Faith Leaders Speak Out on Food Poverty Campaign Led By SLF

The Social Liberal Forum, which backed the motion on Food Poverty passed unanimously at Liberal Democrat Spring Conference earlier this year, applauds and welcomes further pressure by End Hunger Fast and faith leaders on this issue which so gravely concerns all of us.

Faith groups are well-represented among those working on the front line in offering support to those in need.  It is clear that support traditionally offered by the welfare safety net is failing far too many and it is incumbent upon government to investigate and take action now.   Others have already gathered evidence.

Once again, we add our voices to those who are rightly calling for an immediate review of policies that may be causing hardship, for a system of emergency aid for foodbanks and  a package of measures to offer support those for whom the welfare safety net is failing as well as the implementation of a Living Wage. Liberal Democrats unanimously at their Conference  last month supported these measures and today sees a significant step in the call for the Coalition Government to take action.

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Towards a sensible welfare system

This post was originally published at Liberal Democrat Voice.

Where is the development of Lib Dem welfare policy? It’s hard to see any. Even the recent living standards policy paper (pdf) said “we do not believe that this paper is the appropriate place to determine a Liberal Democrat approach to welfare reform. [...] this is an area that needs further debate within the Party.”

We all want a society in which technology, employment, education, high pay, low inequality, progressive taxation and cheap homes reduce the need for means-tested benefits, but this long-term goal must not prevent the party battling for a sensible and supportive welfare system. That Universal Credit is expected to cover 30% of households should show how important it is to get right.

Aside from the question of how generous or stingy benefits should be, there are many design problems that need to be tackled.

Bring Council Tax Support (CTS) within Universal Credit

The government localised Council Tax Benefit (CTB) and cut its budget by 10%, deciding not to merge it with the 6 other means-tested benefits in Universal Credit (UC). This year, 2.34 million low-income families will pay an average of £149 more in council tax than they would have under CTB.

UC is designed to limit marginal rates and clarify how much better off you’d be from additional earnings: the government will (above an allowance) claw back 65p for every £1 you earn. CTS undermines these goals by adding complexity and local differences and by further reducing work incentives. In some areas, CTS withdraws 30% of extra income, after the 65% UC withdrawal and after taxes. A select committee report (pdf) warnedrecently that with CTS and current benefits, some “stand to lose 97p for every extra £1 earned”.

This affects Lib Dem income tax cuts too. Under the new system a £100 tax cut would, for poorer families, lead to a £65 UC cut and up to a £10.50 CTS cut – leaving less than a quarter of what was intended.

CTS’s exclusion from UC was in large part about making savings faster than could have been done with UC. The poor decision was apparently a victory for DCLG over DWP, and the IFS concluded (pdf) that “It is difficult to think of reasons why the government’s original plan to integrate CTB into Universal Credit was inferior to what is now being proposed.”

Relink Local Housing Allowance to current local housing costs

Many changes have been made to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA), which determines housing benefit (and UC) in the private rented sector. This previously increased in line with local rents. The government has changed this so that each area’s LHA will now rise with CPI inflation. This is a cost saving measure, given that rents will generally rise faster than CPI.

Whether or not such cuts are welcome, there is an absurdity here. It would make sense to have a uniform, national housing allowance (or indeed to do away with earmarked housing benefits). It would also make sense (as used to be the case) to link local allowances to current local rents. But what the new rule means is that in 2032, LHA will vary across the country based on the distribution of rents in 2012. This needs changing as soon as possible, as it will get ever harder to fix as the distribution of rates drifts ever further from reality. Average LHA spending could still be limited to match CPI, but changes in each area’s LHA would once again be proportional to changes in rents.

Other changes

The Lib Dems should also look at increasing (rather than continuing to cut) the UC disregards or ‘work allowances’, which are analogous to the income tax Personal Allowance. This could counteract the 65% withdrawal of Lib Dem tax cuts from poorer households. And as party policy suggests, we should look at introducing a separate disregard for second earners. Ensuring UC rolls out successfully should of course be a fundamental goal.

Finally, we should scrap the well-intentioned but ineffectual bedroom tax, as well as the new budgetary ‘welfare cap’ and the £26,000 benefits cap – both of which are political gimmicks that break the link between needs and support. The latter cap limits the total amount any family can claim in benefits. But if the argument is that there should be a limit to how many children one can claim for, that should be fixed through the child benefit or child tax credit system. If the argument is that benefits shouldn’t pay for people to live in inner London, then the housing benefit system needs changing. The benefits cap is therefore at best a blunt and confused solution to the symptoms of other design flaws. And if the argument is that families should be better off in work than out, we should exclude from the cap those benefits that are available both in and out of work, which is in fact most of them.

The Lib Dems can be proud of Universal Credit as a structure – if it works: building a far simpler benefit system with reductions in poverty (when considered in isolation) and improved work incentives (complementing higher tax allowances and childcare help). And there are legitimate debates about the balance between cash transfers and public services. But in the party’s desire to paint Labour as economically incompetent, it must not favour tough-sounding gimmicks and welfare austerity when what we need are intelligent improvements and fair support.

* Adam Corlett is an economics researcher at CentreForum, the liberal think tank, and vice-chair of the Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform.

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Budget 2014: where are the Liberal Democrat priorities?

Much of this year’s Budget comes as little surprise. With a tight fiscal background and given George Osborne’s penchant for playing to the gallery, so much is predictable. Ditto the widely-trailed coalition announcements on the income tax threshold (where Nick Clegg has been desperate to stop the Tories claiming credit for the policy they opposed in 2010) and childcare.

But where – again – are the unequivocally Liberal policies? Extending childcare for those in receipt of Universal Credit is absolutely the right thing to do: but when money is so tight, why the perk for the very wealthy who can afford it – and why not reforms to address the shortage of supply that would create jobs as well as helping those who need it most?

In coalition we have learned, however uncomfortably, to accommodate Tory posturing that is not progressive, damaging, or simply wrong. Again we have evidence: a dogmatic and damaging freeze on welfare, and an extension of the ISA savings limit that is mercifully the extent of the sops to the wealthy.  Posturing, too, on a beer duty freeze that will give nothing to the consumer nor to the publican, but will simply be swallowed up by the big breweries and Osborne’s mates in the pubcos.

The clearest sense of Lib Dem priorities, though, came with the obvious influence of Steve Webb, who’s work at DWP has reformed pensions; it was striking that this was where many of the surprises were.  The party will need to get behind this and claim it as the Lib Dem success it is. Much the same goes for Vince Cable successfully securing a much higher tax-free investment allowance of £500,000 for businesses – we have to show voters this is our win.

As for the rest,it is same old, same old.  Resting on laurels on employment; little to tackle low pay in a meaningful way; and nothing of the promised incentives for housebuilding.  The opportunities for Liberal Democrats to set out our priorities couldn’t be clearer

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The Policy Lib Dems are not allowed to see

So what are these proposals that no-one dare let Liberal Democrats see at Conference?

There is an increasing body of reputable opinion and evidence that market competition is an expensive irrelevance in healthcare. It is interesting to note that every government since Margaret Thatcher has pursued the same policy: that of exposing the NHS to more and more market competition. The assumption has been that the only way to raise standards and reduce prices in the NHS is the market. Recently a string of professors have spoken out. Calum Paton and Alan Maynard on the costs of running a market, Clare Bambra on widening inequalities and Chris Ham on the way competition is a barrier to the provision of integrated care. Judith Jolly, until recently the co-chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Health Committee said that the action taken by the Competition Commission over the proposed merger of Bournemouth and Poole Hospital Trusts was scandalous “We need to sort out the competition thing.” Chris Ham says that we need legislation to unscramble at least some of the Lansley Bill. David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, has said that competition is a barrier to delivering quality.

Several witnesses to the Public Services Policy Working Group have pointed out the advantages of funding healthcare by means of a capitation budget, but acknowledged that this was very difficult when operating in a market of many providers.

My proposals are simple but radical. The full document with supporting evidence is available.

  • Set up Local Health Boards covering populations of around 1 million.
  • Abolish the market (internal and external) in healthcare.
  • Give Local Health Boards a budget based on capitation and direct management of hospitals, community services and GP contracts in their area.
  • Pool nationally the PFI debts of hospitals, to facilitate the re-negotiation of those debts.
  • Give patients the choice, through their GP to be referred to any NHS hospital in the country.

These proposals would render redundant a large number of national quangos and return at least some measure of local democratic control over the delivery of health services. The costs of running a market are already large and are set to rise very greatly. These proposals would therefore save large sums of money, and a very considerable amount of clinician and management time. There are more details in the full document and there is more work to be done.  We need to bring together the fragmented Public Health roles and work on integrating health and social care but these proposals would, I believe, go a long way to alleviating many of the cost pressures on the NHS and removing the key barriers to integration and improving quality.

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How to fix the structural deficit, the fair way

There has been considerable debate about how best to fix the structural deficit.  Figures of £25billion have been posited as how much is needed to do this.  There is some dispute as to whether this figure is really accurate; but for now the assumption that it is can be made.  There is also confusion between the various measures of balancing the books.

 

The speech by Nick Clegg at the Mansion House talks about both the commitment to end the structural deficit by 2018 (which is relatively uncontroversial) while also committing the party to George Osborne’s aim to reduce debt as a proportion of GDP by 2016-17.  The latter is dependent on economic growth and is arguably a small victory for those more critical of Coalition economic policy.  (Indeed, the absence of non-deficit reduction measures from the economic narrative of some top Lib Dems is a brake on the party’s political growth, but that’s a topic for another day.)

 

Below are ten ways in which the difficult task of eliminating the structural deficit can be undertaken in a fairer way.  Some are under active consideration, some are not (and should be).

 

1. Make the ‘pensioner perks’ – the Winter Fuel Allowance, the free TV licence – a taxable benefit and strip out bureaucracy by simply adding the value to the basic state pension. This would not raise much (maybe £0.5bn) but is important.  (There needs to be a discussion about the value of the bus pass, which is used by many working-age people over 60.  It is a matter in the hands of local authorities, but there is an argument to protect this benefit, while making it taxable for wealthy pensioners by adjusting the level of taxable allowances.)

 

2. Adopt a general principle that any cuts to welfare should fall on the non-working-age population in equal measure to those of working age.

3. Commit that after the Treasury study into its implementation is complete, legislation to enable a national Land Value Tax scheme is brought in by 2018 at the latest. This would not help to eliminate the structural deficit but would be an essential component of a fair fiscal system for the years beyond.  Indeed, it appears that even the IFS has shifted its position: ‘We cannot say conclusively that the administrative hurdles to replacing business rates with an LVT could be overcome at reasonable cost. But this is such a powerful idea, and one that has been so comprehensively ignored by governments, that the case for a thorough official effort to design a workable system seems to us to be overwhelming. In particular, significant adjustment costs would be merited if the inefficient and iniquitous system of business rates could be swept away entirely and replaced by an LVT.’

4. Finally bring in the urgent reforms to defence procurement. For too long UK policy has bought unnecessary kit under pressure from the defence industry and pork-barrel politics.  The most recent figures for Government spending on subsidies for the arms trade were in excess of £500million.

 

5. Bring in a UK Living Wage as soon as possible. Implementation of the Gaining from Growth version would make a difference to the tune of £3bn+ in added revenues and welfare savings.

 

6. Increase taxes on the wealthiest, starting with a Mansion Tax and adding the other measures in the tax paper which total around £11bn. Further tax changes could be considered, and Liberal Democrats should support the temporary restoration of the 50p tax rate, even if (and this is of course controversial) its yield is relatively small.

 

7. The quid pro quo is that the proposed increase in the tax threshold would have to be funded from the proceeds of growth not spending cuts. (Not all the £11bn would be spent by 2018 but much of it would.  Nick Clegg’s speech attempts to commit the Lib Dems to a ‘flagship policy’ of increasing the tax threshold which the IFS is uncomfortable with, as well as much of the party; but it is uncosted and its affordability is questionable.  Additionally, the IFS cites its distribution, far from being the ‘workers’ bonus’, as being guided to higher earners and non-working taxpayers such as pensioners.  A more sensible and progressive option would be to look to increase the National Insurance threshold as the economy allows.)

 

8. On housing, whereas the most obvious solutions involve ‘invest to save’ measures that would create jobs and tackle long-term housing issues that would save the country money, but not immediately, much could be achieved by revenue-neutral measures such as using pension fund assets to fund building houses and ending the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap that absurdly stops councils borrowing against their own assets to build homes. [Interestingly that London Councils report also adopts Liberal Democrat policy of a vacant land tax: the first step towards Land Value Taxation to tax landbanking by developers.]

 

9. There are additional savings – harder to quantify in some cases – from further tax changes. Scrapping the marriage tax break would save £4-500m. Stopping debt-ridden companies offsetting their debt against tax would save more (as would banning state subsidies to utility companies and the like with links to tax avoidance until they clean up their act.) Pressing successfully in Europe for reforms to make largescale corporate tax avoidance harder – even better.

 

10. Of course scrapping Trident replacement would save around £4bn per year.

 

There are of course many other measures which Liberal Democrats would like to see that would eliminate unnecessary Government spending: the elimination of hidden subsidies for new nuclear power stations, as specified in the Coalition Agreement, would be but one.  Any additional revenues available through underspends and the proceeds of growth should be used to fund measures which promote work and reduce inequality, such as childcare support for those on the lowest incomes.

 

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On Child Poverty Targets – On which I agree with David Laws

This article first appeared on Lib Dem Voice on 1st March.

“A fair, free and open society, in which… no one shall be enslaved by poverty.”

The fundamental basis of our party’s constitution – its very soul – is the elimination of poverty. We may disagree amongst us on how best to achieve this ambitious goal, but there’s little dissent on having it as a goal, particularly when it comes to the blight of children growing up in poverty.

We find ourselves in government with a party that doesn’t share many of our values – rarely is this crystallised as starkly as this week’s battle over child poverty targets.

 

It appears that some Conservatives – in particular, the Chancellor – refuse to accept the need for clear targets on reducing child poverty. The result? A new strategy to reduce child poverty that contains to targets on reducing child poverty. Really.

 

I agree with David Laws. Really I do. The Guardian quotes David thus: ‘as chairman of the Lib Dems’ election 2015 manifesto group he wanted to see these targets appear in the party’s manifesto. Getting agreement on the issue ought to be a priority in the next parliament because “this debate is too important to be vetoed by one political party in British politics.”

 

Too right.

There is a more nuanced debate to be had on how we measure child poverty, and poverty for all – not least because how we measure it frames how we tackle it. This debate should be informed by the risks associated with changing an internationally-recognised, well-understood single definition (earning below 60% of the median) – risks that the Royal Statistical Society say imperil public trust and trans-national comparison. While these risks are real and should be taken seriously, I understand that the new approach won’t reject household income and replace it with a broader definition, as was originally assumed. Rather, the newer indicators of poverty will be measured and published alongside the 60%-of-median figure – they’ll be additional, rather than instead of, the trusted statistic. Some other countries take a dashboard approach to poverty indicators, which take account of social circumstances and public spending – the new strategy attempts to replicate this.

To me the real risk in the proposed approach of defining child poverty is the conflation of causes and consequences of poverty. We need to debate, as a party, whether we consider social phenomena like broken families, educational underachievement and substance abuse to be drivers of, or a result of, poverty. Of course the relationship is complicated – there’s likely to be a cyclical link between these factors. But whether we see these as risk factors or markers of poverty has a real impact on how we approach so much public policy – decisions on things as disparate as welfare spending, alcohol pricing and housing depend on how we frame the problem of poverty, how much we hold individuals absolutely responsible for their circumstances.

So there are difficult, ethically loaded decisions to be made on how we measure other factors that contribute to poverty. The decision to have a target at all is not – that, is far more an issue of pure political expediency. The Tory cards are on the table, they don’t want to have targets on child poverty they can be held accountable for. We do, we should, and we will.

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Our Policy Making Processes are Broken

Charles West has been a District Councillor, Parliamentary Candidate and Chair of local parties in Shropshire – this article was previously submitted to Lib Dem Voice who refused to publish it.

Fellow Liberal Democrats, our policy-making processes are broken. We are not as democratic as we would like to believe.

I have long been frustrated by the fact that we lack a coherent overall policy for health and the NHS. I now know at least some of the reasons for that failure. It was certainly not party policy to break up the NHS and replace it with a National Health Scheme.[i]

The first hurdle is to get Federal Policy Committee (FPC) to decide that we need a policy working group.

As an area that accounts for 18% of public expenditure and regularly comes among the top areas of public concern you might think that health is quite important. But no, alas, FPC decided to have a Public Services Working Group that would look at health, education, transport and other locally delivered services.

As someone with a life-time’s experience of the NHS both locally and nationally in General Practice, Management and Health Informatics, I have something to offer on the subject. As a councillor, parliamentary candidate and Local Party Chair I can also consider the political context. Despite not being on the original list produced by the Party leadership, I was appointed to the working group.

The problems of our wide brief were compounded by a very tight time-scale: we had in effect five months to produce a consultation document. Had we been set up to fail?

There are twenty-one members of the working group. Apart from the chair, I am the only member to have attended every meeting. Typically we have between six and twelve members attending. We are sometimes outnumbered by Special Advisers and policy analysts seconded from Price Waterhouse Coopers.

The chair of our group, FPC member Jeremy Hargreaves, decides on the agenda and the evidence givers. During the meeting I find that he is quicker to give his own opinion than to listen to those of others. He writes and approves the notes of meetings himself, which are erroneously referred to as minutes. And he has written the consultation paper. He has flagged up issues as important and persisted with them despite disagreement from members of the group and contrary evidence from witnesses. I have raised with him directly my concerns that this approach is not best practice, to no avail.

The remit of our working group included a requirement to “review the current legislation governing the provision of these services, including recent reforms to the NHS, and consider what changes to recommend.”

To focus our discussions I wrote a draft paper which I circulated in early October. Four meetings came and went while our chair prevaricated. Interestingly, other papers from members have been discussed within 24 hours of circulation. Finally, several members of the group supported me in my insistence that it should be discussed. At the last minute our chair arranged that Norman Lamb should come to the same meeting and present a different paper. When the notes of that meeting were circulated they contained no reference to my paper or any of its recommendations.

And so it is, fellow Liberal Democrats that you will be offered a consultation document at York that totally fails to address the most important issues facing the NHS and that neither reviews the Health and Social Care Act of 2012 nor recommends any changes. It does not even invite you to say whether you think that we should review these things.

Why is that? Some people do not want to rock the boat. They do not want to change anything. There are even some who think that it would be embarrassing if we came up with policies now that seemed out of line with legislation that our parliamentarians helped to pass while in coalition. If that is the case we might as well all join the Conservative Party and have done with it.



[i] These were policies advocated by Nick Clegg and David Laws in 2005 and 2004 respectively.

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Times letter on Lib Dem manifesto pledges, 19/02/14

Members of the Liberal Democrat Federal Policy Committee – together with Social Liberal Form Council members – have written to the Times reasserting the party’s democratic and independent manifesto process. This letter is reproduced here in full (the letter and an shorter list of signatories appeared in the Times):

Sir,
At a time when political leadership and vision are in short supply, to present a manifesto devoid of either, as you report some Liberal Democrats as planning ['Lib Dems axe pledges for coalition deal', 18 Feb] would be an act of folly.

Thankfully, the democratic nature of the Liberal Democrats means that our elected Federal Policy Committee has the final say over what goes in the manifesto.

It is in the event of a balanced Parliament that compromises shall be made – not before. While commitments made in a manifesto must be affordable – like ours were in 2010 – the central message is what ultimately matters. For Liberal Democrats, who seek a fairer, more sustainable future, what we want is to fundamentally change the way British politics works – not to become a pale imitation of the two old parties.

Prateek Buch, Gareth Epps, Helen Flynn, Evan Harris, Lucy Care, Mark Pack, Tony Greaves, Kelly-Marie Blundell, Stan Collins, Louise Bloom, Geoffrey Payne; Liberal Democrat Federal Policy Committee

Naomi Smith, Mary Reid, Mathew Hulbert, Paula Keaveney, Michael Steed, Linda Jack, Gordon Lishman, Mark Blackburn; Social Liberal Forum

The letter was covered in a story on page two of the Times, headlined: Clegg’s middle-ground tactic sparks Lib Dem infighting:

Senior policymakers and grassroots members are furious about the Lib Dem leader’s plan to stake out a middle ground “equidistant” from Labour and the Tories to boost the chances of another coalition government…

“We will be scrutinising the proposals more closely this year, to watch out for what has been dropped. We won’t just be dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” he [Mr Buch] said. “If we don’t remain an independent party, no one will vote for us.”

He said there was growing alarm that key policies concerning drugs, land taxes, electoral and constitutional reform could all be ditched because they were opposed by both Labour and the Tories.

The full story is here (£)

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Vince Cable sets out the Lib Dem approach to the economy

Vince Cable’s speech to the Royal Economic society is being reported as undermining the Chancellor in his pursuit of a budget surplus. This misses the point, as Vince is rightly focussed less on the ins and outs of Westminster politics and more on ways to generate real sustainable prosperity in the wider economy.

In his speech he set out the Lib Dem approach to the economy in light of a number of facts overlooked in the recent media frenzy over encouraging headline stats on GDP growth and employment. Serious imbalances remain in the UK economy, whether viewed from a regional perspective (£) or as regards economic sectors, so Vince is absolutely correct to say that obsessively pursuing an absolute budget surplus by a set date will undermine the sort of recovery we desperately need – one that allows for substantial investment in our creaking infrastructure and sees sustainable prosperity reach beyond London and the South East. With house prices soaring in these regions – but stagnating elsewhere, along with job creation and productivity – it should come as no surprise that the recovery taking hold is of ‘the wrong shape’ – the only surprise is that pointing this out is seen as an act of coalition rebellion, not a warning to the country about the economic choices we face.

We will post a more detailed analysis later – including reflection on how the party’s economic platform is evolving following the SLF’s amendment to Nick Clegg’s economics motion in Glasgow. What is clear is that Vince is determined to present an economically credible, progressive and above all distinctly Liberal Democrat economic platform – as the Tories test their coalition partner’s resolve by attempting to legislate for crushing austerity in the next Parliament, his defence of a Lib Dem approach to economic policy will matter more and more.

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Raising the income tax threshold – proceed with caution

As Liberal Democrats build our manifesto for 2015, one key policy is already being promoted as a flagship measure – continuing to raise the income tax personal allowance to £12,500. While there’s little doubt that raising it to £10,000 in this Parliament was a significant, liberal and popular achievement, we should proceed with caution in going yet further – particularly in light of the often-unwelcome consequences and alternative options, as set out in an excellent CentreForum paper by Adam Corlett. This paper is a significant contribution to a much-needed discussion on the costs, benefits and alternatives to what many in the party assume is a done deal on tax thresholds – it is right and proper that we subject all policy to real scrutiny.

Few would disagree that taxation should be fair, and that the lowest earners should shoulder as little of the strain as possible. But in lifting the income tax threshold yet further, we should ask three key questions that ought to apply to virtually any tax policy:

  1. Do the lowest earners in fact stand to benefit at all? Where does the benefit of a higher personal allowance accrue?
  2. Tax cuts have to be weighed up against the costs in terms of further public spending cuts or higher taxes elsewhere needed to fund them – what is the trade-off required to achieve a £12,500 allowance?
  3. If the aim is to lift low earners out of tax, what alternative measures are better?

Adam’s CentreForum investigation concludes that there are significant opportunity costs which must be accounted for – I would emphasise the further erosion of already-stretched public services, which could impact a great deal on millions of low earners. As is well-established through the work of the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Resolution Foundation, Adam reports that higher and higher personal allowances do not in fact benefit the very poor as much as they do middle- and higher-earners. An interesting finding in this work is that through interaction with Universal Credit, childcare policy and automatic enrolment in workplace pensions, a higher personal allowance could well be of little benefit for many low earners – and indeed could damage future prospects in terms of their pensions. These are strong arguments in favour of a real public debate on how best to shape our tax and benefit system.

There is a compelling argument in favour of raising National Insurance thresholds rather than income tax allowances. If the aim is indeed to help low earners, and to simplify the tax system, this should be a real priority – from what I can see this would be a far more effective and fairer tax cut.

There’s also an elephant in the taxation room – if make the (questionable) commitment to finding at least £25bn more cuts en route to a balanced budget, the opportunity cost of tax cuts on this scale rises yet more. Considered alongside fiscal consolidation that the Institute for Fiscal Studies already considers undeliverable, substantial tax cuts that don’t help low earners cannot be the priority.

All three political parties are looking to boost the living standards of low- to middle-earners, which social liberals of course welcome as a long-overdue focus. Liberal Democrats must ensure a fully-informed, open debate on how best to achieve this without falling back on simplistic assumptions that higher income tax thresholds are necessarily the best way forward. As the aim is to foster a fairer, more sustainably prosperous political economy, we should examine all our options with an open mind.

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