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Nick Clegg: I’m proud of Lib Dem Tax Cuts

Today Nick Clegg has said he is extremely pleased with the Budget as a whole, and in particular that the Liberal Democrats have over-delivered on our promise of a £700 tax cut, which will now rise to £800.

 

£700 tax cut promised, £800 tax cut delivered

The Budget has confirmed victory for the Liberal Democrats in our campaign to deliver an £800 tax cut for people on low and middle incomes.

Cutting income tax by £700 – by raising the tax-free allowance to £10,000 – was the top priority on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. That comes into effect next month and the Budget today has confirmed that the Liberal Democrats have now been able to go even further. The tax-free threshold will rise to £10,500 next year, giving a tax cut of £800 for 25m working people since 2010.

Liberal Democrat policy is to continue to increase the threshold in the next Parliament to £12,500.

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The Budget also includes:

  • A boost for apprentices - £85m to extend the Apprenticeship Grants for Employers scheme, creating 100,000 new apprentices, and £20m to support apprenticeships up to postgraduate level
  • A fuel duty freeze
  • Giving people control over the money they have saved in their pension pots – removing the need for people to be tied into buying annuities 
  • Help for savers – reducing tax on savings for people on low incomes and increasing the levels and flexibility on ISAs
  • Help for small businesses – doubling the amount of money that companies can set off against tax for investing in new equipment to £500,000
  • Tax-free childcare worth up to £2,000 per child
  • More measures to clamp down on tax avoidance

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander said:

“This recovery would not be happening without the Liberal Democrats in Government. The Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

The Liberal Democrats have fought for rises in the amount of money that people can earn before paying income tax right from the start of the coalition. We have already delivered an increase to £10,000 by April this year. That gives millions of tax payers a £700 tax cut.

We’ve been campaigning for months to go even further and we’ve been successful. The personal tax-free allowance will rise to £10,500 in April 2015 which will give millions of taxpayers another £100 tax cut taking the total tax cut in 2015 to £800.”

Lib Dems to create 100,000 apprentices

The Liberal Democrats have delivered a huge boost to apprenticeships, with at least 100,000 new apprentices being created over the next two years.

As the party of opportunity for young people, the Lib Dems have fought in Government to give more young people the chance to get on in life. Thanks to this, today’s budget includes two schemes to support apprentices.

  • £85m in both 2014-15 and 2015-16 to extend the Apprenticeship Grants for Employers scheme, giving businesses incentive payments to take on apprentices
  • £20m to support apprenticeships up to postgraduate level (i.e. degree and masters level apprenticeships)

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There is high demand from young people to do an apprenticeship, but not enough employers are coming forward and offering them. On average 12 people apply for every apprenticeship place, but in some sectors the level of demand is twice as high.

The Apprenticeship Grants for Employers scheme, which has already created 40,000 new apprentices, is designed to encourage more employers to offer apprenticeship places, to help meet demand from young people.

The new funding announced today will provide over 100,000 additional incentive payments under the scheme – providing a major boost to the job prospects of young people.

Introducing degree and masters level apprenticeships will give more young people the opportunity to develop their skills to a higher level, where there are currently fewer available qualifications.

How many families near you will get check free childcare?

A major new childcare package to help millions of parents with the cost of living and give children the best possible start in life was unveiled by Nick Clegg today.

Cute little boy drawing on green board with chalk.

The new tax-free childcare scheme, announced by the Liberal Democrats last year, will be increased from £1,200 to £2,000 per child and the scheme will be brought forward to Autumn 2015.

This means that working parents earning at least £50 per week, will get 20% off the cost of childcare up to a limit of £10,000 for every child under the age of 12.

Those working part-time, on maternity leave or starting their own business will also be eligible for support with their childcare costs.

In Lincolnshire, a total of 19,020 families can benefit from this scheme. In our area, that means 2,510 families in Lincoln and 2,970 families in North Kesteven.

Parliamentary Candidate for the Lib Dems in Lincoln, David Harding Price welcomes the news, saying “It is right we give every child the chance to the best start in life and help to working families in their child’s early years.”

Nick Clegg also announced a £50 million extension of the Lib Dem Pupil Premium to help the most disadvantaged early years children. This Early Years Pupil Premium can be spent by providers how they see fit – they could for example employ more highly qualified staff, or increase access to services such as speech and language specialists.

At the same time, the Coalition Government is making sure people on Universal Credit will get 85% of childcare cost fully covered. For 300,000 families, this will make sure work always pays, helping more families move off of benefits and into employment.

Commenting on this new package, Nick Clegg said:

“All children deserve the best start in life. As, together, we build a stronger economy for Britain, I’m committed to making sure that we create a fairer society too.

“Today’s package of support will provide a childcare boost for millions of hardworking families, and a £50 million cash injection for early education providers to support those children who need extra help in their early years. We want to ensure that everyone can get on and succeed.”

Lib Dems winning the battle over tax cuts

After a turbulent weekend for George Osborne, with Tory backbenchers lining up to demand he increase the 40p tax rate to help better-off earners, today Danny Alexander has set out the score when it comes to the Lib Dems’ tax cutting priorities.

Writing in the Evening Standard, he said that Liberal Democrats in Government are working to cut taxes for low and middle earners, not the highest paid. That’s why we have delivered a £700 tax cut for 25 million people – and are pushing to go even further in this week’s Budget.

He said:

“Since the Lib-Dems first forced this idea on to the agenda in 2010, Tories have pushed a range of other ideas. In the last election it was inheritance tax cuts for millionaires; most recently, some Tories say help should be focused on 40p rate payers and not on every worker. The fact that raising the tax-free allowance is a Liberal Democrat idea is clearly deeply frustrating to many Conservatives, if their public pressure for a different focus is any guide.

I believe that raising the personal allowance is the fairest and most effective way to allow most people to keep more of their own money, rather than adjusting the higher rate bands. That’s why we’d go further in the next Parliament and raise the amount you can earn tax-free to £12,500.

Raising the personal tax allowance means that higher-rate taxpayers pay less income tax too. It’s the right thing to do, and everyone should get behind it no matter what their political frustrations.”

Danny also reiterated Lib Dem policy for a Mansion Tax on houses worth over £2 million, which the Conservatives have repeatedly blocked.

Catherine Bearder MEP writes: Universal phone chargers – a victory for common sense

Don’t you just get fed up with carrying around endless cables? Packing to go away, which I have to do often (it goes with the MEP territory) I know I do. And then when they’re at home they just get knotted in the drawers like spaghetti.

For years now I have joined other MEPs in the campaign to realise a universal charger for all mobile phones, no matter the manufacturer or model.

Last week MEPs voted in favour of a draft law which now brings this a step closer.

The new measure will reduce cable clutter and put a stop to the needless discarding of old chargers. It will effectively wipe out 51,000 tonnes of electrical waste each year.

The legislation covers ‘radio devices’ but it will be up to the Commission to refine this definition further.

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Currently most phones use the same MicroUSB charger following a voluntary agreement between the EU and 14 mobile phone manufacturers in 2011. The growing move towards standardisation put pressure on them to introduce a common charger.

Unfortunately, several manufacturers including Apple have held on to their unique charging ports for their devices. This new legislation makes it a legal requirement for manufacturers selling their goods in the EU to comply by making their devices compatible with the universal charger.

Because Europe is the world’s biggest mobile phone market we can put pressure on manufacturers to put an end to this cable chaos. I believe it is a great victory for common sense and another step towards making better use of our resources.

The draft law was approved by 550 votes to 12, with 8 abstentions. It still has to be formally approved by each country’s ministers in the Council but the initial indication from them is that it’ll be a nod. Countries will then have two years to transpose the rules into their national laws and manufacturers will have an additional year to comply.

Standardising mobile phone chargers is just the tip of the iceberg but it signals the desire within the EU and among consumers to make using electrical devices easier and greener. As people travel, live and work on the move with increasing frequency I believe it could open the door to much greater standardisation in electronics – maybe even a universal plug socket!

The truth about tax cuts

Watch Tim Farron MP explain how exactly the Lib Dems’ tax cuts work. Like what you see? Sign our petition for a £100 tax cut in the Budget next week.

Lynne Featherstone: Wedded to same-sex marriage

Lynne Featherstone MP vowed to introduce it early on in her office, but the path to same-sex marriage has not been smooth, writes Charlotte Kelloway.

March 29 marks an important day in British history: it is the first day that same-sex marriages can take place. After years of campaigning and consulting, of speeches and hard work, the day will finally arrive when two people of the same sex can get married and enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples.

And the person who pushed all this through – who worked relentlessly to make this hope a reality – couldn’t be more pleased.

“It’s the happiest thing ever both for me as a politician, but also for those people who love each other and who weren’t treated the same as everyone else,” grins Lynne Featherstone.

This is something Featherstone has pushed for since her second day in her former role as Equalities Minister (she is now a Minister in the Department for International Development). After attending an introductory Ministerial meeting and being told that, if she wanted to do anything useful or proactive, she’d have to prioritise early and ruthlessly, Featherstone decided there and then that achieving same-sex marriage would be her goal.

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“I thought ‘I don’t know how many times in history there’s going to be a Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister so I’m going to do something for equalities.’ And the first thing that sprang to mind was same-sex marriage,” says Featherstone, who returned to her office after the meeting, gathered her civil servants together and asked what steps she would need to take to achieve same-sex marriage.

However, the path that eventually led to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 receiving royal assent on 17 July 2013 was long, complex and fraught with governmental hoops. Lynne was in charge of putting together the consultation on same-sex marriage and spent a lot of time meeting with campaigners, lawyers and faith groups.

She also worked with activist groups asking for their support. “Whilst I expected Liberal Democrats to support it, it wasn’t clear to me that we could get it through on our own,” she says, adding, “It was very much a case of ego back and issue forward.”

And when it came to opposition, there was a lot. “The scale of uproar and fury in the media, and the sort of things that were being said by religious leaders who were opposed to it, were extreme,” says Featherstone, who admits there were times she felt same-sex marriage would never see the light of day, “I thought when I introduced permissive religious same-sex marriages, which was half way through the process, that might provoke a further fury that would not be able to sustain it,” she muses.

However, Featherstone received support from some of the most surprising places in Whitehall, from people she never expected, including her own Secretary of State at the time, Theresa May. When it was first announced in 2010 that May would be the Minister for Women and Equalities alongside her role of Home Secretary, there was uproar on Twitter about her voting record on gay rights as she had previously voted against greater adoption rights for homosexual couples.

However, on Question Time, shortly after the election, May admitted she was sorry and had changed her mind. It was at that point, Featherstone, who was watching the programme at the time, felt she may have an ally in Theresa May. “When I first went to her with my proposal, it took her a couple of days to think about it and come back to me but she said yes and, at the many times when we were under pressure from one direction or the other, she was always persuadable and she was always there to support me,” says Featherstone.

She also credits Nick Clegg for his support, stepping in to save the day when interventions were needed at the highest of levels, and the support of LGBT+ Lib Dems and the campaign for same-sex marriage.

One thing Featherstone does want to make herself clear on is the issue of opposite sex civil partnerships. Lynne had initially hoped to deliver on these as well as same-sex marriage but wasn’t able to secure both.

Lincoln Pride

However, she has no doubt they will follow shortly and make an appearance in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

Despite the rocky road that led to the introduction of same-sex marriage, the opposition faced and the allies made along the way, the destination is a joyous place for Featherstone made all the more satisfying by couples approaching her and thanking her for all the work she has done. “Everywhere I go, there will always be someone who will come up to me and say thank you, and it literally makes me cry every time because I don’t think people realise how hurtful it is not be able to love someone and express that love through marriage, which is the traditional time-honoured way of saying I love you publicly.” She excitedly adds that she will be attending the first same-sex marriage in her constituency on the 29th – a final visual consolidation of her work – although shes’ not sure yet whether she’ll be buying a hat!

Featherstone’s work has been recognised by Attitude magazine, who awarded her their Politician of the Year Award 2012, and the likes of Ben and Jerry’s, who named a special edition ice-cream after her – Lynne Honeycomb – congratulating her for all her work in ensuring that couples could live ‘apple-y ever after’. “I thought that was the nicest thing – I’ve got the tub at home,” she laughs.

However, whilst believing she is “the luckiest Liberal Democrat in history” for being able to push through something she feels so passionately about and make a real difference to people’s lives, Featherstone feels ultimate credit must go to those in the gay community who have suffered and so bravely spoken out so that one day same-sex marriage would be a reality.

Unfortunately, some people are still suffering and Featherstone believes there is still much more to be done in the UK and internationally to promote LGBT rights.

“There are 70 countries in which homosexuality is still illegal and we have a very long way to go to change laws and hearts and minds in other continents,” she says.

Within her new Ministerial role in the Department for International Development, Featherstone has raised LGBT rights in Africa but admits she has to do so privately when meeting with governments and Ministers as the backlash of doing so publicly would be paid for by the gay community. “I’m guided in my work in Africa by those very brave active gay groups who advise me what is and isn’t possible at any time,” she says, before pausing and adding, “But move forward we will.”

As well as continuing to promote the rights of the gay community, Featherstone is also working on several other projects including campaigns tackling female genital mutilation and violence against women which, if she addresses them with the same passion and perseverance as her drive for same-sex marriage, will also have a brighter future.

Labour calls half a million apprentices ‘Deadweight’

Today Nick Clegg has revealed Labour’s secret plans to scrap half a million apprentices because they think they are ‘deadweight’.

In the strongest signal yet that Labour can’t be trusted to build a stronger economy, the plans would make it harder for young people to find good, well-paid jobs, and would damage the skills base in the British economy.

In a little-publicised paper written by the party, they propose to scrap Intermediate (level 2) Apprenticeships, replacing them with a downgraded “traineeship”.

Labour claim that Intermediate Apprenticeships have “devalued” the apprenticeship brand and are “of no value to either employers or learners” and that scrapping them “would minimise ‘deadweight’”.

The Liberal Democrats, the party most in favour of apprenticeships, have strongly condemned the plans.

While Liberal Democrat ministers such as Vince Cable have created record numbers of apprentices, seeing over 1.6 million apprentices start since 2010, Labour’s plans would pull the rug from under the feet of a generation of young people.

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3 millionth worker gets a Workplace Pension

Over 3 million workers have for the first time been given a workplace pension, according to figures from the Pensions Regulator. The 3 millionth worker is employed by West Ham United.

The new scheme, which Liberal Democrats in Government began rolling out in 2012, provides workers with a safe, private pension that their boss and the Government contribute to.

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Welcoming this news, the Lib Dem Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, said:

“Before automatic enrolment, pension saving in this country was at its lowest ebb with too few people having the opportunity to save into a workplace pension. We have restored fairness by ensuring pensions are no longer the preserve of the few.

We have kicked off a savings revolution that will benefit millions in their retirement.”

Liberal Democrats introduced this scheme, which will eventually see 9 million workers access a workplace pension, to address chronic under-saving with millions not putting aside enough for retirement, and only 1 in 3 private sector employees paying into a workplace pension.

So fare more than 10,000 employers of all types from charities to supermarkets, hospitals to football clubs have now automatically enrolled their workers.

Thousands of medium sized employers will follow them over the next 6 months.

Click here for more information about what it means for you.

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