British PM Boris Johnson promises ‘sensible’ tax cuts and spending plans

VIDEO: REUTERS
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will also announce a £3 billion (S$5.3 billion) National Skills Fund to retrain workers and an extra £2 billion to fill potholes in roads.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will also announce a £3 billion (S$5.3 billion) National Skills Fund to retrain workers and an extra £2 billion to fill potholes in roads.PHOTO: AFP

TELFORD, ENGLAND (REUTERS) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, facing a Dec 12 election, promised £23.5 billion (S$41 billion) worth of “sensible” tax cuts and higher spending which he contrasted with the more radical plans of the opposition Labour Party.

Johnson’s Conservative Party said the impact of its tax and spending plans on the government’s day-to-day current budget would be close to zero in the period between 2020 and 2024.

The most expensive tax cut measure was a raising of the threshold for paying social security contributions – which was announced by Johnson last week – while the lion’s share of the extra spending was on the health service.

“We won’t gamble with taxpayers’ money or this country’s economic future. That is why we have set out clear rules that will keep borrowing and debt under control,” finance minister Sajid Javid said in a document listing the cost of the measures.

He said Labour was proposing “reckless plans and ideological experiments” which would hit investment in Britain.

The Conservatives’ plan to increase day-to-day spending by just over £10 billion over the course of the next four financial years is dwarfed by Labour’s £83 billion planned rise.

Johnson earlier promised to bring his Brexit deal back to Parliament before Christmas when he launches his manifesto, the cornerstone of his pitch to voters to "get Brexit done".

Voters face a stark choice at the country's Dec 12 election: opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn's socialist vision, including widespread nationalisation and free public services, or Mr Johnson's drive to deliver Brexit within months and build a "dynamic market economy".

Opinion polls show Mr Johnson's Conservative Party commands a sizeable lead over the Labour Party, although large numbers of undecided voters means the outcome is not certain.

"My early Christmas present to the nation will be to bring the Brexit Bill back before the festive break, and get Parliament working for the people," Mr Johnson will say, according to excerpts of a speech that he will make at an event in the West Midlands region of England.

Contrasting with Labour's unabashed tax-and-spend approach, Mr Johnson's manifesto - titled "Get Brexit Done, Unleash Britain's Potential" - will pledge to freeze income tax, value-added sales tax and social security payments.

Mr Johnson will also announce a £3 billion (S$5.3 billion) National Skills Fund to retrain workers and an extra £2 billion to fill potholes in roads. He will also pledge to maintain the regulatory cap on energy bills.

Labour spokesman Andrew Gwynne said Mr Johnson's plans were "pathetic".

"This is a no hope manifesto, from a party that has nothing to offer the country, after spending ten years cutting our public services," Mr Gwynne said.

Think tanks like the Institute for Fiscal Studies have raised questions about the credibility of plans to fund investment from both the Conservatives and Labour.

 
 
 

Held after three years of negotiations to leave the European Union, the December election for the first time will show how far Brexit has torn traditional political allegiances apart and will test an electorate increasingly tired of voting.

Amid a heated campaign in which the Conservatives have been criticised for disseminating misleading social media posts, Mr Johnson will say he will "turn the page from the dither, delay and division" of recent years.

Labour has said it will negotiate a better Brexit deal with the European Union within six months that it will put to the people in a new referendum - one which will also offer the choice of remaining in the bloc.

Mr Corbyn has said he would remain neutral in such a vote.

"We now know the country can be carbon (neutral) by 2050 and Corbyn neutral by 2020, as the leader of the opposition has decided to duck the biggest issue facing our country today," Mr Johnson will say.