October 20th, 2014

A mansion tax will be fair, simple and pay to save the NHS – my article in the Evening Standard

Politics is about choices. And over the coming months the country faces a big choice about the future of our National Health Service. Here in London and across the country our NHS is going backwards: it’s getting harder to see a GP, nurses have been cut and waiting lists are going up. There’s a looming crisis as the pressure on NHS budgets gets tighter in the years ahead.

So the choice is either to allow the NHS to continue going backwards, or accept that — alongside reforms — the NHS needs more funding.

Labour will not duck this challenge and, following the party conferences, we are now the only party with a plan to save and transform the NHS.

If we win the election we will raise £2.5 billion a year, on top of the Tory spending plans we inherit, for an NHS Time to Care Fund. This will support an additional 20,000 nurses and 8,000 GPs. And, as Ed Miliband announced this weekend, our extra funding means we will guarantee patients in England will wait no longer than one week for cancer tests and results by 2020.

Alongside a levy on tobacco firms, action to tackle tax avoidance and close loopholes, £1.2 billion of this much-needed revenue will be raised through a tax on prime value properties worth more than £2 million today — less than 0.5 per cent of homes in our country.

When working people are already paying more and have seen their wages fall by an average of £1,600 a year since 2010 I believe it is right to ask those who have the most to make a bigger contribution.

Because it cannot be fair that the average person pays 390 times more in council tax, as a percentage of the value of their property, than the billionaire buyer of a £140 million penthouse in Hyde Park — who has seen its value rise by around £6 million in the past few months alone.

As I wrote on this page earlier this year, a tax on the highest-value properties must be done in a fair, sensible and proportionate way. Ordinary Londoners should be protected and wealthy foreign investors must finally make a proper tax contribution in this country.

So this is what we propose.

First, we will guarantee that more modest properties are not brought into the scope of the tax. The Tories have been spreading desperate smears that properties worth far less today — even £1 million — will end up paying. This is simply untrue.

As I said earlier this year, we will raise the starting threshold as prices rise. And rather than raising it in line with overall inflation, we will do so in line with the average rise in prices of high-value properties over £2 million. This will ensure that the number of properties paying the tax will not increase. If prime property prices continue rising then by the time the tax is introduced the starting point will be higher than £2 million.

Second, the tax will be administratively simple. A banded system means valuations will not be needed for most properties as it will be clear which band — for example £2 million-£3 million — the property falls into. As with the Government’s new tax on properties bought through companies, owners will be able to submit a self-valuation to HMRC.

Third, as we have always said, the tax will be progressive. We will ensure those owning properties worth £2 million-£3 million will only pay an extra £250 a month through this new tax — the same as the average top band of council tax. Owners and investors in properties worth tens of millions of pounds should make a much bigger contribution. And we will look at asking overseas owners of second homes in the UK to make a larger contribution than people living in their only home.

And finally, as I wrote on this page in June, we will protect the small minority of people who are asset-rich but cash- poor. Long-standing residents who now find themselves living in high-value homes but do not have an income high enough to pay the higher or top rate of income tax — in other words earn less than £42,000 a year — will be guaranteed the right to defer the charge until the property changes hands.

So a tax on the highest value properties will be done fairly and carefully to help fund our NHS for the future. Because promises have to be paid for. David Cameron is taking people for fools when he promises £7 billion of tax changes without saying where the money is coming from — either in other tax rises like VAT or bigger cuts to public services.

In contrast, Labour won’t make any promises without saying where the money is coming from. There will be no additional borrowing to pay for spending or tax commitments.

But we will make different choices. So we will introduce a lower 10p starting rate of tax and pay for it by scrapping the so-called married couples’ allowance, which won’t actually help most married couples or most families. We will raise the bank levy to pay for an expansion of free childcare for working parents. We will scrap elected police commissioners to help protect frontline police officer numbers.

To help get the deficit down fairly we will reverse the Tory tax cut for millionaires, stop paying the winter fuel allowance to the richest pensioners, raise child benefit by just one per cent for two years and cut ministers’ pay by five per cent.

And yes, we will also use a tax on the highest value properties to help save our NHS. It’s no surprise the Tories are opposing this. Since 2010 they have chosen to give the top one per cent of earners a £3 billion a year tax cut, while working people are paying more. Now they want to make three million working people worse off by cutting their tax credits again — a strivers’ tax — while opposing a mansion tax to save the NHS.

Labour will not allow our NHS to continue going backwards. That is why we are making a difficult but fair choice with this tax. The future of our NHS depends on it.

Posted October 20th, 2014 by Ed
October 14th, 2014

Great to catch up with award-winning Enabled Works

It was great to catch up the award-winning team at Enabled Work last Friday. As well as winning the social impact award at the Morley Business Awards, Tony and team have also now secured new contracts, including one for Haribo. Having presented them with their award in Tingley just the week before, everything was back to normal on the shopfloor when I arrived and the team were all busy packing Haribo sweets into tubes for Christmas stockings.

But as well as their busy production line, last Friday they had also found the time to organise their own fundraising Macmillan Coffee Morning which I was delighted to be able to support.

Thanks to Tony and the team and huge congratulations again on the Social Impact Award.

Posted October 14th, 2014 by Ed's team
October 8th, 2014

Kirkhamgate Primary is a school on the up

Kirkhamgate Primary is a school well and truly on the up and I was delighted to visit and and meet the pupils who will be using the school’s fabulous new sports facilities.

I wrote to the Youth Sport Trust to support their bid for a new playground and I am really pleased the money has come through.

And having played football and netball with the children on the new pitch, I can see they are going to really pout it good use – learning, staying fit and having fun all at the same time.

Posted October 8th, 2014 by Ed
October 7th, 2014

My Column in the Morley Observer

Anyone for a cuppa? UK Older People’s Day was last week and coincides with the UN International Day of Older People. It is a celebration of the achievements and contributions that older people make to our society and the economy. And I marked the occasion by hosting afternoon tea in Morley for local pensioners from across my constituency.

But as well as the bingo, raffle for the local branch of the Royal British Legion, there was a more serious side to our get-together. I know from my post bag how worried older people are about the direction our National Health Service is going in. And after some horrific stories in the national media about older people being abused or exploited, ensuring we have a high quality of health and social care for older people in our area is a really big issue.

So when a local pensioner wrote to me asking me to sign up to the National Pensioner’s Convention’s Dignity Code for older people I thought it was important to investigate.

The Code has been written to uphold the rights and maintain the personal dignity of older people. It aims to ensure older people, who are sometimes less able to care for themselves, have their health, safety and wellbeing protected.  It calls for the wishes, habits, values and cultural backgrounds of older people to be respected and for them to be allowed to express and make up their own minds.

Staff from Knowle Manor attending on Friday told me that they adopted the Dignity Code a while back. Leeds City Council also adopted it recently.

So I was delighted to add my name. Most of those attending on Friday did the same. It was a great show of solidarity that we all believe that older people deserve respect and dignity. A really great way to mark a national celebration of older people!

******

It most certainly wasn’t business as usual on Friday night. At the Village Hotel in Tingley the great and the good from the Morley business community gathered to celebrate a year of high achievements. And there were performances from local samba dancers, band, Ream and DJ Ollie kept things lively all evening.

The awards themselves were an emotional affair. From Sole Trader, Andy who runs Yorkshire Delicious in Morley Market, the fashionistas at Room 94 who won the award for Customer Focus, Restaurant Table 27 who won the Start-up Award and Onwards and Upwards who scooped the Business Personality Award. It was a great evening.

But one of the highlights for me was the Social Impact Award I presented to Enabled Works in Morley – a group of disabled workers who formed their own cooperative after their Remploy Factory was closed a few years back. I officially opened their factory a year ago and since then they have gone from strength to strength, winning orders and delivering a real quality service.

And I can’t believe there was a dry eye in the house when Chocolate Spa won the Business of the year award. Owner, Shanda only set up the business 18 months ago and since then it’s clearly gone from strength to strength. No one was more delighted that Team ‘Chocolate’ who gave the biggest cheer of the night when Shanda took to the stage.

The awards themselves were a great testimony to the hard work of Lee Jagger, President of Morley Chamber and Rachael Kennedy the Chamber’s Events Manager. The whole evening showcased the best in the local business community. But it was an event for everyone – and I have no doubt that all attendees – especially the young people there – will have left believing that there’s nothing stopping them setting up a business and making it a success.

And in the end that’s the most important thing for our local economy. Our businesses create the jobs and wealth our area needs to prosper and do well. I’ll certainly continue to do my bit to make sure the local business community has all the support it needs to succeed.

Congratulations to all the winners and those who were nominated. It was a fabulous evening!

ENDS

Posted October 7th, 2014 by Ed's team
October 6th, 2014

Morley Business Awards

It most certainly wasn’t business as usual on Friday night. At the Village Hotel in Tingley the great and the good from the Morley business community gathered to celebrate a year of high achievements. And there were performances from local samba dancers, band, Ream and DJ Ollie kept things lively all evening.

The awards themselves were an emotional affair. From Sole Trader, Andy who runs Yorkshire Delicious in Morley Market, the fashionistas at Room 94 who won the award for Customer Focus, Restaurant Table 27 who won the Start-up Award and Onwards and Upwards who scooped the Business Personality Award. It was a great evening.

But one of the highlights for me was the Social Impact Award I presented to Enabled Works in Morley – a group of disabled workers who formed their own cooperative after their Remploy Factory was closed a few years back. I officially opened their factory a year ago and since then they have gone from strength to strength, winning orders and delivering a real quality service.

And I can’t believe there was a dry eye in the house when Chocolate Spa won the Business of the year award. Owner, Shanda only set up the business 18 months ago and since then it’s clearly gone from strength to strength. No one was more delighted that Team ‘Chocolate’ who gave the biggest cheer of the night when Shanda took to the stage.

The awards themselves were a great testimony to the hard work of Lee Jagger, President of Morley Chamber and Rachael Kennedy the Chamber’s Events Manager. The whole evening showcased the best in the local business community. But it was an event for everyone – and I have no doubt that all attendees – especially the young people there – will have left believing that there’s nothing stopping them setting up a business and making it a success.

And in the end that’s the most important thing for our local economy. Our businesses create the jobs and wealth our area needs to prosper and do well. I’ll certainly continue to do my bit to make sure the local business community has all the support it needs to succeed.

Congratulations to all the winners and those who were nominated. It was a fabulous evening!

Posted October 6th, 2014 by Ed
October 5th, 2014

Transcript of my interview on Murnaghan

DM: Why do you think you’ve lost your poll lead? Anything to do with your leader’s speech at the party conference where he forgot a number of things?

EB: These polls go up and down week to week, at the end of our conference we were ahead and at the Tory conference they’re ahead. There’s only one poll which matters and that is a general election in seven months’ time and I think we are going to go on and win the election because we’ve got the policies and the vision and also we are on the side of working people and I think after the last week I don’t think people think David Cameron and George Osborne are.

DM: OK, but what do you think of your leader’s speech, on a scale of one to ten what would you give it?

EB: I think it was a good speech.

DM: But what would you give it though, one to ten?

EB: I’m not going to give a rating to my leader’s speech!

DM: So not to ten?

EB: Ten out of ten of course, he is my leader. But he’s got to show, as he said in his speech, he’s got to show himself and the policies of the next Labour government and he’s got seven months to do that and we’re going to be there week after week. When it comes to the TV debates he’ll be right up there head to head with David Cameron. I think people know David Cameron, the Prime Minister, for all his faults, with Ed Miliband they are still getting to know him but I think by the time we come to a general election day we are going to win that argument.

DM: Did you have any input into the speech? As Shadow Chancellor, the fact that he forgot to mention the deficit, did you read the speech beforehand?

EB: In the old days of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown years ago, I don’t think they saw each other’s speeches until the night before …

DM: So you didn’t see it?

EB: I saw Ed’s speech two weeks before and he saw mine a week before, I’m afraid I was slightly behind in writing mine than his, so we swapped our speeches. Ed had a strong passage in there about deficit reduction and of course it was almost all of my speech the day before. Ed said in his speech on that Tuesday our clear pledge for the National Health Service, 20,000 nurses, 8,000 GPs, it’s all paid for by the mansion tax and tackling tax avoidance. He said we are not going to have borrowing to pay for that tax promise so it was all in there in the speech.

DM: But what did you say to him afterwards? OK, we know you like the speech, did you say well done leader but you forgot to mention the deficit?

EB: As Ed said, it was a big feat of memory and there was a paragraph he didn’t say and he said to me afterwards it was a mistake and it was but, look, that kind of thing happens sometimes in politics. Did people have any doubt out of our conference that we’re saying we’ve got a clear programme for government, all costed, all paid for, as I said no spending plans requiring more borrowing, no spending plans that are not costed and paid for. What a contrast to what we had from David Cameron this week, I’m sure we’ll come onto that.

DM: We will, but let’s put that to the test, all costed, all paid for because there are so many questions, particularly about this mansion tax. It is all costed, you have worked it all out so you must have the answer to all these questions then. Is it a 1 per cent flat rate above two million pounds? Is that the way it will operate?

EB: What we’ve said is we are going to use the government’s model which they introduced two years ago in 2013 which is called the Enveloped Properties Annual Tax. They currently apply that tax to properties which companies own over two million pounds. The government has bands say from two million to five million, five to ten and they levy a charge within that band. We would have different bands, it will be fair, it will be progressive, it will be proportionate. What we’ve not yet done is set out the detail of how we can do this …

DM: How have you costed it then if you have not set out the detail? You have said how much you will raise from it, therefore you have to know these details or else you just come up with a back of the envelope figure.

EB: Well you are going to be interviewing in half an hour Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary. He said in a speech a few months ago that the Treasury have done detailed analysis, because they have figures which we don’t have. Danny says that the Liberal Democrats can raise £1.2 [billion] to £1.5 [billion] for a tax over £2 million. We’ve said we believe £1.2 billion at the bottom end of that range is the right thing for us to aim for.

DM: But you’d have to look at the details.

EB: Of course we will but we will do it in a fair way, it will be lower for people on properties just above two million, of course it will be higher as a proportion for the most high value properties.

DM: So it will be more than 1 per cent for the higher value properties or even more because …

EB: Well you said 1 per cent, I’ve not said it will be 1 per cent. I’ve said what we’ll have is a series of bands and we will apply a charge within those bands, it will start at two million, it will be uprated by house price inflation, it will be more than proportionate so the largest houses, over ten, twenty million pounds, will pay proportionately more and houses down at two million and just above proportionately less. It will be sensitive to the fact that there will be some people who might have a very big house and low income and we will have rules which will allow them not to have to pay the annual charge.

DM: What are those rules?

EB: Well one way to do this is to allow people below a certain income level, which we’ll have to discuss and set, to say we will roll that money up …

DM: Would you roll the interest over as well?

EB: Yes and pay that off on …

DM: So you get it out of their estate?

EB: Or if they choose to sell the house.

DM: OK, so tell me about the valuation process then, how is that going to work? It is particularly sensitive around the two million mark.

EB: What we will do is use the same process that the government is doing around the Envelope Tax which is that you allow people to self-value but they will be able to pre-credit, to pre-approve with the HMRC. If the band is wide and you are right in the middle, it is clear that that’s what your property is worth, you are in that band and you will just declare that as your value. But people who want to will be able to go to HMRC and say I’m around the border, this is my valuation and HMRC will approve. Of course people will choose if they want to and …

DM: What happens if HMRC disagree? Do they have to go round your house and value your house themselves?

EB: Look, it is a very normal thing if people are moving house or if they are getting a new mortgage to get a survey of the value done. I think many people around the value might choose to have a valuation done in order to show HMRC that they are below the level and I am sure HMRC would take a valuation as it stands.

DM: So you have got to pay two or three hundred quid for a survey?

EB: I think people who choose to will be around the transition level, whether that is two million or five million or ten million, can do so, we will have pre-approval from HMRC.

DM: What about this link to house price inflation? Of course we know it’s regional, in some regions house prices go up and they go up very fast and in some regions they fall, is it the national measure you will use?

EB: That’s our plan, to use not price inflation but …

DM: Well that’s not fair is it?

EB: Not fair on who?

DM: Not fair if you are in a region where house prices have dropped and your two million pound house is suddenly worth £1.8.

EB: I think the vast majority of people in London and across the country own houses which are well short of the two million threshold. We are talking about the highest value properties which even in parts of central London are a very small minority of the overall number of house sales and I think it is fair to say that that should not go up by price inflation but by house price inflation. We are not seeking to draw more and more people into the mansion tax net but we do think that it is fair to use the UK wide measure because if you’ve got, look if you’ve got people coming from abroad pushing up house prices in central London and paying almost no tax, disproportionately a hugely low amount and in the end the contrast is this – you’ve got a Labour government which says we’ll have a tax on the highest value properties to invest in the National Health Service and a Tory government which is taxing the bedrooms of disabled people on low incomes because they say that’s fair. That’s quite a big difference isn’t it?

DM: A serious question on this, would the Queen have to pay it?

EB: What we’ve said is we’ll use the same rules that the government has for the Envelope Dwellings Tax so therefore people who have properties which are open to the public, a National Trust property which is open to the public, will have rules which allow them to be exempted but people who own large houses which are above two million pounds and aren’t open to the public, will pay it and if…

DM: So the Queen will have to pay it?

EB: The Royal Family pays tax like everybody else and rightly so.

DM: So the Queen will pay the Mansion Tax under Labour rules and therefore Prince William will have to pay it as well, he’s getting a new house on the Sandringham Estate. Just to be very clear here, you have talked about the broadest shoulders, they are pretty rich, they will pay the Mansion Tax?

EB: George Osborne and I have sat down to discuss the issue of royal finances in this parliament. There has always been a cross-party consensus, we have fair and tough rules for the financing of the royal household but members of the royal household pay taxes just like everybody else and rightly so.

DM: So those houses that they own that are not open to the public, they will pay the Mansion Tax but only if they are above two million pounds?

EB: There aren’t different rules for anybody, it’s the nature of our society and rightly so.

DM: OK, that’s very clear Mr Balls. Let me ask you about some of the measures that were announced that were very specific, what do you think about raising the tax threshold to £12,500? Is that something Labour would match or say that’s not going to happen with us?

EB: Look, the fact is it’s pie in the sky. David Cameron seems to have cut the rug from under him when it comes to making costed commitments. I said at our conference that everything which we announce will be paid for and clearly shown. David Cameron and George Osborne before the last election said, if it’s not paid for and financed, it’s not a tax cut it’s a tax con. David Cameron now says he is going to give £7.2 billion of tax cuts at an unspecified date, unclear where it is coming from, it’s a big black hole. What we also know is that he will be better off when that comes through and a family on the minimum wage will be worse off because what George Osborne announced the day before, the Strivers’ Tax, the freeze on tax credits which hit three million working people, that will more than outweigh David Cameron’s personal allowance change. So it is uncosted, it’s a black hole, it is a very, very dodgy way to do economics.

DM: So you have costed your 10 per cent rate you tell us, so that comes in at that point at the current threshold, £10,500 or what will be the current threshold. Where does it extend to, how far does it go?

EB: We’ve said we’ll introduce a 10p starting rate; we’ll do that as soon as we can in the next parliament, we will …

DM: How big is the band?

EB: We will pay for that using the Married Couples Allowance which the government has introduced and doesn’t go to people who are widowed or divorced, that’s a start. If could do more, if I could do more …

DM: But it is basic economics, you can’t know how much it costs unless you know how wide the band is.

EB: I’ve not set a band for the 10p; I have said I will use the money from the Married Couples Allowance ….

DM: So it will be very narrow.

EB: Well it will start off narrow but I’d like to make it bigger but the difference between me and David Cameron is he announces with a conference fanfare an unfunded tax cut which he can’t pay for and which is unfair because it disproportionately helps people on higher incomes. I say to you I’d like to do more but I am going to start with a 10p tax cut only paid for by the Married Couples Allowance and it’s fair because it helps working people. That’s the difference between the parties, we are now the only parties – the Lib Dems are doing it today with National Insurance – there is only one serious party which says we will not make unfunded promises we can’t show how we’ll pay for and that’s Labour, not the Tories or the Liberal Democrats, they’re trying to spray money left, right and centre.

DM: So what do you think about what John Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister, has been writing today? I’ll put my specs on to read it, writing in his column in the Mirror today, having heard everything you’ve said there Shadow Chancellor, he says Labour’s approach is far too timid. “I fear Shadow Cabinet Ministers are not delivering new policies because Ed Balls won’t approve them if they involve spending commitments”.

EB: As I just said, we’re not going to make any spending commitments where we can’t show how we can pay for them. Look, John Prescott is a fighter….

DM: He also asks what planet is your party on after Ed Miliband’s speech.

EB: John Prescott is a fighter, sometimes literally but he is also a political fighter and we have got a hell of a fight on our hands to save our National Health Service, to stop the Strivers’ Tax and deliver our country from a Conservative Party which will take us out of the European Union. John is clear in his article that we should learn from 1997 and I agree …

DM: He says you should become a one nation party again and not go for your core vote?

EB: John says he wants clear policies which will make a difference, minimum wage to £8 and a mansion tax to help get 20,000 nurses in the NHS, a 10p starting rate of tax, an energy price free, a business investment bank – clear policies but the lesson we learned from 1997 when John and I worked together is if you as a party come along, as happened in previous elections for us before ’97 with promises which couldn’t be paid for, then you get into trouble. Everything in ’97 was costed and paid for, everything in 2015 costed and paid for, no spending requiring more borrowing. The people who making unfunded commitments are now the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

DM: So the last question on that pledge from Mr Cameron to raise the threshold at which people start paying the 40 rate, that’s not going to happen under Labour anyway is it? That definitely is out, that’s unfunded?

EB: I would like to take more people out of the 40p rate. I said in my conference speech, I said to people this is who I am, I would rather taxes were lower rather than higher but in the end you have got to make choices and our choice is very different from the Tories.

DM: Would you index it? I mean the threshold will stay still, it’s fiscal drag isn’t it dragging people into it?

EB: The index in law, it’s called the Rooker Wise Amendment, it was introduced in the 1970s, it is indexed to inflation. Of course we should carry on with indexation and if we could go further – but what is the difference? George Osborne has said he will keep a tax cut for people earning over £150,000, a three billion pound tax cut to the richest while he is going to make working people pay three billion more through the freeze on tax credits. It’s really interesting, 250,000 people in Tory marginal constituencies in work have seen their tax credits frozen, that’s the difference in the choice. I would like to do more for everybody but my first priority will be people in work who have seen their living standards down by £1600 [a year]. What’s George Osborne’s first priority? The people at the top earning over £150,000. That’s the election choice.

Posted October 5th, 2014 by Ed
October 4th, 2014

Tory Strivers’ Tax will hit 3 million working people

There was only one concrete promise coming out of the Conservative Party Conference this week and it tells you everything you need to know about the Tories.

On Monday George Osborne said his speech was about choices and the choice he has made is now clear.

If they win the election, the Tories will hit 3 million working people on modest incomes by cutting their tax credits, while carrying on with a £3 billion a year tax cut for those earning over £150,000.

Working people who have already seen their wages fall by an average of £1600 a year under the Tories will be left even more badly off.

Nurses, call-centre workers, shop staff, shift workers and teaching assistants will pay the price of George Osborne’s choice. It’s a Strivers’ Tax which will cost a one earner family with two children on £25,000 a year almost £500.

We all know difficult decisions are needed to get the deficit down. But instead of asking those who have the most to make a bigger contribution, George Osborne is targeting striving working families already facing a cost-of-living crisis.

Over 3 million working families who get tax credits will lose out. And over 260,000 of those families live in the 50 most marginal Conservative seats – on average more than 5,000 per constituency.

It’s a £3 billion raid on working people at the same time as a £3 billion tax giveaway for the top 1 per cent. Once again, the Tories have once shown they are the party of a privileged few at the top and the idea that “we are all in this together” is now just another broken promise.

But two days later David Cameron’s speech failed to mention this new policy. He instead tried to pull the wool over people’s eyes with pie-in-the-sky promises of tax cuts in six years’ time.

As David Cameron himself said before the last election, “you can’t talk about tax reduction unless you can show how it is paid for, the public aren’t stupid”.

He was right. But this week a panicking Prime Minister showed he’s going to try and take people for fools. Because four days on from that speech not one Minister has been able to tell us where a single penny of the money to pay for these promises will come from.

There’s now a £7 billion black hole in the Conservatives’ plans. So where will the money come from? Will the Tories raise VAT across the board on families and pensioners again?

George Osborne has failed to publicly rule out another VAT hike and the Tory track record is to always put VAT up after an election. And if it’s not VAT, where is the money going to come from – and which families and public services will pay the price?

It’s no wonder the Conservatives have been so desperate to block my proposal to allow the independent Office for Budget Responsibility to audit the spending and tax plans of the main parties.

Even if we take this week’s promises at face value, David Cameron on his Prime Ministerial salary would be £132 a year better off from his unfunded tax cut, while a family with two kids where both parents work part-time on the minimum wage would be another £538 a year worse off after five more years of the Tories.

Unlike the Tories we will not make promises we cannot keep and cannot afford. So in Labour’s manifesto there will be no proposals for any new spending paid for by additional borrowing. Our economic plan will put growth and jobs centre stage. And we will not make any spending commitments without saying where the money is coming from.

So to save our National Health Service and pay for 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs, we will raise an extra £2.5 billion a year. And we’ve said where the money is coming from – with a mansion tax on properties over £2million, by tackling tax avoidance and with a new levy on tobacco firms.

We will cut taxes for 24 million working people on middle and low incomes with a lower 10p starting rate of tax. And we’ve said how we will pay for that too – by scrapping the so called married couples’ allowance which won’t actually help most married couples or most families.

And we will balance the books as soon as possible in the next Parliament, but do so in a fairer and balanced way. So we will reverse the Tory tax cut for millionaires, stop paying the winter fuel allowance to the richest pensioners, raise child benefit by just one per cent for two years and cut Ministers’ pay by 5 per cent.

The choice is now clear: a Strivers’ Tax on hard working people under the Tories or a costed and funded plan to save our NHS, back working families and build a better Britain with Labour.

Posted October 4th, 2014 by admin
October 3rd, 2014

Signing the Dignity Code for Older People

Today – along with dozens of local pensioners and residents – I signed the Dignity Code for Older People.

Dignity Code
The purpose of the Dignity Code is to uphold the rights and maintain the personal dignity of older people, within the context of ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of those who are increasingly less able to care for themselves or to properly conduct their affairs.

This code recognises that certain practices and actions ae unacceptable to older people, such as:
• Being abusive or disrespectful in any way, ignoring people or assuming they cannot do things for themselves
• Treating older people as objects or speaking about them in their presence as if they were not there
• Not respecting the need for privacy
• Not informing older people of what is happening in a way that they can understand
• Changing the older person’s environment without their permission
• Intervening or performing care without consent
• Using unnecessary medication or restraints
• Failing to take care of an older person’s personal appearance
• Not allowing older people to speak for themselves, either directly or through the use of a friend, relative or advocate
• Refusing treatment on the grounds of age
This code therefore calls for:
• Respect for individuals to make up their own minds, and for their personal wishes as expressed in ‘living wills’, for implementation when they can no longer express themselves clearly
• Respect for an individual’s habits, values, particular cultural background and any needs, linguistic or otherwise
• The use of formal spoken terms of address, unless invited to do otherwise
• Comfort, consideration, inclusion, participation, stimulation and a sense of purpose in all aspects of care
• Care to be adapted to the needs of the individual
• Support for the individual to maintain their hygiene and personal appearance
• Respect for people’s homes, living space and privacy
• Concerns to be dealt with thoroughly and the right to complain without fear of retribution
• The provision of advocacy services where appropriate

If you want to add your name, please email ed@edballs.com

Posted October 3rd, 2014 by admin
September 26th, 2014

Politically Speaking in the Wakefield Express

I’ve been over in Manchester for the Labour Party Conference this week. I’ve brought with me a huge pile of surveys local people have sent me over the last couple of weeks. Together with views on everything from mortgages, pensions and the internet have been some very worrying stories about the pressure people in our area are under.

Natalie from Stanley wrote, “I’m a single mum, struggling with money, bills and the bedroom tax.” Another local pensioner couple said, “the decline of the NHS really frightens us.” And one Outwood mum struck a real cord with me when I knocked on her door a few weeks back. Her son, trying to get on and do well is on a zero hours contract, which means everyday he gets up not knowing whether or not he’ll get work that day. For him and thousand like him in our area I want to see an end to exploitative zero hours contracts.

So these were the people I was thinking about when I took to the stage on Monday.

Because we need action to deal with the cost of living crisis which has meant prices rising and people’s incomes not keeping up. I’m calling for a lower starting rate of income tax and an increase in the minimum wage to £8 an hour to make work pay, freezing energy bills and more childcare support for working parents trying to juggle work and family life.

And we will do whatever it takes to protect our NHS. Faced, as it is, with fragmentation, privatisation by the back door and pressures on its budgets, we need to save and protect it so that it is there for people like the pensioners who wrote to me last week to tell me their fears.

But balancing the books and saving our NHS means tough decisions too. We are committed to getting the deficit down in a fairer way, making different choices and asking those who have most to shoulder more of the burden. To get the deficit down, we would reverse the recent tax cut for the richest 1% – those on the very highest incomes.

But with the deficit still high, there will have to be other changes too. I want to see child benefit rising again but we also won’t spend money we cannot afford. So I also announced in Manchester that child benefit would only rise by 1% for the first 2 years of the next parliament to help reduce the deficit. And we will introduce a mansion tax on properties worth over £2million for the NHS.

These are difficult decisions but ones we have to take to make sure the sums add up. We can balance the books in a fairer way and protect vital services like our NHS.

You can read my speech here.

Posted September 26th, 2014 by Ed
September 24th, 2014

My column in the Morley Observer


I’ve been over in Manchester for the Labour Party Conference this week. I’ve brought with me a huge pile of surveys local people have sent me over the last couple of weeks. Together with views on everything from mortgages, pensions and the internet have been some very worrying stories about the pressure people in our area are under. Ian from Gildersome wrote about how tough it is making ends meet, “I’ve not had a wage rise for 4 years.” A pensioner couple from Morley said, “We are both in our late 60s and we worry about the care of the elderly and the decline of the NHS really frightens us.”

So these were the people I was thinking about when I took to the stage on Monday.

In my speech I also raised the case of a local mum whose door I’d knocked on a few weeks back. Her teenage son recently finished college and after struggling to find work is now a zero hours contract. He gets up each morning to call into work at 7am to find out whether they need him and whether he will spend the day at work, earning money, or at home, waiting around until he does exactly the same thing again the following day. When I spoke to her she told me how it breaks her heart. “He deserves more than this” she said.

And unfortunately her story is and too familiar one. There are thousands in our area on these contracts. So I’m calling for an end to exploitative zero hours contracts. I also want to see more action to deal with the cost of living crisis which has meant prices rising and people’s incomes not keeping up. So I want to see a lower starting rate of income tax and an increase in the minimum wage to £8 an hour to make work pay, freezing energy bills and more childcare support for working parents trying to juggle work and family life.

But it means tough decisions too. We have to balance the books and we are committed to doing it in a fairer way, making different choices and asking those who have most to shoulder more of the burden. To get the deficit down, we would reverse the recent tax cut for the richest 1% – those on the very highest incomes.

But with the deficit still high, there will have to be other changes too. I want to see child benefit rising again but we also won’t spend money we cannot afford. So I also announced in Manchester that child benefit would only rise by 1% for the first 2 years of the next parliament to help reduce the deficit.

These are difficult decisions but ones we have to take to make sure the sums add up. We can balance the books in a fairer way.

You can read my speech in full here

**********

And of course we are better together! The other major event of the last week has been the historic referendum in Scotland. Like other people in our area, I didn’t have a vote but desperately wanted Scotland to stay. So on Friday morning I was delighted that the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The vote last week shows the need to change and reform and strengthen our union in a fair way. But decisions about constitutional change cannot and shouldn’t be rushed through. The people of Scotland have been discussing the issues around independence and last week’s referendum for over two years. The process should start from the people – not politicians.

And I’ve long called for more powers to be transferred to regional cities in England so that we get a regional economic plan that works for all parts of the United Kingdom. Nowhere is that more true that here in Yorkshire. I want to see a bold devolution to city and county regions to give regional economies like ours the chance to really grow and prosper.

Posted September 24th, 2014 by Ed's team