Tax row dominates Bank Holiday electioneering

Tax cuts dominated the election campaign yet again as the coalition partners fought each other over income tax and Labour warned the Tories cannot be trusted on VAT.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls makes a speech in Leeds to coincide with the new tax year while on the General Election campaign trail. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday April 6, 2015. Balls claim the Tories plan to increase VAT, insisting the party has form in boosting the sales tax meaning nobody will believe denials issued by David Cameron and his team. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls used a speech in Leeds to kickstart a day of tax rows with a renewed attack on the Conservative’s VAT record.

Launching a “millions pay more, millionaires pay less” poster message, Mr Balls accused the Tories of planning a further post-election cut in the top rate to 40p - something which neither Mr Osborne nor Prime Minister David Cameron would rule out when pressed on the issue on Sunday.

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And he claimed Conservatives would raise VAT by two points from 20% to 22% to pay for unfunded plans to raise the thresholds at which workers become liable for the 20p and 40p rates of income tax.

“Mr Balls said voters would not believe Mr Cameron’s “desperate and panicky” denial that he plans to raise VAT again after the election, as Conservatives had made similar promises before polls in 1979, 1992 and 2010 only to hike the levy once they had won office.”

The Conservatives seized on a question for Mr Balls on council tax rates as proof he would be putting up household bills.

When asked if he will repeat a grant which let local authorities freeze taxes, Mr Ballls only spoke of the disproportionate cuts facing local authorities in the north.

David Gauke the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said: “Ed Balls repeatedly refused to set out the details of Labour’s secret plan for £3,028 of tax rises on every working family – but it seems that he is prepared to put up council tax.

“The choice at this election is clear. Lower taxes under David Cameron. Or higher taxes under Ed Miliband and the SNP.”

Scottish spending continues to play an increasingly large part of the General Election, with Mr Balls claiming that SNP plans would cost an extra £7bn.

SNP leader Nicole Sturgeon has said she will demand no further rises to the state pension age in Scotland while life expectancy lags behind the rest of the UK and Europe.

Ms Sturgeon, who was health secretary for five years, said she has been doing all she can within her devolved powers to raise the life expectancy in Scotland, but said in the meantime older Scots should not lose out.

Polls suggest the SNP could have a significant influence in the next parliament and Ms Sturgeon said they will also call for the retention of the “triple lock” on pensions and a single-tier pension rate of at least £160 to lift pensioners out of means-tested benefits.

Meanwhile Nick Clegg has increased pressure on David Cameron to come clean over Tory plans by saying they had sought further cut taxes for millionaires in government but were only stopped by the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Clegg said: “The only consistent thing about the Conservative stance on tax is their bewildering inconsistency.”

Referring to a potential cut in the top rate of tax, Mr Clegg said: “I was very amused yesterday to hear George Osborne and David Cameron saying with earnest sincerity that they had no plan of giving further tax cuts to people at the top because, I tell you, they had exactly that plan in government and it was something that we said we would not go along with.”