'It would be foolish to write five years worth of budgets now': Starmer refuses to rule out council tax rises

18 June 2024, 09:33 | Updated: 18 June 2024, 09:46

Sir Keir Starmer took questions from LBC listeners this morning with a few weeks until the nation goes to the polls
Sir Keir Starmer took questions from LBC listeners this morning with a few weeks until the nation goes to the polls. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said there will be "no increase in taxes on working people" during an on-air phone-in with LBC listeners.

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But Sir Keir refused to rule out council tax rises under a Labour government, saying: "It would be foolish to write five years worth of budgets on air."

He defended the party's spending plans if Labour come into power in three weeks' time, saying their manifesto plans are "fully costed and fully funded."

He said: "There are some tax rises, we want to get rid of non dom loopholes, private equity loopholes, we want a better windfall taxes.

"None of our plans require a tax rise, they will be based on growth."

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Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during Breakfast on LBC with Nick Ferrari this morning
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during Breakfast on LBC with Nick Ferrari this morning. Picture: Alamy

He dodged questions on whether council tax could rise, saying "it would be foolish to write five years worth of budgets."

He did not rule out a council tax band revaluation when asked about tax rises outside Labour's manifesto plans.

The Labour leader was asked by caller Sid in Lincolnshire if his party would look to change council tax bands or consider changing tax arrangements for private pensions, after it ruled out increasing VAT, income tax, or national insurance.

"None of our plans require tax rises over and above the ones we have set out," Sir Keir said.

Pressed on whether this would include a council tax band revaluation, he said: "What I am not going to do is sit here two-and-a-bit weeks before the election and write the budgets for the next five years.

"What I can say is that none of our plans require a tax rise, and that is for a reason, and the reason is our focus in getting our economy going, on building, on growing, on raising living standards, on creating wealth."

Asked what he meant when he said he would not raise taxes for "working people", Sir Keir said: "The person I have in my mind when I say working people is people who earn their living, rely on our services, and don't really have the ability to write a cheque when they get into trouble."

On Labour's plans to add VAT on private school fees, one parent phoned in to say it “feels like a super tax on me”.

Sir Keir was asked by Nick Ferrari: “How come you know better than all these teachers?”

Sir Keir replied: “I have got nothing against private schools and I understand that a lot of parents save hard and work hard to send their children to private schools because they have real aspiration for them.

“But I also understand that all parents have aspirations for their children, including parents who send their children to a state school.

“I want to make sure every single child, wherever they come from, whatever their background has the opportunity to get on in life and feel like success belongs to them.

“It is a tough choice there isn’t a lot of money but it is a choice we have made to make sure we have the money for teachers in our state secondary schools.”

The Conservatives have launched yet more attacks on Labour with a series of demands that the party rule out specific tax rises while the opposition is set to continue its bid to woo businesses.

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Late on Monday, the Conservatives called on Labour to rule out scrapping the requirement for local authorities to hold referendums on tax rises above a certain level.

At the same time, the party accused Labour of having a "secret plan" to abolish inheritance tax relief for farmers, saying the party had not committed to keeping the exemption in its manifesto.

A Labour spokesperson dismissed the Conservative attacks as "hysterical" and "desperate nonsense", while reiterating that the party would not raise taxes on "working people".

With the Prime Minister expected to campaign in south-west England on Tuesday, Environment Secretary Steve Barclay accused Labour of treating farmers with "contempt" and stressed the Tories' commitments to increasing the farming budget and implementing a legally binding food security target.

The demands on tax follow challenges for Labour to rule out increasing capital gains tax on people's main homes and reforming council tax bands.

Labour has ruled out both policies, but the Conservatives are still keen to ask questions about whether it would countenance further tax hikes to fill what the party claims is a black hole in the opposition's spending plans.

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