Archive for the ‘High UK Inflation?’ Category

Sharing Tax Benefits of Growth with « Squeezed Middle »

mardi, novembre 19th, 2013

Increasing income inequality in the UK, together with policies to protect low-income families and the lowering of tax rates on high earners to encourage less tax avoidance, have resulted in the top 50% of tax payers now contributing over 90% of total income tax collected. Indeed the top 1% (those earning over £160,000 per year) pay around 30% of total income tax and the top 10% almost 60%. These high earners are, therefore, funding by far the largest proportion of Britain?s public services.

Yet the opposition Labour party has threatened to return the top rate of income tax back to 50% (from the current 45%) should it be returned to power at the next General Election in May 2015. At the other end of the scale, the governing Coalition of the Conservative & Liberal Democrat parties is also progressively increasing the tax-free allowance to some £10,000 or more before 2015.

However, with the economy now finally developing a solid pattern of growth, in good time for the Conservative party to benefit at the 2015 election, where is the associated policy to demonstrate sharing the financial benefit of growth with a broader part of the electorate e.g. the ?squeezed middle? income earners? Raising the higher (40%) tax rate income threshold is one answer, if the projected overall increase in tax returns from growth will allow, although there is still the need to pay for the costs associated with any ?green? taxes diverted from the energy bills of hard-pressed British consumers.

Boris Johnson Backs UK Living Wage

jeudi, novembre 7th, 2013

Having decided that it has lost the argument to the governing Coalition on competence in managing the British economy as it returns to growth, the opposition Labour party has switched its attack to the cost of living crisis for the ?many? who, unlike the rich in society, are not sharing the benefits of growth. The opposition leader?s charge is that the link is broken between growth and living standards in what he described as a Wonga (payday loan) economy, symbolizing a cost of living crisis for poorer families. This has received popular support and represents dangerous ground for the government which, in wanting to be seen to be doing something, is moving into an area where Labour is currently strong.

The government under opposition pressure had to respond to the freeze on energy (electricity) prices proposed by Labour e.g. by a planned review of ?green? energy subsidies included in the price to the consumer as well as the overall competitiveness of the energy market. The water companies have also been asked to review any price increases they might have been planning to implement.

Overall public perception that something is really being done about the cost of living remains important, however, and this is where the popularity of the charismatic Mayor of London Boris Johnson can play a major role e.g. in demonstrating his practical support for paying the living wage. It is appropriate that London which is experiencing first and disproportionately the benefits of growth in the economy, should be taking the lead (as demonstrated by the Mayor) in encouraging more and more employers to pay the living wage rate and help households cope with rising bills. Quoting Boris Johnson, paying the living wage makes ?pure economic common sense? (less staff turnover and more productive) although he does not think it should be compulsory.

Comparing the additional peer and customer pressures on employers to voluntarily pay the living wage when their business allows, with the more prescriptive policy of Labour to legislate through a tax credit, the latter would place an additional administrative burden on HMRC to ensure compliance. This Labour approach also brings to mind the tax credits of Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown which boost the wages of the lower paid but again effectively provide a subsidy for employers via the tax payer. Finally, making the payment of the living wage compulsory through legislation (as for the minimum wage) could lead to layoffs of workers by firms still not able to absorb the additional wage costs.

Why is inflation so much higher in Britain?

jeudi, octobre 24th, 2013

Writing in his Economic Outlook column in The Sunday Times of 20th October 2013, David Smith posed the question: Why is inflation so much higher in Britain?

New Eurostat figures show that the UK inflation rate last month of 2.7% was the highest of all 28 EU member states and more than double the EU (1.3%) and Eurozone (1.1%) average. More than half of EU member states have annual inflation rates of 1% or less. This has been picked up by the opposition Labour party adding weight to their argument that there is a cost of living crisis in the UK which the government is failing to control.

Ruling out the effects of previous Sterling weakness pushing up import prices for globally-traded commodities such as food and energy, or pay increases (up by only 0.7% on a year earlier), the major problem for the UK appears to be domestically generated inflation and particularly in the service sector (3.4% last month). Over the past 6 years for example, food and drink prices in Britain have risen by 35.6% compared with only 1% in the Irish Republic! It would appear that companies can push through price rises in Britain more easily than in other countries or , put another way, perhaps up until now such price increases have been more culturally accepted (or expected) than in other EU countries, but not now with consumer incomes squeezed during a period of austerity.

Inflation is significantly too high for the current rate of earnings growth and, with so-called Green Taxes already 9% and rising to 14% of consumer energy bills, it is not so surprising that the Prime Minister has been forced by the Opposition in the Commons yesterday to announce a re-think on energy policy, pricing and the overall competitiveness of the UK energy market

Reference: Like it or not, Britain is hitched to high inflation, David Smith ( , Economic Outlook, The Sunday Times, 20th October, 2013