coalition government should the outcome of the General Election be a hung parliament. He told a press conference in London: "The Liberal Democrats in the next House of Commons will be there as an independent political party. Full stop."

n Labour attacked the plans as a "menu without prices." Paul Boeteng, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: "Until they tell us where the money is coming from to pay for their endless list of commitments, no one will take seriously any pledge they make."

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