Tories aim tax cuts at Middle England

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Tax cuts that would be targeted at Middle England voters including teachers, nurses and police officers are to be unveiled by the Conservatives.

Tax cuts that would be targeted at Middle England voters including teachers, nurses and police officers are to be unveiled by the Conservatives.

The Independent has learnt that the Tory leader, Michael Howard, has sanctioned a strategy for tax cuts aimed at low and middle income groups to avoid the Tories being accused of helping the rich at the expense of the poor.

Final decisions have not been taken but Mr Howard is said to be convinced tax cuts remain one of the most potent weapons in the Tory arsenal for the election.

The details will be left for the campaign but a start will be made next week with the completion of a spending review by the City troubleshooter David James, who is expected to identify savings of £35bn.

The strategy was secretly outlined to the Shadow Cabinet this week by Oliver Letwin, the shadow Chancellor. He made it clear the cuts in taxation will be focused on higher thresholds rather than cuts in the rate of tax, which are more eye-catching but are seen as less fair.

Mr Howard is particularly keen to target the cuts at those earning about £36,000 who have been dragged into the 40 per cent higher rate of tax under Gordon Brown. They include senior police officers, and deputy heads in schools.

The threshold could be raised to £40,000 for the higher tax rate, although the details will not be announced for some months. One shadow cabinet minister said: "Oliver is going to answer the charge that we are only helping the rich. We will be putting the focus on thresholds to help middle England voters. We don't want to be seen as the party of the South-east. This has got to appeal to everyone."

The Conservative leader was attacked by his own MPs at a private meeting before Christmas for being too cautious on offering tax cuts. He insisted that the cuts would not convince the voters unless the spending reductions to pay for them were convincingly costed.

The Tories are convinced that voters do feel taxes are too high, particularly with the council tax reaching nearly £2,000 a year for some households, in spite of general satisfaction with Mr Brown's handling of the economy. They will go into the election warning voters that Mr Brown will raise taxes after the election.

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