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Economic debate: Banks and a balanced economy

Robert Peston | 22:12 UK time, Thursday, 29 April 2010

Birmingham: What have I learned tonight about the parties' policies on sanitising the banking system and rebalancing the economy so that it is less dependent on the City?

Not a great deal - and, believe me, I was listening intently.

In respect of mood rather than substance, David Cameron was clearer than I had ever heard him on the need to separate retail banking from investment banking - though he did not say whether he would break up the banks in the absence of international agreement.

He was also crystal clear about the imperative of levying a tax on the banks, even if other countries don't.

On these two issues, and you wouldn't believe it from their mutually hostile body language, David Cameron and Nick Clegg aren't that far apart: although the Lib Dems would levy a new 10% tax on banks' profits, whereas the Tories would tax their wholesale borrowings.

Out on something of a limb was Gordon Brown - who defended big banks and also argued that it would be wrong to impose a new tax on banks in the absence of international agreement.

David Cameron also made an intriguing statement about wanting to give the Bank of England the power "to call time on debt in the economy" - which was presumably a nod to so-called macro-prudential policy, or the provision of a new power to the central bank to ration credit in boom years.

There was, however, an outbreak of consensus on the need to promote manufacturing, especially "green" and hi-tech businesses - though I struggled to glean any convincing detail from any of them about how they would achieve this in a meaningful way.

That said, there is a serious division between Brown and Cameron about the taxation of business - on top of their spat about Labour's plan to raise national insurance next year.

Cameron favours cutting the headline rate of corporation tax for all companies, financed by the reduction of assorted tax allowances for them.

Brown characterised that approach as a cut in taxes paid by banks - which Cameron only half disputed.

The prime minister's implicit point is that the removal of corporate tax allowances would hit investing manufacturers disproportionately more.

I suppose on these narrow but important issues I rated the debate as a slightly dull no-score draw - the sort of thing we may experience in the looming Bayern/Inter Champions League Final.

Where's Lionel Messi when we need him?

Update 2355: The coffee has all gone cold. And the Blackberries (except mine) have been put away.

So what's the overall verdict on tonight's performances in the round (and not just on the stuff that relates to my eccentric interests)?

Well, what I would point out is that Gordon Brown's crew was pretty glum as Spin Alley was dismantled until the next election. Team Brown felt that Brown had been too negative.

By contrast, the Tories were cheerful. And the Lib Dems seemed a bit nonplussed.

As for the rampaging press pack, it scored Cameron first, Clegg second and then - a bit in the rear - Brown. The hacks echoed the post-debate polls.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I scored 32 to Clegg, 31 to Cameron and 20 to Brown. My scoring system is prone to all kinds of weaknesses including bias, prejudice and bigotdedness.

  • Comment number 2.

    Cameron left me truly frightened.

    He'll have many, many people living in shanty towns. That's my view of the man who looked like his tight-knot tie was throttling him.

    The rich have ripped off this country beyond imagining. And he seems to be intent on providing more rip-off opportunities, as many as he can find for them.

    We voted for capitalism over the past 30 years, and now we are attacking those who have suffered for those policies we wanted! Where is the responsibility in that?

    Now if the banks are going to pay every penny back then why the need for cuts at all?

  • Comment number 3.

    It's ironic that we have the Tory party calling an end to the Bankers' party. I'm sure there will be more than a few votes for Gordon coming from the square mile.

    After all: turkeys don't vote for Christmas...

  • Comment number 4.

    "I rated the debate as a slightly dull no-score draw "

    True. Why? because none of the three parties will tell the truth.

    Witness the ridiculous debate on controlling immigration, of which 80% comes from the EU yet all support EU membership.

    Or how about the unspecificied spending cuts. Granted the parties won't give specifics, but what would they prefer to cut? Health? welfare? transport?

    You might as well go into a polling booth with a blindfold - No-one's being honest, so just have a random stab and keep your fingers crossed for after 06 May.

  • Comment number 5.

    None of them have a clue about rebalancing our economy for the simple reason is that we are bankrupt. Even the IFS was only talking about their inability to tackle the annual deficit of over £160bn and their unexplained plans to cut this only by half over 4 years. Yet, this would still mean we are accumulating debt on top of the £900bn already sitting there.

    Greece here we come...

  • Comment number 6.

    They all choked on the banks. I was hoping to find some clarity on what we may do with banks profits. The taxpayers stakes in Lloyds Banking Group and RBS are now worth some £10 billion more than what we paid for them. It looks like Northern Rock will return some profit to the treasury soon.

    We should use the return to help the deficit when it returns to self sufficient private ownership and a new bank tax to help support business loans.

    Talk of breaking up the retail/investment arms banks is populist drivel in my opinion as the amount of money already spent on integration of these banks would far outweight the benefits of reversing this.

  • Comment number 7.

    The debate was too superficial to be taken too seriously!

  • Comment number 8.

    Re #5 "None of them have a clue about rebalancing our economy for the simple reason is that we are bankrupt"
    - If you have a look at the National Accounts there are 4 "we's" and one "them".
    "We" 1) The Corporate World - 'Our companies' - they came into 2001 with a combined £842,700 Million in Retained Losses
    and they stayed in Loss till 2008 - they look like popping back into net loss of something of the order of £500,000 Millon according to the
    Q3 2009 accounts by the end of 2009
    "We" 2) The Government - The Government came into 2001 £260,900 Million in debt and added to it till they are now £566,000 Million in Debt (Q3 2009)
    "We" 3) The Households - We came into 2001 £2,383,400 in the Black and have moved up to £ 2,549,900 in the Black (Q3 2009)
    "Them" 1) Foreigners owned £99,000 Million more of us that we owned of them back in 2001 and now they have moved up to being £122,500 Million ahead.
    In this, the Retained Profits (Losses) of the Corporate World (+ their fixed Assets) = the overall decrease in debt during this period apart from a small statistical discrepancy

    So ignoring foreigners for a moment, because we don't use a NEFS system
    , we essentially have Consumer Debt + Government Debt = Retained Corporate Profits - in a way "we" are all of them - This is why we have the endless merry- go-round "News" such as : "Financial News today - The good News that 'Profits were Up' was tempered by the bad news that Consumer Debt had risen in the same period" - it's the same number - it' s called double entry bookkeeping ! - Humans laugh at dogs chasing their tails - our entire Planet does the same.

  • Comment number 9.

    Not everyone wants to be in one of your magical families David. Some people prefer to remain single, travel the world, be transient. In a time when 1/3 of marriages end in divorce, overall marriage rates are declining, and there is no proof of marriage being the ultimate key to social salvation but your depressingly outdated daydream idealism.

    I couldn't bear to live in a country run by someone so out of touch and misguided they want to incentivise everyone into monogamous pairings at the soonest opportunity. Are we going forward or backward here. The key is choice and unbiased fairness in allowing people to chose to live the lifestyles they want to lead.

  • Comment number 10.

    It was interesting to see the Cameron criticising Labour for an emphasis on the financial sector. Its almost like he's forgotten which party he's in.

  • Comment number 11.

    Sorry Robert, didn't see the Great Debate, some of us have to work for a living.

    It's all a sideshow, you know this, all the people on this board know this.

    The wheel is spinning, the ball has been released and only the laws of physics stand firm.

    No matter how loud the protagonists shout, the die is cast.

    '14 Black'...'Banker wins'

  • Comment number 12.

    They skirted around the big elephant in the room, but mainly talked loose change, £6 billion here and there, for fear of upsetting the horses (electorate). Sorry for the cliches. The declared National debt is a total of £12.73 every second since Jesus was born 2010 years ago, (£807 billion), and the deficit just for last year is £ 2.60 over the same time frame (£165 billion). I don't think our debt started over 2000 years ago, or maybe it did, bailing out those Roman bankers who had taken excessive risks trying to repel the barbarians, paid themselves huge bonuses, and enjoyed bachanalian orgies.

  • Comment number 13.

    The only thing to come out of the 'debate' was the clear demonstration of ignorance and incompetence by all three participants.

    With their record on wrecking the economy, parliamentary expenses, illegal wars and surrendering our sovereignty to the EU they have rendered themselves totally unfit for government.

    Vote for any of them at your peril.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think that any government that stays in power for over 10 years becomes stale and corrupt. It happened to Thatcher and now to Blair/Brown. Remember Blair? He came in characterised as Bambi and left as a blood soaked war monger. I wonder whether the Tories have changed sufficiently to be new and fresh?
    I think I need to hibernate for the next 10 years whilst this mess is sorted out by anyone. Wake me up when normality returns, whatever normality is.

  • Comment number 15.

    Boring sleep inducing waffle, none of them said anything they hadn't many times before.
    I hope Mr Cameron realises it's a deep ocean trench, not a rut Britain's economy has fallen in.
    Anyone know why Mandleson seems to have stepped into Alistair Darling vocal shoes during recent interviews with the two shadow chancellors?

  • Comment number 16.

    Well i enjoyed it at least.
    What anoyed me was 2 minutes later on the news it was typical BBC, interpriting what happened for us (as if we did not understand what we just saw) and telling us how we should think.

    I would agree Cameron won the PR battle however, IMO, the rigid stare down the camera and refusal to debate with Brown became a little comical. Clegg's second half, IMO, did take a large tumble he started to look evasive and contracting his "lets be totally honest" first answer.

    Clearly it was not going to be anything other than popularist, not over surprised that nobody dared talk of the benefits of immigration or that it can be for humane as well as economic reasons, Brown actually seemed strongest on the point of immigration, how he must rue Wed.

    It would be more useful if, instead of the BBC making it a style battle of the three leaders to actually give the bigger picture of the election being for election of the party(s) to form Government. Disecting the substance and critical appraisal of the substance of what was said would be more useful

  • Comment number 17.

    #2 "Now if the banks are going to pay every penny back then why the need for cuts at all?"

    There is a simple explanation. In 2007 (pre credit crunch) govt income from taxes was 37% of GDP and spending 44%.

    So how do you run an economy without spending cuts when the muppet in charge has decided to spend 20% more than he earns

  • Comment number 18.

    I scored it more a very close Brown, Clegg, Cameron but not a lot between.
    I wish there was one more debate next week as the rules the parties drew up seemed to not as used as much this time.
    And nothing really was said, I suppose that Cameron and Clegg don't know the real figures and are guessing whereas Mr Brown does know and actually does have a plan and a rabbit or two to pull out.
    But my vote is still undecided if that helps any polls.

  • Comment number 19.

    2 copperDolomite wrote:

    'Now if the banks are going to pay every penny back then why the need for cuts at all?'

    --------------------------------

    Tim Harford gave a good explanation of this during yeterday's Radio 4 'PM' programme. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8575001.stm

    Surprisingly, most of the structural deficit has not come about as a result of the bank bailouts, but is largely due to the drastic drop in a tax receipts resulting from the recession/depression.

    Now whether it was the banks that caused the recession/depression in the first place is another question.


  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    4. At 11:09pm on 29 Apr 2010, ltfcunited wrote
    Witness the ridiculous debate on controlling immigration, of which 80% comes from the EU yet all support EU membership.

    Or how about the unspecificied spending cuts. Granted the parties won't give specifics, but what would they prefer to cut? Health? welfare? transport?

    We now know it's more like 30% from EU. We also know in January the Conservatives started to talk about austerity and their polls collapsed. You may be one of those who wants the truth but can't handle it.
    Public sector job losses, pay cuts and a cut in tax credits. The private sector has already been through it. Your turn now. Before you ask I have had a 20% pay cut!

  • Comment number 22.

    9. At 00:34am on 30 Apr 2010, Rick wrote:
    Not everyone wants to be in one of your magical families David. Some people prefer to remain single, travel the world, be transient.

    Perfect. One less person to find work for in this country. Go, travel and come back when the Conservatives have sorted out the mess so you can vote them out again and the cycle continues.

  • Comment number 23.

    Splitting banks into retail and investment stand alone entities is unlikely to ever happen. I would propose that the investment divisions of banks have to pay a minimum 300 basis points over base when borrowing from other banks. This will have the effect of increasing the margins and cashflows of the retail divisions while reducing the profits (and therefore the bonuses) of the investment division. The positives of this are that it helps strengthen banks balance sheets (cash doesn't leave the bank), gives more cash for the retail division to lend and reduces bonuses.

  • Comment number 24.

    Pathetic reponses to the house price CRISIS. Not one said prices were simply too high and needed to drop, instead we get PATHETIC shared ownership schemes. They actually think people want to buy half a house for the price a full one should cost. These schemes will make it harder to achieve home ownership as they help inflate prices and they are grossly unfair. Tax payers money should not be used to help selected people into houses and prop up house prices at unaffordable levels. Robert, please take them to task over this crucial issue.

    Then we hear how Labour want rates to remain low even though they caused the mess, its a continuation of New Labours rewarding reckless borrowers and penalising the sensible.

  • Comment number 25.

    I thought Brown's performance last night was dire, negative and absolutely desperate. Repeated mention of the 'old Tories' was so boring and unimaginative.

    The final comments by the three protoganists were in stark contrast to each other. Cameron and to a lesser extent Clegg were positive and forward thinking. All Brown could do was to say that the other two were too inexperienced and basically fear-monger. He had nothing new to say. The differences between them were there for all to see and hear, they were so obvious.

  • Comment number 26.

    I and pretty much everyone I have spoken to are slightly flummexed that Cameron won last nights tv debate, according to the polls. Absolute rubbish and we're being spun some fakeline that the Trories are out in front by a right-wing press, eager to create the impression that Labour have no chance. Cameron finished a dire third place, which is the opinion of the majority of fair minded people I have spoken too. If someone cares to look in depth at the over 1500 responses to tv debate on this website, you will find that the majority of people are of the same opinion that Cameron finished a poor third. We are being fed a line to make it appear that Labour have no chance. I'm not a particular supporter of any of the main political parties btw, but I desparately don't want this country being ruined by a man who has been put there to represent the views of the establishement.

  • Comment number 27.

    Having watched much of the debates, and read all the parties manifesto's (summaries as a minimum) but the detail on the big issues, I've tried to come to an impartial view of the policies and debate performances.
    On the debates, only Nick clegg came across as comfortable and talking to the public as people rather than being fake.
    Gordon Brown tried to come across as the wise old sage / father figure but actually looked like the stubborn bully he's been made out to be by #10 staff and government insiders.
    David Cameron just looked wooden and quite uncomfortable. He kind of reminded me of Data out of Star Trex TNG.
    On policy, again I went into this quite impartial. In fact in the last general election I chose (different to 'can't be bothered') not to vote.
    I score their manifesto's as:
    Joint 1st: UKIP & Conservative (have the best philosophies but will be taking over a mess)
    Close 3rd: Lib Dem (marked down for stupid idea on stopping new nuclear power stations to replace those decommissioning - nice idea but we'll be paying £500 a month for electric in 10 years without them unless oyu want new coal plants)
    4th: Labour
    Rest: Nowhere
    I think unfortunately there will be a hung parliament. Too many people seem entrenched in there views and treat the parties almost like football teams.
    The only decent outcome this time would be a Conservative majority as I can't see LD managing it and voting UKIP would certainly be a waste. Unfortunately there is still too much hate of Thatcher left over, and a too skewed constituency spread for them to get enough seats. Labour somehow still manage to
    retain their "party for the people image" too, even though GB is as much a "toff" as any of them.
    Imagine if you wiped the slate clean, and created a new party with Nick Clegg's down-to-earth TV

    persona, the Conservatives ideology and policies, and Labours popularity with the masses. I think they'd get 90% plus.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hello - I just heard the news that the BBC are axing 'Working Lunch'. At a time when raising the standard of financial education for everyone in the UK could not be more important, I have to admit I am devestated by the news. How does everyone else feel about this?

  • Comment number 29.

    28. At 08:08am on 01 May 2010, MsLindesay wrote:

    Hello - I just heard the news that the BBC are axing 'Working Lunch'. At a time when raising the standard of financial education for everyone in the UK could not be more important, I have to admit I am devestated by the news. How does everyone else feel about this?

    Only caught the tail end of things. What were their reason(S)- Britain is too dumbed down, so the programme only attracts a small audience perhaps?

    Will it be replaced by anything? I remember The Money Programme going back to the 70's, broadcast on BBC2 at 7.00pm on a Sunday night. The BBC have always had something, they shouldn't just give up. The economy is the hottest election topic and although we would obviously all love to have a less complicated financial environment in future, what are the chances of that?

    As for this blog....."a balanced eceonomy," what, one that isn't 80% banking & 14% manufacturing, like Britain? We've thrown the baby out with the bathwater over a decade ago. First we have to change our attitude from one that is indifferent towards impoverishing people to one that positively views it as unacceptable and understands precisely where the line is beyond which it is unacceptable.

  • Comment number 30.

    We keep hearing about the danger of a country, currently Greece, going bankrupt. But no one has yet, so far as I have seen, explained exactly what the means.

  • Comment number 31.

    Just watched the BBC video on Northern Ireland's housing situation.
    What a mess 500 brand new housing estates with hundreds of brand new homes unsold!
    How the hell did they get into that mess?, property developers and banks funding the construction of brand new homes with no buyers its insane.
    On the election front vote for the party that has in its election manifesto the plan to break the investment banks away from private retail banking.
    The rest are just wanting to maintain the status quo because there parties are funded by big business.

  • Comment number 32.

    The people that colluded in this property Ponsi scam namely - bankers, estate agents, life insurance brokers etc have all had a good living for the last 20yrs or so.
    Now I see property is going up again !, so they are all up to there old tricks of inflating values to ordinary people so that they can pump up there commission on the transactions!
    Its time the housing market was regulated and the banks state controlled, after all a roof over your head is a basic human right. These guys are treating it like an extortion racket, pay the price or else your homeless!

  • Comment number 33.

    I guess its one way of keeping the ordinary people on the debt tread mill, we are all being made slaves to our homes and cars.Is this what life is really all about?, being constantly in debt buying over inflated commodities which are manufactured in low costs countries at very low prices?
    We are all being taken for a ride and somebody is making an awful lot of money between the point of manufacture(east) and the point of consumption(west). The scam has fell flat on its face now because western people can no longer buy the cheap imported products.

  • Comment number 34.

    Listening to Gordon Brown and David Cameron talk about the economy the one thing you become aware of is that it takes a paradigm shift - you know, from the sun going round the earth to the earth going round the sun - to see things as each of them regards the economy. Despite the fact that, ever since the Pharoahs of Egypt went round gathering taxes from their people, governments have always been an integral part of the economy you get the impression that David Cameron rather wishes it wasn't so. With Gordon Brown, on the other hand, you get the feeling that, for him, the government bit of the economy, the taxing and spending, is the most important. So who is right? Is the private sector the engine of the economy? The generator of real, value added wealth upon which the taxes and spending of governments ride? Or is the government, with its spending, investment, redistribution and business policies the major player in the economy? Well, Gordon Brown's hero, Adam Smith, has a fair answer..."Great nations are never impoverished by private, though they sometimes are by public prodigality and misconduct. The whole, or alomost the whole public revenue, is in most countries employed in maintaining unproductive hands...Such people, as they themselves produce nothing, are all maintained by the produce of other men's labour."(from The Wealth Of Nations, Accumulation Of Capital). Obviously, Adam Smith could not have foreseen the 'prodigality and misconduct' of our present day international banking system, but the basis of his argument still holds. The engine of our economy, the bit that produces material wealth, is still the private sector. Such has been the growth of the public sector, vis-a-vis the private sector, over the last thirty or forty years it would seem that our economic engine needs a complete overhaul in favour of the private sector. Somehow, I don't think a couple of new spark plugs are going to do the trick. Somewhat perversely, although the government needs to tax less and spend less, it has to take a much more active, hands on role in getting new businesses going in the areas of agriculture, mining, manufacturing, engineering and energy production that will provide increased wealth for the country in the future. Who ever wins the election, let's hope they make this a priority.

  • Comment number 35.

    We do desperately need a more balanced economy but this is a process that should have started years ago.

    Given the current financial circumstances all the government can do now is to rehuffle the priorities of existing spending in such a way that in a slow, gradual way we can move towards that more balanced economic model.

    This does have all the hallmarks of reshuffling the deckchairs on the deck of the Titanic.All we can do is hope that we get ourselves into a much fitter economic state before we hit the iceberg or rewrite history and find a way to steer ourselves round it.

    If we do not strongly regulate the workings of the banks and reduce the levels of personal debt we are in grave danger of being hit by another credit crunch with all its attendant consequences.

  • Comment number 36.

    Sounds like there is not much in terms of anything concrete re: the banking sector. Perhaps the financial disaster that will ensue after a hung parliament will force the issue! ;)

  • Comment number 37.

    That the economy needs to be rebalanced there is little arguement and no doubt. The question is, where to start? My pet theory is that we need to rebalance the make up of parliament its self. I believe that to a significant extent, Britains manufacturing industries have been allowed to decline because of a lack of empathy for or understanding of manufacturing and the benefits it brings to an economy. Something the Germans have never lost sight of. For sure manufacturers have played their part by taking the easy option and moving production abroard to cut costs.
    In the past, all governments have done is throw money at problems as a short term fix, or given grants in regions they have considered politically expedient or advantageous, either that, or said sink or swim!
    No hint of anyone asking the questions:- Why are we failing? What do we need to do to remain competative? How can we be more innovative? Why have we taken so little advantage of the scientific, technological, developements and inventions made in this country to grow UK based industries? For the answer to these questions and more, just look at the background of all those who go to make up parliament.
    Without doing any kind of survey, I think you will find that for the most part parliament it is made up of a lot of specious, self aggrandizing, ego centric, posturing pen pushers! My apologies to (my guess) the 20% who are not. Small wonder that the business of actually making things, is not on their radar.
    There is I believe still a wealth of talent in this country by way of artisans, designers, inovative engineers and scientists, to help rebuild this nations manufacturing base. The big question is, is there likely to be anyone in a future government with any idea how to help to facilitate it?

  • Comment number 38.

    Robert, to answer your question.. Lionel Messi is saving himself for the 2010 world cup in South Africa next month ;)

    Hopefully your prediction on the boring no-score draw for the UEFA final will draw its metaphorical parallel with the UK banking system after there's a hung parliament next week. Given the level of voter apathy in UK right now, I'd guess sadly the parallel won't likely hold.

    I think you're in for a fun month of blogging on the great sterling crash of 2010 this May!

    Justin (World Meltdown blog)

  • Comment number 39.

    30. At 01:21am on 02 May 2010, Peter Hodge wrote:

    "We keep hearing about the danger of a country, currently Greece, going bankrupt. But no one has yet, so far as I have seen, explained exactly what the means."

    It will mean many things - for Greece. Ignoring their international lenders for a moment, who will lose everything, I assume you are asking what it means for Greece?

    Here are a few things, what will the Greek Government use to pay Greek civil servants, their council workers, police, military, teachers, doctors, refuse collectors etc? Has the Greek water industry been privatised, I'm not sure? But, if not and if you have booked to go on holiday to Corfu, Rhodes, Crete etc and the water fails in your hotel, who's coming to fix it?

    I can't imagine things will be as bad as Russia, post the fall of the Berlin wall, but there the ordinary people in many cases had to resort to growing their own food in their gardens! We might think things have improved in Russia, but given how government action often amounts to apathy, things are probably still bad there, for the vast majority, to this day.

    For Greeks in general unemployment will rocket. Greek private industry, that supplies government, will lose orders and slightly worse is that they may have current outstanding invoices and these won't be paid either, causing an almighty cashflow crunch, (as opposed to credit crunch.)

    But, much like Abu Dhabi came to Dubai's rescue, Germany reluctantly seems to be doing something (but with dozens of strings attached,) similar for Greece. But can Germany bail out Portugal, then Spain....then, if it comes down to it, Britain as well? That's not going to happen. Maybe we'll have to invade Iceland to get some of our money back only, just our luck, the place is now buried in ash!

    Argentina suffered something similar in 2002. Just google Argentina Debt default for an idea....

  • Comment number 40.

    The balancing that needs to go on in the economy is resolving the terrifying gap between London and the south east and the other regions (or "nations" as the nationalists have it).
    Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the North East, the South West, East Anglia are bankrupt. The NI economy consists of 70% government spending and the other regions I list are not far behind.
    Scotland is in a far worse state than Greece. Nearly 8 out of 10 jobs are in the public sector and nearly 8 out of 10 of those support, service or depend on the English economy. Wales and the rest are just as bad.
    This wouldn't be so terrifying if we could continue to rely on the south east as our sole engine but the noises all parties are making about the financial services sector - the golden goose - make me think they really do intend to disrupt the only industry that keeps our heads above water.
    The electorate generally thinks that national economic policy is solely about politics but it isn't. There is solid research from around the world - by left and right leaning institutions - that says government spending/dependence above 35% starts to damage the host economy and this damage gets worse the higher the ratio goes. Northern Ireland's 70% is unsustainable.
    The standard answer to people like me, genuinely concerned by what we see, is that there has to be greater "fairness". Nick Clegg talks of nothing else, Labour has it as one of their pledges - or should that be promises? - and Cameron makes the same point repeatedly.
    But where you have a situation where a single person on standard tax coding pays £1,000 a month in taxes and NI from a gross salary of £3,000 - one third - I have to ask; how much "fairer" do people want things to be? How much more can/should the system take from "ordinary" wage earners? Is there, really, any tax capacity left?
    An incoming government must reduce spendng by reducing regional dependence on tax funded support. And they must do this by holding and/or cutting public sector growth back until the private sector can re-establish itself and start to generate jobs, profits and taxes.

  • Comment number 41.

    40. At 09:36am on 04 May 2010, briesmith

    I agree, even though I would argue that the "ordinary wage earner" earns a gross monthly salary of £2000.

    If you do, your Tax & NI will be £468, (or £5616 per year.) Your next biggest tax will be council tax average band D - £1419. Added together that's £7035!

    Your net takehome is £1530. So putting it in perspective your tax, N.I and council tax will take 4.6 months to pay for every year before you begin to have anything to spend on yourself. (That's not until later this month.)Other taxes VAT, etc in fact mean "tax free day," isn't until early June - nearly half a year.

    Plain fact is people at, or below, this level pay too much tax! If they really knew it though, they may be tempted to riot. But whatever other people think, it's clear that poorer people pay nearly half their annual income in some form of tax.

    But in the case of poorer people what they are left with is not enough to live on. In the case of richer people you could take 70% in tax and still have more than enough - to privately educate their children, to put huge sums into pensions, buy alternative investments, second homes, huge farms etc. This visible difference in the poverty gap has expanded under Labour, not contracted. The rich can't complain about more tax, (well not seriously, And Warren Buffett agrees!)

  • Comment number 42.

    37 Al Clarke wrote:

    There is I believe still a wealth of talent in this country by way of artisans, designers, inovative engineers and scientists, to help rebuild this nations manufacturing base. The big question is, is there likely to be anyone in a future government with any idea how to help to facilitate it?

    Sorry al, can't agree, they were lost with the birth of NVQ's and GNVQ's and the concept that you can impart skills in 6 months and produce a skilled workforce without sufficient investment.

    We have continuously disenfranchised our young folk by removing their ability to train for work and the jobs they so wished to do.

    We now have unprecidented numbers of our youth in college or training. What for? To work in the city? I doubt this.

    But I agree with the need to get these skills instilled in our youth, before its too late, but this will take time and money, but our leaders are so blinded by the quick buck it'll never happen.

 

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