Pledges on housing and tax to woo working class

14 May

Labour is to impose a “Robin Hood Tax” on financial transactions to help pay for the estimated £60bn the party has committed to public services in its manifesto.

The levy will raise about £5bn a year over the course of the next parliament to help pay for promises such as scrapping tuition fees (cost £12.7bn a year, according to the IFS) and better funding the NHS and social care.

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Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the 0.5% levy on highly-traded financial assets would “put some of the immense wealth generation from financial speculation into public service” while also “eliminating the most destabilising forms of speculation on the financial markets”.

However, the proposal is likely to be opposed by the City, already worried about the fallout of Brexit.

The City has long argued that such a tax would clog up markets and undermine competitiveness, with extra costs passed onto investors and consumers.

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A financial transactions tax – first proposed by the EU in 2011 – has also been opposed by Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who told Sky News last year that he was against any financial transaction tax.

“I do not want a unilateral tax on businesses in our City,” he told Sky News last June.

“I am in favour of jobs, I am in favour of trade and investment.”

The new levy comes amid pressure on Labour to explain how it will fund its big spending plans, as revealed in the leaked draft of the party’s manifesto last week. This particular policy was not featured in that draft.

As Labour took aim at the City and high finance, Mrs May sought to appeal to Labour voters by pledging a new generation of council homes for the working classes.

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The Prime Minister, who in January unveiled a rather modest set of proposals to boost housebuilding in the UK, said she wanted to go much further as she pledged to change the law to help councils and housing associations to build hundreds of thousands of homes.

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The policy, to be unveiled in the Tories manifesto on Thursday, is designed to help about 1.2 million families on local authority waiting lists.

“Too many ordinary working families are stuck on council waiting lists, facing unaffordable rents and struggling to save on that first deposit,” the Prime Minister said.

“That’s why we’ll fix the broken housing market and support local authorities and housing authorities to build a new generation of council homes.”

Under the proposals, the Government will make a pot of money available for councils and allow them to borrow more. It will also change the law to make to cheaper for councils to buy up derelict buildings and pockets of abandoned brownfield sites.

John Healey, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for housing, branded the policy as “political spin, with no substance”.

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“There’s no commitment on the number of new affordable homes or on new funding,” he said.

“Under Theresa May and the Tories we’ve seen seven years of failure on housing, with the level of new affordable housebuilding now at a 24-year low.”

The Conservatives have yet to set out in detail how it will achieve this policy – with more detail expected in the manifesto when it is unveiled later this week.

:: Follow every twist and turn of the election race in ‘The Campaign with Sophy Ridge’ on Sky News every weekday from 9pm.

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