Many of us in politics came into public life to make things better. There is a lot of agreement between the three main parties, and probably UKIP as well, that the overarching aim should be to promote higher living standards and better lives for the many as a result of government action or inaction.
Very often the main issue in dispute in a General election is which team would manage the economy better? Which team would provide a financial offer that could help you as a voter to a more comfortable lifestyle?
Yesterday Mr Cameron adopted a couple of tax policies that would help. Taking more people out of income tax altogether at the lower end of the income tax scale makes it more worthwhile working. Better that we let people keep more of what they earn than we tax them more to pay them more in benefits. If you insist on people on low income paying tax you then have a handling charge and have to return some of the tax money to them in the form of benefits. Its a dear and complex way of doing it.
Raising the 40p tax threshold is a policy I have campaigned for. Many of the people now dragged into the 40p tax rate are far from rich. 40p is a very high rate of tax. It is a crippling charge on many individuals and families trying to pay their own bills and take responsibility for their own lives. I am glad the Prime Minister has adopted this as his own.
Labour have said they will raise the Minimum wage. The amount they offer over the lifetime of the next Parliament is similar to the rate of increase this Parliament. I doubt they are offering much if any extra compared to what will happen anyway. Their Minimum wage scheme was based on an independent quango weighing up the issues around what is the correct rate. Set it too low and it has no beneficial effect. Set it too high and it destroys jobs. It is difficult to see Labour’s policy as an effective way of delivering more pay to more people, given the likely cross party agreement to the likely recommended increases anyway.
The best way of promoting higher living standards is for more people to have jobs that were out of work, and for more people in work to be promoted into jobs that pay more. Some of the average figures for pay and real incomes have been dragged lower by success in creating many more lower paid jobs which give people on benefits their chance of employment. For them the lower pay of these jobs should still be an improvement on benefits. The next step for them is to get promoted, train within the firm or move to another company that pays more. Some people are in jobs where the firm has not been able to afford a rise. As the economy improves so should the capacity of employers to reward their staff.
I want to see many more better paid jobs. The way to do that is to have a great climate for new companies to start up, to offer proper support for training and qualifications, and to work away at raising educational standards more. It is also important that once in a job you do not get taxed too heavily for it. All parties say they want more people to work and agree a job is the way to prosperity. Why then tax it so highly?
The best way to get a good job is to do well at a not so good job. The best way to rising living standards is to improve your skills and show your worth to employers.