By Robert Palmer, Executive Director Tax Justice UK
I’ve just got back from the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, where I was making the case for a fair tax system.
I was joined by my colleague Rachael Henry, our Head of Policy and Advocacy. She was also at Conservative and Lib Dem conferences talking to politicians of all stripes.
In Liverpool we met countless MPs, policymakers and journalists and pushed our message: that raising taxes on the super rich could fund a transformation in our NHS, public services and society.
I was struck by how often wealth taxes came up. Almost every session we went to had someone asking about taxing wealth. The pressure on Labour is growing. This is a real sign of progress. Our campaign to change the public and political debate on tax is working.
Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, used the conference to set out his vision for the country. He talked about the power of government to make people’s lives better. The Labour leader also doubled down on his commitment to tackle the climate crisis.
Promising investment in the NHS, schools and green energy, alongside a massive programme of housebuilding, Starmer tried to draw a clear dividing line between Labour and Conservatives.
Our schools are crumbling, NHS waiting lists surging, councils are going bankrupt all over the country. People are fed up and desperate for change.
But while there were nods towards Labour’s past achievements, and a promise to rebuild Britain, there wasn’t much detail from Starmer on how this would happen. Some of this is to be expected a year out from the general election. But it did leave me wanting more.
Where could Labour raise new revenue?
The public realm is heading towards ruin. We need a plan to save it. We need major investment of public money over several years in our services to keep them running, and make them fit for a modern, future Britain.
The question is does Starmer have a plan to save our NHS and public services?
Labour has some excellent individual policies – like clawing back £7 billion lost in Covid fraud, ending non-dom status and applying VAT on private schools.
But the tax rises that Labour has promised so far add up to just £5 billion a year. Given that the NHS budget alone is £180 billion a year, this won’t touch the sides.
At Tax Justice UK, we’ve set out six wealth tax policies that could raise up to £50 billion a year. This would go a long way to rebuilding Britain.
Labour could go further on their plan to tackle fraud as well. About 5% of the tax owed each year isn’t being paid. That adds up to at least £42 billion in missing tax. It could be recouped if HMRC were properly resourced.
On the train home I was left feeling that Labour is too afraid to talk about raising and investing the huge amounts of additional money necessary to make good on their transformational vision.
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