Howard promises £4bn of tax cuts

Michael Howard committed his party to "modest" tax cuts of £4bn yesterday and insisted a Tory government would protect key public services and reduce taxation.

The Tory leader said £23bn of the £35bn of savings identified from government "waste" would be spent on key services. Some £8bn would be used to reduce government borrowing and avoid tax increases, leaving £4bn to reduce taxes for "hard-working families and hard-pressed businesses."

The long-awaited tax cuts, to be included in the Tories' first Budget after the general election and take effect in April 2006, will disappoint right-wingers hoping for bigger tax cuts to put "clear blue water" between them and Labour.

The £4bn amounts to less than 1 per cent of the £567bn a Tory government would spend by 2007-08, £12bn less than Labour. The Tories would allow public spending to grow at about 4 per cent a year, just below the 5 per cent increase planned by Labour.

Although the difference between the two biggest parties is relatively small in historical terms, both will insist they offer a clear choice as tax and spending looks certain to become a crucial battleground at the election expected on 5 May. With the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats all holding press conferences yesterday, it appeared that the campaign had already begun.

Oliver Letwin, the shadow Chancellor, admitted the proposed tax cuts were modest but said an incoming Tory administration would need to reduce borrowing because of the "black hole" in Labour's spending plans. He said the Tories would disclose which taxes would be cut shortly before or after the Budget in March. The leading options include income tax reductions for people on low and middle incomes and lower inheritance tax and council tax.

The Tories have claimed they would match Labour's budgets for health, schools, transport and overseas aid and spend more than Labour on the police, pensions and defence. But they would cut sharply the budgets of departments such as Culture, Work and Pensions and Environment.

Mr Howard said: "There is clear choice at the next election: more waste and higher taxes under Tony Blair or value for money and lower taxes under the Conservatives. No one has to take us on trust. What we promise we will deliver. Our proposals are reasonable, responsible and achievable."

Alan Milburn, Labour's election co-ordinator, called the Tory plans "desperate measures from desperate men" and said it would mean deeper spending cuts than Margaret Thatcher ever contemplated.

The proposed savings in what the Tories called "non-priority areas" include axing 168 public bodies and 235,000 civil service posts; scrapping regional assemblies and the planned Supreme Court and ending the Small Business Service and the New Deal for the jobless.

Meanwhile the leader of the biggest union has said Tony Blair should step aside and make way for Gordon Brown. Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public servants' union Unison, said he thought the Prime Minister had gone back on a deal to step back and let the Chancellor take over.

Mr Prentis told Scotland's Daily Record newspaper: "There comes a time when there will be a change of leader. And it is right we do renew ourselves. We do need a real timetable for changeover."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Resourcer

£18000 - £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Recruitment Resour...

HR Business Analyst, Bristol, £350-400pd

£350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Account Manager (Junior)

Negotiable: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Account Manager (Junior) Account ...

Javascript Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried