Monday, 19 March 2007

Some questions that Bethnal Green & Bow Labour Party members have asked me.

Q. Is our current tax system fair to the well-off in society?

A. No it isn’t. It creates a poverty trap in which the near poor are better off on benefits than in low paid work. The taxation system in this country (and benefits) does need reforming in favour of the low paid, families and pensioners. It is a particular issue in Tower Hamlets where skills level of so many residents are low so their wage potential is low and costs are high especially for example council tax on larger property and high rents which creates a huge economic disincentive to work. We need to change the council tax and council tax benefit and increase the supply of low housing and shifting the burden of government support from housing benefit (high rents) to direct grant aid (low rent) to protect the near poor.

Q. Should there be a 50% tax rate for personal income above £100,000?

A. Yes. I am in favour of a progressive taxation policy whereby those who earn more pay a little more than others. This is about social justice and not being punitive on the rich. However, we must make sure that any increase in tax income is matched by increase in public services.

Q. Should there be a Land Value Tax to reflect the vast increase in land values that can arise from planning decisions to re-zone land for development, or public sector investment, e.g. rise in house values following improvements to public transport?

A. Yes. We need a completely different approach to land and property values to ensure that poorest benefit from rising property values e.g. community land trusts owning freeholds to key sites and community control of assets.

Q. Should the national minimum wage increase to £6/hour?

A. Yes, for outside London. For London the minimum wage should be increased (over a period of time) to £7.05 per hour. This is the minimum ‘living wage’ for London.

Q. Do faith school damage community integration?

A. It depends on the school, the catchment area and the way the school is run. Overall, however, I am not in favour of the proliferation of faith schools because we don’t know the long-term effects of such social experiment would be. I want to see a shift of emphasis from ‘faith’ to ‘good local schools’ which can support all our young people to fulfil their potential and prepare them for life in the culturally diverse world we live in.

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