A Labour Government would scrap 'perverse and unfair' tax break for married couples, says Ed Balls

The shadow Chancellor said his party would instead deliver tax cuts to help all middle and lower income families struggling with the cost of living crisis

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David Cameron's tax break for married couples would be scrapped immediately by an incoming Labour Government, Ed Balls has announced.

The shadow Chancellor argued that it would be fairer to use the money for tax cuts for people on low and middle incomes, whether or not they were married.  Interviewed by the BBC ahead of next Wednesday's Budget, he attacked as “perverse and unfair” Mr Cameron's decision to bring in a £1,000 transferable tax allowance for 4.1m married couples worth £200  a year from April 2015.

Mr Balls said: “It only goes to a third of married couples, and one in six families with children, it goes mainly to men. It doesn't go to widows, it doesn't go to people who've been left by an abusive husband…. the vast majority of families with children get no benefit.”

He said Labour would deliver “fair, not unfair” tax cuts to help all middle and lower income families struggling with the cost of living crisis. Labour would bring back a lower 10p starting rate of tax to help 24m  taxpayers,  including 12m people who are married. Almost half of those who would benefit (46 per cent) would be women.

Mr Balls admitted he was “daunted” by the prospect of becoming Chancellor because of the scale of the cuts Labour would have to make and the deficit it would inherit. But he insisted: “I'm up for the task and I'm looking forward to it.”

Asked how he would answer Conservative claims that Labour could not be trusted with the economy, the shadow chancellor insisted he had learnt from his party's mistakes in office and he was now “wiser and more experienced.”

The former City minister said: “There was a global financial crisis - from which we all have to learn lessons, including me - because we didn't regulate in a tough enough way. But, in the end, who do people think understands the lives of people in our country, who's on their side and wants to make this a better, fairer stronger nation in the future? I think I know the answer to that and I think most people know it's Labour who will deal with that cost of living crisis.”